The Dying Beat of the Dhol Drum

‘Dhol’ players are not performing as much anymore in Gairsen because of a preference for recorded music.

Luxmi says that the sound of the dhol is something she has always associated with celebration, festivity and big community occasions. The dhol is a large barrel-shaped drum made from a shell of hollowed-out mango or sheesham wood, with the sides made from goatskin. The rhythms created by beating on the drum with a cane and a wooden stick are what make this percussion instrument unique, and there are twelve different beats which are played on different occasions.

Sadly, pop music and recorded CDs of Punjabi bhangra music is slowly replacing the live dhol drumming at weddings and other functions. The drummers, who typically belong to the Dalit caste, are not given much respect or appreciation, and the job is considered a lowly one. In search for other employment, several dhol players have left Uttarakhand and are working in the army, in hotels or as drivers in big cities.

“I don’t want this to happen, as it is just another part of our culture that will disappear. I grew up hearing the dhol but I never realised its importance in our culture until now, when I don’t hear it as often anymore,” says Luxmi. Recently, a lecturer at Luxmi’s university, Dr. D. R Purohit, started researching and investigating the dhol traditions, and has actively been promoting it since. Luxmi hopes he will be able to get his message across to the rest of the community and that the dhol players will have a regular income again.

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