Laya Taal Saadhana is Back with a Thunderous Tabla Performance by Students of Pt. Shantilal Shah

By Sam Sabapathy

HOUSTON: Indian Music Society of Houston (IMS), hosted its much-awaited 11th Laya Taal Saadhana (LTS), on April 9th, 2023 at Stafford Civic Center, Houston, Texas, USA. It was a special Tabla performance by the students of Pt. Shantilal Shah, renowned Tabla maestro in Houston. Emcee Paromita Nag, beautifully narrated the program and introduced IMS President, Shri. Govind Shetty, who welcomed the audience with his introductory comments by explaining the legacy of IMS bringing classical programs to Houston since 1992.

Laya Taal Saadhana is the showcase event of Pt. Shantilal Shah and this year’s program was aptly dedicated to his guru, Padmashri Taal Yogi Pandit Suresh Talwalkar’s 75th birthday. The program presented a collage of Bade guruji’s video clips of his illustrious Tabla performances.

Padmashri Taal Yogi Pandit Suresh Talwalkar

With blessings from the Taal yogi, the emcee introduced Smt. Aparna Shah, who rendered an invocation to Lord Ganesha, with her soulful voice and set the ambience. Pt.Shantilal Shah, then took to the stage accompanied by the Harmonium artist Tejas Rode, to join the Tabla session with his rhythmic nagma to maintain the laya in taal Teentaal. Pt.Shantilal Shah explained the rich tradition of his Tabla learning under Bade Guruji, his zeal for perfection and the importance of regular riyaz. Pt. Shantilal Shah has been training hundreds of students over the last 20+ yrs in Houston. LTS bears a strong testimony of his love and rigorous Tabla training to his students along with Indian values and life lessons.

As the first LTS after the pandemic and zoom classes, it was inspiring to see students perform with poise and elegance. This speaks to the ability to Guruji to evoke passion in his Shishyas. LTS was a beautiful celebration of the rich legacy of the Guru-Shishya tradition and the power of music to inspire and captivate both the connoisseurs and the music lovers of Houston.

LTS 2023 program presented ten different music groups ranging from the age of 7 to 75! In LTS tradition, Guruji aptly names each group after an element in Hindustani classical music.  The opening session was from the group Taal with cute little Tabla students, playing Kaidas, Paltas and Tihaee in Teentaal. It was an impressive maiden performance for these beginner Tabla players. Their enthusiasm and smiles were infectious and set the tone for the groups to come.

Guru ji accompanied rest of the Tabla groups; Theka, Maatra, Sum, Laya and Tihaee and introduced the rhythmic and poetic content. Each group excelled in their playing style with clarity in Teentaal and reciting Tukras.  Along with Tabla techniques, Guru ji emphasized the students to recite complex patterns, with tempo and play in synchrony with the Guru bandhus.

The program flow and key tasks such as brochure creation, slide show and backstage coordination were very well organized, planned and executed successfully by many dedicated parent volunteers. Stalwart Shri. B.N. Murali handled the audio, and Anuraag Shah the video systems., seamlessly. The seasoned LTS volunteer team, led by Vishy Narayanamurthy, brought the magic! Kudos to the team.

The second half of the program upped the ante with Tabla solo compositions, specially crafted for these young students. Pt.Shantilal Shah explained the compositions and its origins from different gharanas, with passion. This is unique to Laya taal saadana programs, to connect students and the audience with Tabla traditions., an invaluable experience. These tabla compositions with dedicated riyaz along with Guruji’s ear for perfection will certainly transform these students to become well-rounded tabla artists in the future.

The Peshkaar group with senior professionals presented the Kaidas, Paltas in the popular Teentaal with class. This was followed by Khand, Kayda and Aavartan groups playing advanced set of compositions with richness and playing speed. The last group Aavartan, featured a group of senior students with 10 to 20 yrs of training, took the program to a crescendo! They played eighteen Tukras with different speeds and recited each Tukra, which was matched by their fast playing of the Relas, Chakradaar and Tihaee. This outstanding finale, brought the audience to a thunderous applause!

Stafford Civic Center, was filled with students, parents, senior artists, classical music enthusiasts, IMS members and many more. After this year’s student performance, the audience will certainly agree, Laya Taal Saadhana programs are a pride to Houston Tabla community. We hope to see more young and adult students learn tabla in its true classical music spirit. This will extend a strong foundation for all types of percussion accompaniment. Looking forward to see many Laya taal saadhana programs keeping the beat of Houston alive! – For more details visit  &