Dholak

Dholak

Dholak is a very popular folk drum of northern India.
It may have traditional lacing or turnbuckle tensioning: in the former case rings are used for tuning, though the dholak is mainly a folk instrument, lacking the exact tuning of the tabla or the pakhawaj. It is widely used in qawwali, kirtan and various styles of North Indian folk music. It was formerly much used in classical dance.

Structure

The dholak’s right-hand head is a simple membrane, while the left-hand head is of a greater diameter and has a special coating, a mixture of tar, clay and sand (dholak masala) which lowers the pitch. The high-pitched drum head may also be played using a thin (1/4″/6 mm or less) long (over 14″/30 cm) stick of solid rattan or hardwood (rattan is preferred for its flexibility), and the low-pitched drum head is played either by hand or using a somewhat thicker, semi-angled stick, roughly the shape of a small hockey stick. The drum is pitched depending on size, with an interval of perhaps a perfect fourth or perfect fifth between the two heads. It is related to the larger Punjabi dhol and the smaller dholki. Similar drums with similar names are found elsewhere in western Asia.

Technique

The drum is either played on the player’s lap or, while standing, slung from the shoulder or waist. The shell is usually made from sheesham or shisham wood (Dalbergia sissoo). The process of hollowing out the drum (its resultant shape and the surface of the drum’s interior, whether left rough-hewn by a drum carver or carefully smoothed) determines the tone quality of a dholak.