These days, ‘Queen of Tabla’ Anuradha Pal plays a different taal. His instrumental composition, “Bharat Vandan”, released on the occasion of Republic Day, is an ode to India’s rich heritage, spirituality and other cultural practices. In it, India’s first female tabla player combines piano, sarod and tabla to showcase the diversity that makes the country special. Available on her YouTube channel and music streaming platforms, this acclaimed percussion artist’s sturdy bowls are played to the tune of Vande Mataram.
Next on the cards for the Mumbai-born tabla virtuoso is her solo album Taaleem slated for release in February. When the pandemic slowed down the world, Pal took care of various initiatives. “I instituted the Padma Shri MT Vyas Stree Shakti award in memory of my maternal grandfather last year (a renowned pedagogue). It is to encourage and reward young girls who excel in music/ dance and who also selflessly perform inspiring social service,” she said. The online awards ceremony was well received and was attended by many celebrities including former cop Kiran Bedi, singer Usha Uthup, singer Bhajan Anup Jalota and fashion designer Shaina NC.
A strong advocate for women’s empowerment, she is the ambassador of the government program “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” and has worked with the Ministry of Women and Children. Pal’s notes with social causes are as vivid as his musical skills. She started Stree Shakti Urja after the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020. The aim was to give monthly ration, blankets and medicine to the needy and she helped 270 families. She also donated wheelchairs, walkers, gloves and other medical supplies to Covid facilities in Mumbai.
The tabla maestro, who started performing in the early 90s, wears many hats. She led three different bands over the years including Stree Shakti for classical music, Recharge for fusion and SuFoRe which mixed Sufi with folk and classical styles. Daughter of Ila Pal, a well-known painter and singer from Ghazal, she trained with legends such as Ustad Alla Rakha and Ustad Zakir Hussain from whom she learned the six tabla gharanas and the Carnatic tala shastra. Over the past few decades, she has made a name for herself through various musical experimentations. A popular creation is the ‘Tabla Jugalbandi’ which she makes with herself. She has also collaborated with artists for films, documentaries and music albums. Few people knew that she composed the background music for the film Gaja Gamini by the late MF Hussain.
Pal takes his self-proclaimed role as an advocate for culture seriously. “I am excited about my collaborations with Indian and world musicians (flutist Hari Prasad Chaurasia, thumri singer Girija Devi, German group NDR Bigband, among others), and I think I am in a unique position to give much-needed boost to our music and culture by partnering with important government institutions and bodies,” she says, adding, “These channels play a key role in disseminating information that helps build understanding and a deeper respect for Indian cultural arts, which is especially relevant in these uncertain times.”
In perfect harmony with cultural rhythms.