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The Dhol is a magical type of percussion instrument originating from the Indian Subcontinent that has a significant place within the music of several of the north Indian musical styles. Remarkably common within the music of the Sikh' it has in modern times become well adapted to use within modern Indian and Punjabi music.
Construction of Instrument:
The Dhol is a resonating drum that consists of two skins mounted at either end of a piece of pipe or barrel. The materials used in its construction vary with manufacturer, requirements and funding, with the simplest being made by scavenging parts from any available source and assembling them together into a functional percussion instrument, while the higher quality instruments can be made from a combination of wood, metal, plastic, fiberglass and synthetic or natural drum skins. The sound is made by beating the drum with a stick. Each side of the drum has a different weight of skin, allowing for the reproduction of more than one sound depending on which side is struck, and how firmly it is hit.
Where will you find it being played?
The most common place that a Dhol will be found is as an accompaniment to traditional Bhangra style dancing. It provides the rhythmic considerations to the orchestral ensemble, and can be played at a ridiculously fast pace, allowing for a very racy, upbeat and frenetic style to be generated. Players will be seen with the drum slung over their neck by a rope or strap, and often these accoutrements will be decorated to provide an air of festivity to the performance.
The Dhol became popular through the turn of the century, being used for formal occasions and informal repertoire performances alike. The supreme place that the Dhol has for provision of rhythm to the musical ensemble is incredibly useful. The advent of electronic devices that provide a regular constant rhythm from a recorded performance has led to a reduction in the prominence of this instrument, especially within the Indian setting of Bhangra performance. This reduction in indigenous use has been tempered by the increasing position of the Dhol within Western and World music. Many instrument and music lovers from around the world have readily taken up and accepted the Dhol into their ever growing army of percussion instruments.
This increase of global popularity and the diversification of the Dhol into many different styles of music have led to the development of new and interesting music. Musafir or 'The Gypsies of Rajasthan' are notable users of this instrument. If the Dhol is not seen, its smaller cousin the Dholki may be seen, or a similar effect may be contributed to the scene by the Tablah. The dew drop sound of Good Tablah is not common to the Dhol's repertoire, but a skilled player can manifest this.
Put the Instrument in an Oven?
Keeping in mind the tropical origins of the instrument, in the heat of the Indian subcontinent, it should be noted that when played in more temperate regions of the world, the sound will not be as it was intended. The skin and drum should be at a temperature that is close to that in India, and this can require placing the drum in the oven, or in front of a heat source to dry out the skin to a point where it will respond properly to playing. If a synthetic skin is in use, this will not be required. This responsiveness to atmospheric conditions is fundamental to the correct playing of many types of drum, and other instruments, and is something that should be kept in mind when the long term lifespan of the instrument is being thought about. A Dhol won't respond very well to being kept in a damp, dark, cold garage for the majority of its life. Treat it nicely and you will be rewarded.