Among the tabla artistes in the country, one can count on their fingers the number of female tabla players, but among that small number is one who is making some good noise in the music scene — Tabla artiste Payal Kotgirkar.
Not only does Payal, a Nizamabad native who recently won the Telangana State Award, perform at concerts, but she also teaches the younger generation.
“Music has been in my family. My grandfather Shivaram was a well-known tabla player. My father Gangadhar was famous for his qawwali, harmonium and dholak performances. I was initiated into vocal music at the age of 11, but I always had a deep interest for the tabla. I learnt to play the instrument from my uncle who worked as an “accompanist” at the Government Music College in Nizamabad. Later, I moved to Hyderabad and completed my diploma course under Ustad Shabbir Nisar, son of the famous tabla player Ustad Shaik Dawood,” recalls Payal.
Being one of the few women who plays a musical instrument generally played by men, Payal is surprised that it still has no takers among girls. She says, “All my students are boys. Two girls did come to me to learn the tabla, but they dropped out of the course after a week. There is a misconception that tabla needs a lot of physical stamina and muscle power. Passion can bring out some good musicians too,” she says. “After my uncle passed away, I took up the job at the Government Music College, a post I still hold. After my marriage, there was a break in my riyaaz (practice), but now that my children have grown up, I find more time to pursue my passion,” she adds.
Payal fondly recalls her meeting with tabla wizard Ustad Zakir Hussain in Hyderabad. “He told me, ‘keep practising. Never leave the tabla’,” she recalls.
She also has a message to the younger generation. “Good work does not go unnoticed, though late sometimes, recognition will come to you. So keep up the efforts and look forward to the rewards of pursuing your goal.”
Jaywant Naidu, Musician, Creator of ‘Jaywant Guitar’ and a freelance photographer.