14th Oct, 1965, India lost a great Tabla
Wizard with the untimely death of Pandit Chatur Lal at the
young age of 40. The violinist virtuoso, Late Lord Yehudi
Menuhin, once remarked "Pandit Chatur Lal was one of
those few supreme pioneer musicians who won for India the
great and growing following it now commands in the West. He
stole the hearts of his audiences wherever he went with his
art and his enchanting personality".
Pandit Chatur Lal himself observed, "All My Efforts Served
A Single Purpose: Sangat Both In Art And Life."
Pandit Chatur Lal was the first Indian percussionist to take
Indian drums Tabla to the West in 1955 with Usatd
Ali Akbar Khan then in 1956-57 with Pandit Ravi Shankar and
He was also the first Indian musician whos tabla solo
LP was released both in the East & the West. A German
disciple then the Director of Max Muller Bhawan, Dr. Heimo
Rau, called him 'the incarnation of the god of music' who
opened to the listener a fourth dimension of experience beyond
time and space.
Born on April 16, 1926 in Uadipur, Rajasthan. While yet a
boy, Chatur Lal started a vigorous period of long and continues
practice, which is the only way to attain perfection. Night
after night Chatur Lal's drum-beating became a source of nuisance
for the local policeman in the night duty. One day the policeman
lost his patience and knocked at the door and burst upon him:
"You should be in bed at this time. You have no business
to keep the locality awake." A little frightened but
undaunted, the little boy went on playing the Tabla every
night, except when it was the time for the policemen to pass
In 1947, Chatur Lal came to Delhi and joined All India Radio.
Since 1948, he regularly participated in programmes and conferences
all over the India and Abroad. He played with masters like
to name few Baba Allaudin Khan, Pandit Onkarnath Thankur,
Pt. Ravi Shakar, Pandit, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ustad Vilayat
Khan, Pt. Nikhil Banerjee and many others.
In 1952, he went to Afghanistan with Pandit Omkarnath Thakur
and in 1955, he visited Britain and United States on the invitation
of Museum Of Modern Art and OMNIBUS, the Rockefeller Ford
Foundation TV Workshop in performances with Sarod Maestro,
Usatd Ali Akbar Khan. In 1956-57, he toured to North America
and Europe with one of the greatest sitar maestro Pandit Ravi
Shankar and in 1960 he visited the Soviet Union and Mongolia
with Indian delegations. In 1961, he went on a World tour
with Mrs. Sharan Rani.
His Second tour included the first ever fusion concert between
the East & the West where Chatur Lal representing his
Indian drums 'Tabla' and greatest drummer Sir Philly Joe Jones
representing his Western drums.
His last trip was in 1964 in association with Max Muller Bhawan,
he organized a concert for his younger brother , Pt. Ram Narayan
to West Germany which included 25 cities. Dr. Heimo Rau commented,
"In India and Germany will never forget him since for
them he opened that gate to the Indian music." This trip
also took two brothers to France and Britain.
Commenting on the performances of Chatur lal, The famous German
Newspaper, Frankfurter Rundschan, said "Our little drums
are stuck with sticks. However virtuoso they may be, yet compared
to the art of the Indian Tabla player, Chatur lal they sound
barbarian. His playing sometimes sound like rhythmically arranged
drops of rain, sometimes the finger flew over the membranes
like a family of salamanders."
Chatur lal developed a style of his own, noted for a lightning
rhythmic pattern and an intimate understanding of the mood
of the artiste he accompanied "his style", Mr. Lothar
Lutze of Max Muller Bhawan said, "amalgamated" many
different elements, among them south Indians ones, and with
the artiste on his standing, became a personality bound
pure style. He always showed an uncanny adroitness and skill
in his accompaniment, while his solo was notable for case,
clarity, diversity and grace where that were all his own.
On the occasion of the Paluskar Musical Festival in Delhi
in 1960, the music critic of the Statesman aptly commented
on the style of the great percussionist "After the interval
Chatur lal gave a fine Tabla recital." Playing with great
skills and finesse and weaving his percussion sonorities into
every conceivable caprice of form of rhythm, he gave proof
of his supreme command of the instrument. With perfect coordination
between the two hands, the artiste played with tremendous
zest and fervor passing at times into a mood of rhythmical
abandon. It was a most impressive recital forceful,
fluent and almost unbelievably elemental in its rhythmic appeal.
The "Drums of India" and "Drums On Fire"
are some of the important solo recordings of Pandit Chatur
Lal in Hollywood's 'World Pacific Recordings'. He also composed
and gave music for a short animated Canadian film 'A Chairy
Tale', 'A Certain View', 'Now what my Little Man'. A French
Television also made a short documentary film on him "Rythmes