Many of you might have heard percussionists recite and play a Tabla composition, usually a sequence of diverse syllables aesthetically tied together in rhythm along with its speed variations. Like any other piece of music, for piano or vocal, every group of strokes on this instrument is reproducible and writable.
While any composition can be labeled ‘devotional’ if it is accompanied by the feel of bhakti, gurus have specified paths through which learners can explicitly combine spirituality with music. Just like a vocalist uses the lyrics of a bhajan to add in spirituality, a tabla or pakhawaj player can integrate spirituality in a presentation through a bol (stuti)-paran particularly composed for a specific form of God, such as a Krishna-paran or a Ganesh-paran.
In this percussion composition, phrases praising a form of God in Sanskrit (or Hindi) are inserted between the regular syllables of tabla. Once the syllables and Sanskrit words are blended harmoniously in the mind, tabla syllables that mimic the sound of the selected Sanskrit words are practiced. When the whole paran is put together in a recital, the mapped tabla syllables are played on the drums while concurrently pronouncing the Sanskrit words orally. As one may expect, new devotional parans are very rare, for they require some poetic skills in addition to the core curriculum.
Lastly, to play a perfect prayer on the Tabla, the maestro is expected to mentally focus on the form of God for which the composition has been created. This may be necessary to make the Divine a part of the audience.