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 LESSONS in Indian Music

Pakhawaj : Lesson 2

The pakhawaj is a hollowed block of wooden cylinder. On either side, it is tightly covered by skin, which is stretched over both the openings and is fastened with a leather gajra. The leather is held over gatthas, which help in fine-tuning the pitch of the instrument.

The pitch of the instrument can be adjusted according to the artist's desires. The left side of the pakhawaj is covered with a paste of water and flower, intended to give resonance while the instrument is played. The right side is covered permanently with syahi and gives out sharp overtones. This syahi also denotes the pitch in which the instrument is played. The syahi is often sprinkled with powder for the artist to get smoother finger movements.

A very important tool in tuning the instrument is the hammer. The artiste squats on the floor with folded legs and places the instrument horizontally in front of him. (S)he may either place it on the floor or on his lap, or partially on his lap. (S)he may rest the pakhawaj on a cloth ring, a cloth bag or any piece of cloth to keep it in place. It requires tremendous physical energy, stamina and muscle power to play this instrument. Usually, male artists play the instrument. However, there are ancient sculptures and paintings showing women playing it.

Related instruments : Mridangam (the south Indian counterpart)

Major exponents : There are many gharanas of pakhawaj playing. These gharanas have produced eminent artists over the decades. Some of them are: Raja Chatrapati Singh (Delhi gharana) ; Pt. Makanlal (Delhi gharana) Ambadasji (Phanse gharana) ; Swami Pagal Das (Delhi gharana) ; Tarachand Boral ;
Arjun Shejwal (Phanse gharana) was born in Mumbai, in 1934. He dedicated his life towards preserving and perpetuating the age-old tradition of pakhawaj music. He belonged to a family of traditional kirtankars and musicians. He learned pakhawaj from Pt. Narayan Rao Kohli, an eminent exponent of the famous Panse gharana, which was pioneered by Pt. Nanasaheb Panse. Pt.Shejwal accompanied several top-notch artists of the dhrupad gayaki, like Pt. K G Ginde, Pt. S C R Bhatt, the Dagar brothers, as well as instrumentalists like Pt. Mukundrai Goswami (veena) and Pt. Ramesh Prem (veena). Pt. Shejwal traveled widely in European countries giving solo performances and lecture demonstrations. He regularly gave solos recitals on radio and television and he was a part of the teaching faculty of Shri Vallabh Saangeetalaya.

Today's young players include Pt. Arjun Shejwal's son, Prakash Shejwal as well as Bhawani Shankar, Madhav Pawar and Prashant Goswami.

Pakhawaj : Lesson 1 Lesson 2


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