Published on 09 Aug 2011 | over 5 years ago
It was invented in India but still the history of this instrument is uncertain, and has been the subject of sometimes heated debate. Rebecca Stewart suggested it was most likely a hybrid resulting from the experiments with existing drums such as pakhawaj, dholak and naqqara. The origins of tabla repertoire and technique may be found in all three and in physical structure there are also elements of all three: the smaller pakhawaj head for the dayan, the naqqara kettledrum for the bayan, and the flexible use of the bass of the dholak.
A common legendary account credits the 13th century Indian poet Amir Khusrau as the inventor by splitting the single South Indian mrudangam drum into two or the North Indian pakhawaj in two. ('toda, tab bhi bola - tabla': 'When broke, it still spoke' - a fairly well known Hindi pun) None of his writings on music mention the drum, but this apparent tradition of late invention, combined with the absence of the instrument in South Indian music, and that the tabla closely resembles a Mrudangam cut into two,the closed-ended, paired design that relates it to the Western clay-drums and tympani, altogether supports the view that the tabla is a comparatively recent development in northern Indian music. Other accounts place the invention of this instrument in the 18th century, and the first verifiable player of this drum was Ustad Suddhar Khan of Delhi.
The Muktesvara temple (6th-7th century) and Bhuranesvara (and three other cave temples) of Badari in Bombay (6th century) contain depictions of the puskara drum. Musicians often placed the puskara's smaller vertical drum (called 'alinga'), on their lap and played more than one drum at a time. Similar regional instruments include the Punjabi dukkar, the Kashmiri dukra, the duggi in eastern Uttar Pradesh, and the mridangam. The mridangam (Southern equivalent of the Northern pakhavaj) is the principal drum in Carnatic music. The dhol (dholak) of eastern Afghanistan is related in terms of both construction and playing style. The main distinction of the tabla is the pairing of two different types of single-headed drums, whereas the dukkar, dukra, and duggi are pairs of the same type and the mridangam and dhol are double-headed, barrel-shaped drums.
The tabla (or tabl, tabla) (Hindi: तबला, Marathi: तबला, Kannada: ತಬಲ, Telugu: తబల, Tamil: தபேலா, Bengali: তবলা, Nepali: तबला, Urdu: طبلہ, Arabic: طبل، طبلة) is a popular Indian percussion instrument (of the membranophone family) used in Hindustani classical music and in popular and devotional music of the Indian subcontinent. The instrument consists of a pair of hand drums of contrasting sizes and timbres. The term 'tabla is derived from an Arabic word, tabl, which simply means "drum." 
Playing technique involves extensive use of the fingers and palms in various configurations to create a wide variety of different sounds, reflected in the mnemonic syllables (bol). The heel of the hand is used to apply pressure or in a sliding motion on the larger drum so that the pitch is changed during the sound's decay.
Middle Eastern Tabla - Various Artists