ITHACA, N.Y. — The beat of 100 tablas will add to the natural rhythm and rush of Lower Enfield Falls at Robert H. Treman State Park in Ithaca next week in an event that will be the first of its kind in the United States.
Tabla players of different experience levels from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in the Taalim School of Indian Music will gather the afternoon of Sept. 22 at Lower Enfield Falls in Robert H. Treman State Park for the event, “Rhythmic Freefall: The Power of Rhythm in Nature.” The tabla players will be arranged around the area typically used as a swimming hole during the summer.
The event is a recreation and expansion of an event that occurred nearly 20 years ago at Jhanjhari Waterfall in India.
Tabla player Sejal Kukadia, who will play at Ithaca’s event, played on the banks of the Jhanjhari Waterfall in 1999. Kukadia is one of the founding members of the Taalim School of Indian Music. The power of the previous event has kept it clear in her mind.
Unlike Ithaca’s Enfield Falls, it was a journey for the tabla players in 1999 to get to the remote Jhanjhari Waterfall, about 45 miles outside of Ahmedabad. They piled their instruments and selves into open trucks that traveled on rough terrain, as there were no real roads to get there, Kukadia said.
When they got there, they didn’t know what was happening at first, Kukadia said, but sat down. When the instructor began conducting and they all played together, the energy and environment changed and spectators gravitated to the area, she said.
“It really brought the power of our instruments to a new level,” Kukadia said. “It was a great bonding event with our tabla brothers and sisters, creating this wave of rhythm outdoors.”
Though the Taalim School of Indian Music does not have ties to Ithaca, they selected the location because they wanted to play at the base of a large, raging waterfall.
“We wanted to show the significance of rhythm and power of nature,” Kukadia said.
The tabla is a percussion instrument that has deep roots in Indian culture and history. Historically, tabla was taught by a guru who passed their teachings only to a select few, and their compositional styles and teachings were considered sacred, Kukadia explained.
Kukadia and the tabla players coming to Ithaca are part of the Taalim School of Indian Music, a tabla and Indian performing arts organization based in the Northeastern United States led by their “Guruji” Pandit Divyang Vakil. The school was started in 2002 and has 14 locations in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. All of the instructors, including Kukadia, are disciples of Pandit Divyang Vakil.
In a video posted on the organization’s Kickstarter page promoting the event, Vakil said, “Music comes out from nature and when you really want to experience the power of music, you have to go near to the nature. You can’t understand that when you practice within four walls.”
Featured image: Tabla players perform at Jhanjhari Waterfall in India in 1999. (Photo provided by the Taalim School of Indian Music)