The Dholak Sessions [cover image]

The Dholak Sessions..

Well, it was a Dholak!

I Friend of mine gave it to me, said "Do what you want with it". I would hit it occasionally, but it was dead, and wouldn't respond. Efforts to tune and tighten it made little difference, so it sat around the place for a couple of years, getting the occasional slap, but little else.

One day I was at a nearby community project and the guy in charge turns out to be a drummer, runs a weekly session, folk bring their drums along, experiment with rhythms, that sort of thing. Not my bag, really, but the meeting was a valuable one, because be told me how to fix the drum.

"Soak it", he said. So I did. And removed the big bass end altogether, I never liked drumming sideways, feeling weird in my hands, and prefer to sit it vertically, like a Tabla. I put a big fat rope around the bottom end (to tie the drum head onto) and re-strung it with only the small drum head, left the other end completely open. Then I waited for it to dry.

That did the trick! It took a couple of days to fully settle into place, to get all the sounds I wanted in the right places, but then I was off. Suddenly "tones" were possible, I could tune it, and so started to experiment with what this wee drum had to offer. Sure, by any Indian drumming school's standards, I am completely shite, but I make no pretense of following any school or anything like that. I was raised on pipe-band drums and borans, and though the sound of Indian drums really does it for me, when I say I want to learn Tabla, I only mean the drum and its sounds, not a school of thought. In my arrogance, I fancy that I can discover the magic of a drum-head without all that boring transmission stuff. My ears are my Guru!

And so I do what is in my mind, stuff I've found myself tapping at mouse-mat and keyboard (bass and snare, works great) and after a few weeks, I had gained some degree of control over the thing, picking up the ricochet, letting it show me how a five beat cycle feels, and those wicked little triplets that come out all by themselves, it's a real journey of discovery. Eventually, all this drumming will get mixed into songs, filling the space where rhythm was imagined, but never recorded; not having the skill at the time, to turn the rhythms in my mind into real sounds. I'm working on that. Practice practice practice.

It's been almost a year now, practicing and working along my own particular learning curve, a lop-sided, Scots-centric view of an Indian hand drum and its possibilities. It's preparation for when I get my Tabla, the drum who's sound really rocks my boat. At least, that's how this Dholak business started out. And while my Tabla wing their way to me through the ether, I think I won't so easily abandon this almost-Dholak drum; its sound can be both haunting and soothing, a gentle tonal lilt or some agitated spiky noise. I love it, and I look forward to the day when I can get the two together into CoolEdit for some real fun. My Tabla haven't arrived yet, but they will (thay have now, what a noise! ;o). By the way, a regular Dholak looks like this..

The Dholak Sessions [cover image]
Bina's rather tasty large Dholak
And I record most of it, a simple mic into the computer. I listen back afterwards and hear my mistakes, learn from them sometimes. I've hundreds now, MP3 Pro, mostly, mainly practice sessions, but more and more these days, I attempt things, rhythms and rhythmic structures, concepts that can be well expressed with a drum, perhaps only that way; the workings of the mind, thoughts and desires, the rarefactions and interference patterns of brain activity, decisions, seem well suited to having drums tell their story. It's all rhythms, anyway.

I enjoy most establishing a beat in the listeners consciousness, and then messing around with that, seeing how far I can go before it breaks. Expect a lot of that! Patterns I enjoy and want to remember, I give them names, I have quite a few now. I often scare myself with my Dholak; if you're looking for some someone to do a spooky score for a chiller or something along those lines, get in touch!

So what follows is a near-random, constantly shifting selection; pieces from the pile, tracks that do something for me, and so may do something for you, too. Sometimes I put a few in a loop in the background while I work on other things, and some have proved useful for meditation and contemplation, a few have the uncanny ability to send me almost instantly to sleep. Come back another time for more tracks to do what you like with!

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Demons in the Intellect.

a music note, link to demons_in_the_intellect.mp3
demons in the intellect..
Sure, I've done technically better versions of this (I'd been drumming around six months), but this one still seems to nail the idea better than any, and that's what I most wanted to share; give you an idea about what I'm up to with this thing.

The idea is simple, and one eminently suited to drum work.
The mind, composed as it is, in layers, is the stage.
The intellect, seat of activity, wakes, and gets in sync with itself, a busy, working rhythm.
Actions, activities, the tasks and jobs of the day, activity. It gets bored with itself.
Then there is desire, some unspoken urge from the instinctive self, the animal within.
The rhythm is perturbed, but carries on.
But it gnaws. And it scrapes, and it demands,
and surely, in powerful emotion, big waves,
the desire overwhelms the intellect's rhythm, and it is troubled.

They struggle and fight, the intellect refusing to give way, refusing to let the animal reign, but the intellect takes control, and lifts that energy up to one pure moment when - using the brief syncopated Eastern beat - the pure spiritual mind it experiences, and its beauty infuses the intellect, strengthens it, gives lightness to its dark regions.

Back to reality, instantly, the animal is calm, and though the rhythm is no longer, the pure rhythms' influence is felt some, dip and dry, dip and dry, like fine Indian cotton, the spiritual infusing the mind.

There are probably other tracks kicking around that I might yet describe more fully here..
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