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RobertMaya

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Reply with quote  #1 
Does anyone have any experience with Bharat Kakade (Somnath Kakade's brother, I think.)? I've heard that he produces less expensive but equal/better quality tablas than Somnath, but can't seem to find his website or contact information.

Also, as of late, I have noticed a flood of sub-par Vhatkar tablas. He's been known to churn out tablas that he ships to amateur players, but in the past couple years I have yet to see a new top-quality Vhatkar tabla. Are his tablas really worth paying double for unless one actually goes to his shop and selects tablas?

Best,
Robert
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Vivek

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Reply with quote  #2 
I will send you Bharat's contact info by PM. He does produce very good tablas. For most players, they will be completely satisfactory. Many of the professional players in Pune have started getting tablas from him. They are comparable in material and sound quality to other top makers in Pune, including Hanif of Sheikh Maqbool Musicals and Santosh Choure.

However, they are not in the same league as Somnath's tablas. Last summer I got new tablas and pudis from both of them, and the difference in quality was so marked that I ordered several more pudis from Somnath despite the (considerably) higher price. I have been getting tablas from Somnath for many years, but he has done a lot to improve his quality over the last 2 years or so.

That being said, for most players - particularly those who are still at a student level or who do not perform very often, Somnath's tablas likely will not be worth the price premium compared to Bharat's or the other good Pune makers' tablas.

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VNO Design

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Reply with quote  #3 
I've never had a Tabla or head from Bharat, but order from Somnath fairly frequently. He's among the most consistent, and he also speaks English enough for good business practices and customer service.

Vhatkar couldn't care less about customer service, and his quality is dependent on whom the Tabla is for. Unless you're well known, you're likely to get crap from him with no recourse afterwards. Not worth buying replacement heads from him at all in my opinion, and I'll likely never order anything from him without hearing it first.

Caveat Emptor and Best of luck!

-David

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RobertMaya

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Reply with quote  #4 
Somnath Kakade shipped me a broken tabla shell that was filled with sawdust and cracks with a pudi that buzzed like a jewish harp/morsing. He offered me a discounted 3000 rupees for a pudi and 7000 for a C# dayan; am I getting ripped off, is this a discount, and should I go through with the deal? I'm not to keen on spending more money now that the first tabla he's sent me is trash...but his tablas sound so great...but mine doesn't...sigh...

I've had only one of his heads before (some of my friends have his tablas) and really enjoyed it; I purchased all of my tablas from Mukta Das (because Calcutta skins are paper thin and are sharper and more awesome) and he cut me a great deal and sent me beautiful tablas every time.

Vivek, thank you for the PM; I'll contact Bharat for a couple tablas when I have the chance (read: money).



This video (brilliant peshkar in rupak by Zakirji) is why I've been so infatuated with Vhatkar tablas; 5.5 ~ 5.75 inches but still super high and super resonant. One would be asking for certain tabla death if one were to pull a calcutta head that high. I doubt I'll get my hands on one though.

I perform semi-often. I tore many tendons rock climbing so I've been out of the game for a while, but I have a string of concerts this summer so I need a good G# and C# dayan to impress any cute singers I might have the fortune of accompanying


Thanks for your replies,
Robert
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bpar

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Reply with quote  #5 
I met Bharat when he used to work with Somnath. I went to Pune to buy a tabla set from them. At that time Somnath was recovering from accident he had and just started to come back to work. Meanwhile Bharat was looking after things. I spent around 7-8 hours over 2 days at Somnath's shop in Pune and Bharat was also there. I wasn't in a hurry to get my tabla set done and my aunt lives in Pune so it was easy for me to be there. They both are nice guys. When I met Somnath, he still had a plaster bandage over his had, so Bharat and other people used to do all the work directed by him.

What like about Somnath is he never really tries to sell his tabla set to you. To say in detail, when I want to India in early 2014, I wanted to buy a Tabla set. So I stated looking around and narrowed down to two - Mukta Das or Vhatkar. I was very close to book tickets to Kolkata. There are a few people who have bough a set from Vhatkar and after seeing how much money they have invested and the quality of the instrument, I wasn't really convinced. I also came to learn about Somnath and I was planning to be in Pune anyways. So I called him before I went there, it was really easy to speak with him over the phone. I speak hind, so not sure about their English. I asked about different type of woods etc. I wanted in D so he said 5 1/4 inch Red Sheeshum would be OK. I asked him about Maha-Agni (I believe Mukta Das sells them) and he said it is better to get them from Kolkata as he doesn't really understand wood structure! He showed me the shell and said it was from Anindo Chaterjee and he was going to finish assembling it. Over two day, it was nice spending time with Somnath at his shop, he explained a few things about Tabla making. He like to understand technicalities of it, instead of that's what was taught to me. There were lots of people buying Pudis, he sells them, but he is not keen on them. He like to make Head on the shell, apply Syahi and keep it there and not moving it around unless you need to change the Pudi. He said it affects the quality of Syahi thus pudi. He doesn't bargain for prices.

Last year Bharat added me on Facebook and I saw Bharrat Touuch Tabla- his shop name. So I think Bharat started his own shop which is not very far from Somnath. I haven't been back yet, but I am also interested in his work, but I would like to hear it first is possible. Bharat is gaining a good reputation and many renowned Tabla artists are buying Tabla from him. Somnath said to me that making tabla for famous people feels good, but you have to attract the potential buyers, as just making master pieces for maestros and not doing quality work for normal buyers would not work out as a decent business model. He said to me, if my Tabla shell ever has any problem, he would replace it!

I am sorry to hear your disappointing Tabla quality. I hope you get wicked set next time. As Bharat used to work with Somnath, I would assume his work would be same quality etc but you never know. I am highly interested in Shyamal das (Narayan Badya Bhandar) Tabla too. I think he uses a bit thicker skin, but again haven't measured it or inspected it myself. hope my experience helps you to find what you are looking for.

Here is a clip of tabla making by Bharat with awesome compositions played by Taal -yogi Pt Suresh Talwalkar.

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RobertMaya

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Reply with quote  #6 
Thank you for your response; I suppose I'll try him again next time I go back to India. I have brief experience with Shyamal Das's tablas (when a music store dude tried to sell me them as Mukta Das tablas). I thought they weren't too bad but none of the tablas blew me away like Mukta Das's - probably because of the thicker skin. Muktada's tablas has this golden ring to them when they're tuned right, and my fleet is almost all Mukta Das dayans. Let me know how it goes with Shyamal Das if you decide to give one a whirl.

Cheers,
Robert
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bpar

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Reply with quote  #7 
Ok, been a while to this one. I have seen a few Bharat Kakade tablas and I must say they are impressive tablas. Really good pudis as well. Full body deep sound and after some use Syahi doesn't buzz. And seems heavy duty typically demonstrating Bombay style. I haven't owned myself so I can't say much about customers' experience about buying directly from him.

But I bought two tablas last year and and two tablas this year from Somnath. I had only one pair so needed to get more as I was getting a bit more concerts etc. Anyways I bought two from him last year and one's head was split open after 6 months. I keep it at C and it is tuned to C#. But a number of things plays factor in this and where I am, weather is killer. It changes too quickly and often drastic changes. Could be 28 sunny now and 12 next day with heavy rains. Anyways I called Somnath and had a chat with him in May this year. I decided to buy 2 more tabla shortly after that. He said that he is busy but he will try to get them done by July.

No worries, I was in no hurry. Working professionally and liaising with various craftsman/artists, I have learn not to hassle them about time and money if you really want good stuff yourself. After 2 months I called him and he said he has started the work but very busy and hoping to give me a call on update. Then I got busy  and kind of left the conversation there. One day he called me again to check in and just to confirm order. We always have good easy going chat. I told him, I am in no hurry so if he needs more time then no worries. Just keep me posted. Then Diwali came; work is close and busy, workers are away etc. Wished each other happy holidays. Finally after Diwali he said he will get my Tabla done after his workload has cleared up. Early November he called me and said they are coming along and discussed few more details. Great!! And Late November he called me so do sound check on phone as he was tuning. He shipped soon after and I got within a few days. Absolutely Fantastic. Deep resonant sound and even playing some composition light handed as well as heavy handed, very responsive and melodic. I really like them. And quality is superior. Now here is a thing,  Somnath offers two type of models: Basic and Professional. There might be people who work for Bharat and Somnath, who pull the leather and make gajra etc, but don't know of if there is a common crowd or what arrangements but Somnath does seem to have a fine team.

 My friend was working in Kolkata and I was having a chat with him and thought I might get Kolkatat tabla to see how it goes. He lived not far from Shyamal Das' shop. But he has got nothing to do with tabla. So I ask him to give me his mobile number. I rang Shyamal Das and he was very helpful over the phone. He is very nice guy but he talks straight to the point. He is not tech-savy, he has whatsapp on his phone but he will get someone else to have a look at whatsapp/email and answer. He did send me a video of a tabla. He has got good  tabla playing skills. Especially light hand style of Lucknow. He asked me to get mahogany tabla as it is light and he said don't worry about wood type. If shell is ok then good sound is in his hand through head construction. I had some stuff coming from India, mainly books so I asked Shyamal to send tabla to my home in another state. He sent it the following week after I transferred money to him. I got his tabla soon after and first time I owned Kolkata made drum. It is also fantastic tabla, warm resonance and fine craftsmanship. I got it within 3 weeks.

I have very high respect for both of these craftsmen and by no mean I want to say anything disrespectful to their work. These are just observation - as one would naturally see differences/similarities. 

Sound - both have similar resonance. Long, deep sustain when you play in Sur. Both are tuned to same note. Somnath tabla has a bit warm sound. Shyamal one has a bit bright sound. But sustain period is almost same. (Not checking with stop watch).

Syahi - both Syahi very fine work, medium about of syahi. Sometimes in Bombay style making too much masala is used and sometimes in Kolkata very less. But both at same level with same size of grain/particles.


Construction - Somnath tabla has thick Tasma, heavy duty Gajra weaving and seems after syahi application, there were cleaned with abrasive material as the head looks clean but, a bit too clean. Shyamal tabla, the skin look rather natural, still very clean but seems one didn't have to clean up much after syahi application. Tasma is regular size, not too thin, but not heavy duty like Somnath. Very fine workmanship on Gajra. Overall Shyamal tabla looks very beautiful, delicate and example of fine craftmanship.

So here is I am thinking to do as I am spoiled for choices and I have two of same pitch.
If I am playing in ensamble with many musician (5 or 6 other musician) I would play Somnath as often I play heavy handed and I am not doing too much of fine work like Rao or strokes with much of ring finger. I hardly play solo, but might be good idea for dhere dhere as I play more Benaras style than Lucknow. But if I am accompanying like Sitar or Sarode, I might play Shyamal as bright delicate sound and light hand would sound good.

But honestly I like them both. Feel very excited and privileged to own these tabla. I don't really drop big names to any of them, like name of my gurus, schools etc. I just try to have friendly chat with them and ask them general question often novice ones at times. I don't try to drag the prices. I just put a simple request for producing good example.


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drtom

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Reply with quote  #8 
Since tabla makers are under discussion, this might be a good place to ask if anyone has experience with tablas from H. V. Mehendale & Sons, of Pune.
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taaliyan

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Reply with quote  #9 
I personally was not very impressed with Bharath's tablas or pudis. 
Somnath is too expensive for the quality he supplies. 

I repair tablas and have sourced from most manufacturers including Vhatkar, Somnath, Bharath, Mukta, Santosh, Maqbool and such. 

There are certain hidden jewels in the pudi making process that manufacture awesome heads for a fraction of the price. 
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