Dholak – History & Info

The Dholak is one of the most widely utilized drums in the folk music of India. It is not used for classical music where the Tabla and Pakhavaj are at the forefront. Dholak is a double headed drum with the bass head on one side & the treble head on the other. A Dholak may have traditional lacing / turnbuckle tuning depending upon whether it is a traditional one or a modern version. It has a simple membrane on the right-hand side. The left-hand membrane has a special coating on the inner surface. This coating is a mixture of tar, clay and sand which helps to lower the pitch and creates a well-defined tone. Dholak is a popular instrument in film music and qawwali. The shell of the Dholak is made from Sheesham wood.

The results of the craftsmanship and quality of material used determine the sound quality the Dholak. The resultant shape and the surface of the Dholak’s interior, whether left rough-hewn by a drum carver or carefully smoothed decides the quality & the sound it will produce. Basically Dholak is about rhythm, sound including quality of sound, and the pitch it can provide. The nut and bolt Dholak version is an innovative and better engineered version of the Dholak. The design of treble head rim is such that the hooks fit better. The tone on this drum is easier to control than the chord tension ones. In the Nut and Bolt Dholak, each head comes with its own tuning mechanism which helps a player to tune the heads precisely. There are two primary techniques of playing Dholak; the open hand method is suitable for louder playing, and the controlled finger method for articulate performance. To play Dholak one has to sit cross-legged on the floor and place the instrument either in the lap or on the floor in front, whichever offers a more comfortable and helps you reach to the sides of the drum easily. IT has to be positioned in a manner that the smaller side is on the right and the larger side is on the left provided the player are a regular right-handed player and the opposite if the player is a left-handed individual.

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