I mean, look at it – traditionally it has brightly-colored tassels hanging from it, and is often played by guys in fluorescent pink silk pyjamas – and yet these same pink-pyjama’ed guys still look like they could take that dagga and swat you like a bug. I think there’s something about smacking a drum the size of a trash can with what looks like a broken tennis racket and a tree branch that just says “daaaaaamn.”
Also, the thing is pretty heavy. I got one made from mango wood, which is the lighter option. Apparently the more expensive shisham ones sound sweeter (and cost about double) but also weigh more. I imagine anyone who could lift a high-quality dhol and then play it for a full night of dancing must have some serious upper-body strength.
Nonetheless, I think I still manage to look a little wimpy, even if I’m wearing all black and scowling. I attribute this to the fact that I’ve only had the dhol for just over a week and my technique is pretty terrible. I can get a pretty good chaal out of the thing 3/4 of the time now, I can play a few fills, and I even have a jerry-rigged stand in case I don’t want to strap it to myself (this could be useful for live use someday). I can’t play it very fast (my own track “Triangular” exhausts me after about 8 bars) and if I get distracted I have this tendency to lose my grip on the thilli and send it flying across the room. But I’m getting there. Last night I was able, with some quite impressive success, replace a pretty artifacted and time-stretched dhol loop with a few that I recorded myself. It sounds positively massive – Almost too massive, actually. I need to refine my micing technique so that I can get a little more subtlety out of it. I also need to refine my playing technique so I can get a little more subtlety out of it.
In short, I’m enjoying the ever-living hell out of this thing. Who woulda thought that a guy trained on the violin would enjoy smacking on a big panjabi barrel drum so damn much?