While we are talking about rhythmic instruments, I thought I should write at least one post about Tabla’s southern counterpart Murdung.Murdung is also called Murdungum or Mridungam. It is a very ancient drum and is mentioned in the oldest scripture available (Rigveda 5.33.6.). In ancient times it was called ‘Pushkur’. Pushkur was the favorite drum of Gods. All Godly dances were performed on the rhythms of Pushkur. There are thousands of ancient statues and carvings that give Murdung a very long history.
Pakhavaj, Muraj or Murdal are all Murdung’s other names. Murdung is especially famous in southern India. When northern Indians adapted a version of Murdung, they called it Pakhavaj. A Pakhavaj (or murdung) is considered more complicated and harder to play than a Tabla. But since Tabla’s invention, Pakhavaj’s popularity is gone down. You can only see it in the temples and religious group singings in northern India now. But Murdung (Murdungum) is still the main rhythmic instrument for the southern Indian music. All over India good musicians still know Murdung’s importance in development of Indian rhythm and they respect the instrument and its players a lot.
Shape of Pakhavaj:
As shown in the picture, Pakhavaj is made from the one piece of the wood. The bass side is bigger than the treble side. Pakhavaj’s Bayan (left side) is not inked and dough is used to get the bass sound. Higher or lower notes are achieved by putting more or less dough on the head. Because Pakhavaj is one piece, so hitting one side makes both sides ring. That ring distinguishes Pakhavaj’s all over sound from Tabla. The ring is especially obvious when a Thaap (all four fingers flat like ‘Te’ sound in Tabla) is played. A lot of Thaap sounds are used in Pakhavaj, where in Tabla lots of individual fingers are used to get different sounds.
The high side of Pakhavaj is always tuned and the procedure to tune it exactly the same as Tabla’s Dayan. So there is no need to repeat the instructions.
Sounds Of Pakhavaj:
The Pakhavaj sounds are divided into two categories:
1. Muted Boles (sounds): the sounds which do not ring are closed or muted boles
2. Open boles (sounds): the sounds, which are allowed to ring, are called open boles.
There are differences in scholars that what the basic sounds of Pakhavaj are. But the following diversion seems very practical:
Ta, te, di, thun, na, dha, d, dhay, dee, gu, khirer, jhen, mu,
Ran, ke, gay, n. dhu, dhee, lan, thayee, daan, kee, tee, thurer,
As I mentioned earlier that Murdungum is basically a southern Indian instrument, so I will not go into details on this here. Once we have covered most of the Northern Music theory, then we may come back to it. The southern Taal structures and playing styles are different than the northern Indian ones. It is a good idea to master the northern Indian style and structure before going into the southern rhythms.