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I have been learning tabla for about 4 years now. Recently, I have accompanied a few friends for vocal and instrumental ensembles in small community events. Although I am pretty much a primary student of tabla, I would like to share some experience (my 2 cents) and also seek advice for further improvement.

The first thing I realised that playing solo tabla and giving accompaniment are 2 different ball games. I felt that the challenges in each are different. No matter how many kaidas & tukdas you know, giving accompaniment, I found, is a completely different experience. The main challenges in my experience are:
(1) Anticipating what the main artist is going to sing or play
(2) To reach quickly and play tabla to suit what the main artist is playing - eg. a prakar or laggi to match the weight ('vajan') of the vocalist's words or notes.

At this stage, I mainly stick to playing the theka and put in some variation/tihayi if I am sure it is coming at the right place. I play correctly and am able to maintain timing so I guess I at least don't become a nuisance to the main artist. But I also feel that a little more variety will make the overall performance more interesting. It often happens that I do anticipate what is coming but I cannot think quick enough what sort of variation to play and have to end up just continuing with the theka. It is only after I listen to the recording a couple of times that I realise that a particular tihayi or prakar would have been apt for this place!

If I have enough time to practice with the artists, I make it a point to record, listen to the recording, identify the places where prakars could be introduced and implement it in the subsequent practices or the performance. However, I tend to play sort of... 'defensive' tabla if I am not sufficiently familiar with the piece.

Well, this is sharing a bit of my experience. I would be interested in knowing if this sort of experience is common at the beginner stage. I would also appreciate tips on whether there is any specific way to practice from the point of giving accompaniment. I tried to play bandishes from CDs and play tabla on them (as it playing on a lehra). However, that does not work so well as there is already the sound of tabla that plays on the CD. Any advice, tips would be highly appreciated. Thank you in advance!
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