Five families from Fatehpur make and sell dholaks in city

By Naomi N Published on Jul 31, 2018 12:39 PM IST

Armaan Ali outside his hut at Urur Alcott Kuppam, while his son Umair plays on dholaks.

Chennai: It is common to see them selling dholaks on the streets of Pondy Bazaar or sometimes in beaches. They also let you tap on them. Do you know who these sellers are and what is the story behind the handmade drums?

To trace this, News Today went to Urur Alcott Kuppam at Besant Nagar, where, in a few tiny thatched huts, five families from Fatehpur in Barabanki district, Uttar Pradesh, live. They claim that they are the ones who sell handmade drums in the city.

Armaan Ali (27), his wife Suman, and three children have their one-room thatched house stacked with dholaks. Some finished ones hang from the roof, while other unfinished pieces are kept in the corner.

"I have been in the business for the past 10 years in Chennai. This is a popular instrument in north India, and men and women play it," he says.

Armaan says he is happy that not many have entered the field of selling handmade dholaks apart from them.

'My father and grandfather were in the same business. I never learnt to play the dholak formally," he says, even as he breaks into playing a rhythm, while Bicky (26), another seller, sings to match the music.

Bicky says it takes four hours to make one drum. The families make not more than three pieces a day. In case they sell one or two a day, they consider that lucky. They also make tabla, African drum and a special Zakir Hussain tabla.

By evening, Armaan sits oustide his house, settling down to make dholaks. His children sit around him watching him at work, occasionally helping him.

Armaan working on a handmade drum.

The centre piece is either made of mango wood, teak or cardboard. The two sides are made of goat skin which he scrubs with soap. "The skin must be cleaned as it can cause allergies to children," he says.

The skin is fastened at both ends of the drum with bamboo twigs. He then ties ropes with rings on the body. The rings can be adjusted to tune the music.

The process looks fairly easy, but Armaan says otherwise. "If it is not done properly, the instrument will not produce good music. It calls for trained craftsmanship."

Once the drums are ready, the children are excited to see them and touch the instruments. 'Bajao,' says Armaan, and they begin tapping on the drums with both hands.

The families are not always in Chennai. They travel to Uttar Pradesh to get raw materials. From November to February they are in Goa as it is festival season.