Showbiz / The Dhol Revolution

The Dhol Revolution

Showbiz Jun 01, 2013

Women taking to the traditionally male dominated percussion blazing trails at their own beat

The beat and feel of the South Asian dhol has been a central part of the Punjabi, Pakistani and Kashmiri culture, just to name a few. The drum-like instrument holds a prominent role in bhangra music, and has a tendency of bringing out everyone's inner-dancer!

However, the dhol has typically been known to be a male-dominated hobby. Because of the physical strength and power required to make the dhol sound at its very best, females have shied away from showing interest.

But that is all changing. Thanks to young talented dhol players like UK's Rani Taj, female dholis are slowly on the rise. At the young age of 18, Taj has received international attention and performs her craft worldwide. She is a well-respected and established dholi, all because of a YouTube video she posted of her playing the dhol to Rihanna's "Rude Boy" in 2010.

Here in Canada, dhol instructor Varinder Nandhra of Dhol Foundation acknowledges the lack of females pursuing the dhol as a hobby.

"Females in our culture, whether it's Hindu culture, Punjabi culture, Muslim culture- whatever it may be, they've always been discouraged to do anything that puts them in the spotlight, because it's not 'womanlike' to do it," said Nandhra.

Nandhra also mentioned that a lot of the time girls feel intimated by the number of males and what their preconceived intentions may be. "Guys are impressed when they see a female playing the dhol, but this can make a girl feel out of place."

Nandhra holds one-on-one lessons with all his students to avoid intimidation or discomforts on either end. "If you want to learn humbly, I'll teach you to the full capacity. There's a sense of comfort when my students come here."

Asvini Kulasingham, 21, is one of Nandhra's female students, and has been learning the dhol for almost a year. She is also a full-time student. "I just started for the fun of it. I didn't expect myself to become an expert or anything- it was something for myself and for my entertainment. I don't regret starting it at all."

Kulasingham actually comes from a Sri-Lankan background, and had no prior knowledge of the dhol! It was through a friend that she heard about it and decided to give it a shot. And now she is thoroughly enjoying her lessons and progressing quite well! "Varinder really pushes me to perform to his standards which is great, because naturally I feel like I'm not going to sound like the other guys I'm playing with; you do feel weaker."

Kulasingham stresses how crucial it is to have a good mentor and an encouraging team for the occasional group sessions. "At first it was intimidating to be around a whole group of guys, but they're awesome and really supportive."

Kulasingham has one piece of advice: "If you want to do something different, then you should totally just do it for yourself." So for all you aspiring female dholis, get out there and satisfy your crave! Kulsingham enthuses, "I would say [girls] need to completely come out of [their] box and try something new; it's extremely fun and a great stress reliever!"

So come on ladies, unleash your inner Rani Taj!


Sources: dholfoundation, ranitajinternational, youtube, and LinkedIn


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