orig. India The tabla is a pair of small drums. The treble drum is called the tabla or dahina ("right" in Hindi) and sits on the floor in front of the player. The bass kettledrum is called the bayan ("left" in Hindi). It is made of clay or copper and sits to the left of the dahina.
The player hits the center of the skin on the top of each drum with his fingers while pressing down to alter the pitch of the sound. A virtuoso player may produce so many different sounds and inflections that the instrument seems to speak. In India, the process of learning to play the tabla begins when a master adopts a six or seven-year-old child as his student. The student will study with the master every day for a decade or longer.
The pairing of drums called the tabla was first used in India in the 1700s. Today it is used in all varieties of North Indian instrumental music and is the primary accompanying instrument for the kathak dance style.