Some of my friends from Jaipur had called me up. A nakkara player, Ustad Dilawar Khan was coming to Ahmedabad.(At the time, I did not know it, but he is one of the greatest nakkara players I have heard, I highly recommend that you listen to him.)
The tabla has many influences and origins. The nakkara (picture below) has a very strong influence on tabla. It is two drums that are played with sticks. They are not a widely played instrument. It is typically just played with the shehnai. It is a rare to find nakkara soloists of this caliber. Before hearing him, I had never heard the nakkara played with such virtuousity.
The program was held in an old haveli (villa). Almost all the good musicians of the city has congregated to hear the Ustad play. Before going to program, I did not know what to expect, but my Jaipur friend has been adamant that is was not to be missed. I went to the program with a student of mine, Nitin Triparti. As I watched him tune his instrument, I could anticipate the caliber of his playing.
His solo blew me away. He played all the complex compositions of the tabla using sticks on the nakkara. His solo was set in teentaal. Similar to a tabla solo, he began with a peshkar. He produced amazing meend using thin sticks. You could see his sadhana in his playing. The speed of his kaidas and clarity of his relas. It was a tabla solo, but with sticks. It’s difficult, but try to imagine Tirakit compositions played with sticks. He played La killa (naga naga naga) with tremendous speed and power on one drum.
Everyone in the audience was amazed. Dilawarsaheb took fermaishes from the audience. Pandit Kishen Maharaj was present and requested to hear a laggi. The way he played Dha Te Na Da laggi, with amazing speed and fluidity! The concert was truly a treat for musicians, especially for tabla players.
I had always heard that tabla came from the nakkara. That evening, I could clearly see and hear the relationship between the two.
After that solo, I never heard or saw Dilawar Khabsaheb again. I searched for other nakkara players, but never came across anyone who could play his level of playing and mastery. That evening was one of those rare concerts in my life and even though there was no recording, I can hear it as clearly as I did nearly 30 years ago.