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The Karnatik Tabla: Cross-Cultural Music Synthesis in South Indian Percussion Performance


The Karnatik tabla is a new tradition of performance practice concerning the tabla (drum) of North India. This tradition is propagated amid the diaspora of tabla culture in Chennai, a major city in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and is distinguished by a synthesis of musical elements from both North (Hindustani) and South (Karnatik) Indian music.

The context of Chennai, a city abounding with Karnatik musical culture, and the innovative musical spaces in which Karnatik artists have come to perform have facilitated the development of this tradition. The incorporation of the tabla into the Tala Vadya Katcheri, a percussion ensemble genre of Karnatik music that developed from the music practices of Hindu temples and religious ritual, has enabled the cross-cultural music synthesis that defines the aesthetic of the Karnatik tabla.

This thesis explores the social and sonic realms of the Karnatik tabla through a discussion of the history concerning percussion ensembles in Karnatik music and a comparative analysis to another tradition of the tabla propagated within the city of Chennai, by using musical repertoire collected from private instrumental study and transcriptions of live recorded performances.

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