How to Care for Your Tabla
By Deric Cadora
This article outlines offensive behaviors to avoid with regard to caring for your tabla. If you observe anyone participating in offensive behavior, please call the tabla abuse hotline and ask for Souhail Kaspar.
Rings are a drums worst enemy. Despite all the hard blows a skin can absorb, even a light tap with a ring can damage it and completely ruin it. Much to the disdain of your spouse, your wedding ring wields no special magic when it comes to protecting your tabla. It will have to come off.
The sound quality of your drum is sensitive to the skin's surface. Be careful to avoid situations in which the skin can get scratched or scuffed. Avoid setting the drum face down (unless the drum head is disproportionately large, posing the risk of tipping when it's set upright). Transport your drum in a bag that has soft padding inside the top. If your bag does not have padding, place a non-abrasive cloth on the skin before closing the bag.
Despite the phonetic similarity, a tabla is not a table! Leaving objects on your tabla or resting your legs on it is a gross display of disrespect, punishable by 8 lashings and 32 days in prison.
If you plan to drum outdoors, take a towel with you for setting down your drum. Setting it on the ground can cause sand and grit to get trapped between the rim and the drum body. This grit is very hard to remove and affects the sound of your drum.
Don't let non-drummers play your tabla! People who are not used to handling the instrument tend to hit it with rings, drop it, and commit a number of other malfeasances. There are polite ways to say no. However, I don't know any of them, so you'll have to rely on your own imagination.
If you have an animal skin drum, be careful not to stand it under a counter's edge where a spilled drink could soak it or a stray object could fall and puncture it. Also keep animal skin drums out of humidity. If it's raining, don't bring it out. Large, repeated changes in humidity will slowly deteriorate the skin tightness.
If your drum is ceramic, its worst enemy is gravity. These drums are very easy to break, so only transport them in heavily-padded cases. Also, don't leave them out as a display object. A guest will eventually fiddle with it and drop it. I guarantee it.
Your tabla is more than a mere object. It is a treasure. If you truly respect the art of drumming, then your respect will carry over to how you care for your drum. In return, your tabla will continue to provide you with its wonderful gift of sound.
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