0 jawani ka kaam hai, the making of Akram Tabla
Akram Tabla, is not just a mere musical instrument it is a body of work whose intricate building process makes stand out from any other tabla. It is whole universe that keeps expanding with every generation despite the commercial challenges it might face but despite it has still managed to sustain itself. Mohammad Akram a worker at Akram Tabla Shop, has been a part of this industry for over eighteen years. Although he does not come from a background of family business but the skill he learnt was indeed found in the hands of his forefathers as well. He went to Delhi when he joined the business of tabla making and learnt the skill under the canopy of his Aleem chacha. Unlike any other handicraft back in 2000’s, tabla making still offered a decent pay, in accordance with the time artisans invested in it, “I shifted in this business purely for financial reasons, that’s how anyone’s interest sustains”, explains Mohammad Akram about the reasons for his professional transitions . Though, his father also knew the skill but Aleem chacha had his own karkhana in Narela area of Delhi. After learning and honing the skill, Mohmmad Akram returned to his home, Lucknow and carved his own path as tabla artisans. The karkhana of Akram Shop has been existing for six to seven years consistently. The shop not only offers its expertise in tabla but also makes other classical percussion instruments as well and one of them includes Nepali dholak as well.
The making of tabla at Akram Shop is an elaborate process, “It’s not a process of hours, it takes days to built this instrument”, tells Mohammad Akram. The instrument is built from scratch here, from making gajra to inserting thick threads, extracting the leather skin by hands then waiting for skin to dry to adding final touch of polishing, the work is intricate and abrasive enough to bruise the artisans but nothing stops from giving the process it’s due time attention, “ye jawaani ka kaam hai budhape ka nahi”, laughs Mohammad Akram while telling the process. It is in the making of instrument that artisans earn respect and credibility of artists who come and buy instruments from Akram Shop. The fascinating aspect of this work is artisans might not know how to play the instrument but can tell the shortcomings of tabla merely by hearing it being played, “You are a rookie, you won’t be able to tell the difference between Lata ji’s and Asha ji’s voice but there is. So is with us”, tells Mohammad Akram that how making the instrument for years also gave them the understanding of the instruments, in turn lending them an expertise which the artisans of Akram Shop use to offer customization to the instrument according to the wishes of the customer.
The nuances of the process cannot replicated, it’s a matter of both love and hard work and hence the table becomes Akram Tabla.