1. Through a combination of pictorial and genealogical evidence Stewart has argued that the tabla emerged in the second quarter of the eighteenth century, probably in the Punjab hill chieftaincies. Genealogical evidence further suggests that the tabla was the domain of a caste of bards known as (also who came from the region of the Punjab and Rajasthan (see Bor 60-2); for centuries they had used drum and fiddle () to accompany songs that documented the genealogies and praised the heroic feats of their patrons. Like before them (they are mentioned in Abu-l Fazl's Akbar Nama of the late sixteenth century) these early tabla drummers migrated to larger and richer centres of patronage, the ultimate source of which was the Imperial Mughal capital, Delhi. It was to there and to about 1750 that we can trace the first identifiable member of the Delhi lineage of tabla players, Sudhar Khan. For the next fifty to seventy-five years we note a steady increase in the portrayal of the drums (see Figure 3), which were usually played standing, bound waist-high in a cloth.

  2. A drummer's passport to the courts was through the entourages of the ,the courtesans of North India who were experts in the arts of dancing, singing, poetry, and love. Owing to the socio-political demise of Delhi in the late eighteenth century many courtesans and their troupes migrated to other centres of patronage, most notably Awadh (also Oudh or Oude) to the east. Awadh's capital, Lucknow (from 1775), soon emerged as the new seat of Hindustani culture, and wealthy (viceroys) and their courtiers helped create a fertile environment for the emergence and development of so many forms and styles of music that we know today (see Kippen 16-26). In Delhi courtesans had specialized in performing the light and popular Urdu and Persian but in Lucknow they turned to the newly emerging, sensuous and often erotic : a genre with strong folk roots (sung mainly in the rich and colorful Braj dialect of the Mathura region) that promoted a different kind of expressive musical language in which the tabla would come to play a significant role. The was performed with accompanying dance gestures that illustrated and intensified the meanings and sentiments of the texts. Rather than the athletic, twirling, highly-choreographed kathak of today, eighteenth and nineteenth-century descriptions suggest that these dances were more physically-restricted and comprised subtle gestures and characterizations: for instance, the lilting, seductive walk of a woman shyly lifting her veil to allow her lover a glimpse of her face. These affective, interpretive aspects of dance are known as in modern kathak.

  3. The tabla's function in the dancer's ensemble would therefore most likely have been to provide the same type of rhythmic accompaniment traditionally given by the (hemispherical clay kettles played with sticks) and especially the (barrel drum). It is not surprising, therefore, that despite the tabla's clear organological endebtedness to the (structurally the tuned head was identical, and the cylindrical wooden bass drum even used a temporary spot made of dough, as it still sometimes does in the Punjab) it began to take on physical aspects of the by replacing the cylindrical wooden bass drum with a small hemispherical clay kettledrum. Moreover, tabla strokes and patterns were heavily influenced by the and the (Stewart 22-73). strokes (see Figure 4) differentiated effectively between high and low pitch levels (), timbre (), resonance (), and stress (), with pitch and stress being dominant (see Stewart 36-8 & 97). The 's great gift to the tabla was the flexible-pitch bass drum technique which added a richly-modulated, almost vocal inflection. The beauty of the tabla, and one of the most persuasive reasons for its rapid rise to prominence, was that it could mimic effectively the sounds, and therefore the repertories, of all other drums of the period, including the (see Figure 4).