Around 5:30 pm on 23 January, the Tara Mobile Creche Centre at Ganga Legend Society saw children bustling in the main hall area of the Creche. Around 30-40 children from the community, all below the age of 12 years, gathered to watch a Pakhwaj performance, an instrument they had never seen before. They all sat quietly and appeared keen while the artists – Krushna Salunkhe, Kishore Teli and Rohit Marathe were setting up their instruments. They were probably wondering where the sounds were coming from in the instrument. The audience also comprised of a few adults from the community.
Baithak Foundation started the programme by introducing the artists and their instruments to the audience. Krushna started by telling the audience that today they will be performing Chautaal – explaining that it consists of 12 matra-s (beats). On completing the 12 matra-s, the artist comes back to the first matra. The artists started the programme with Lord Ganesh Vandana, following it with Goddess Saraswati Vandana. Krushna would first say the paran / bandish (the composition) and then they would play them in unison. They also played a Lord Ganesh Stuti.
After this, Krushna and Kishore did a mirror play – where one would play on his Pakhwaj and the other would play the exact same thing on his Pakhwaj. Krushna then asked the students if they had ever noticed how a snake moves if you ever accidentally caught its tail -it gets very angry and turns right around to show you an angry face.Then Krushna and Kishore went onto say and perform the bol that depict these exact bodily movements of the snake.
It is worth noting here that even though the children were all so young, they continued to make eye contact with the artists and tried to pay full attention to what the artists were saying. They remained engaged during the entire performance. Krushna then recited the bol from a bandish written by Pakhwaj ace Pandit Vasantrao Ghorpadkar and Kishore played it on his Pakhwaj.
Pushkar, the teacher who teaches Djembe (an African percussion instrument) to the students at this creche centre, asked the children if they liked what they were hearing, and they all said yes. He then asked if they knew what is taal. He explained to them how the current one Chautaalis made of 12 matra-s, and how each aavartan starts at the sum. For any given bol, the artist playing this taal will complete the 12 matras and the bol of the first matra and the one at the sum will be the same. Pushkar informed the children that any bol said thrice are together known as teehayee.
He then asked the students to count the matra-s by clapping on the beats while Kishore and Krushna played. He recited the bol and asked the kids to join him. The kids enjoyed clapping and reciting these bols.-s Krushna and Kishore played the same bol on Pakhwaj too. He advised the teachers also to note down anything they find interesting so they can explain it to the children later. Pushkar then explained how Rohit was playing the harmonium. He said that Rohit is playing one dhun continuously in a constant speed, otherwise known as Lehra, thus providing a timeframe of the taal for Krushna and Kishor to explore it through their language.
Krushna and Kishore were then asked what Pakhwaj was made of – they replied that the main body is made of shisham wood. The two sides of the drum are made from goat’s skin and wheat dough is applied on one side to create a bass effect. The dough helps in maintaining a low-pitched sound. The other side has black patch on it and this side replicates the sharper sound. Krushna then explained the hitting the heads of the sides changes the pitch it produces. Hitting it from top increases te pitch, while hitting from below decreases it. They ended the programme with a Shivparan. After the performance, the children were invited to feel and play the instruments, which they excitedly tried.
- Account written by Dhanashree Deshpande a Baithak volunteer.