During Women’s Month, South Africa is celebrating several dynamic and inspirational women. Women who continue to break barriers in their fields and leave a lasting legacy in their communities.
Parusha Naidoo from Queensburgh in KwaZulu-Natal is among these women. She is one of the few female percussionists to play the tabla instrument in the country.
The hand drums originate from the Indian subcontinent and are typically played by men.
Thirty-six year old Naidoo started playing the tabla at just eight years-old. The pair of drums is made of wood and some metal. A musician typically sits cross-legged with the tabla in front of them. It is an intricate movement between the fingers and the palm of the hand to produce different sounds.
In the world of Indian classical music, the tabla is one of several musical instruments used to accompany classical singers and traditional dancers. Naidoo was born into a musical family. She vividly recalls watching her parents perform. This inspired her to follow suite.
“Well it started off after my grandfather had taught me the basics. I there after was enrolled in proper music schools where my molding began and I developed my skill. I was mesmerised by it from the time I started because it’s in my blood and it’s inherit so I always knew that this was my passion.”
She has become one of the few female players in the country. In fact it is unusual, globally, to see a women grace a musical stage, playing the tabla.
“Yes it is perceived as a male dominant instrument. But I must say of recent years this is changing and I am glad to have been part of the first women that has broken the barrier and the boundaries. I have faced challenges through the years when I was younger as it’s being perceived as a male dominant instrument, there were insecurities and other challenges but I choose to take a challenge or take something negative and change it into something positive. I challenge myself everyday to be able to venture out and play and keep this flag flying high,” says Naidoo.
Her passion has offered her the privilege to perform around the globe. Some of her highlights include India, Mauritius, Singapore, Bali and Germany.
“I played in many different countries but one that stands out a highlight would be having or being afforded the opportunity to play in India, with a group of ladies, so it was a international ladies event and we all came together from different countries and collaborated and presented an offering in India.”
Her mother Marlini Naidoo is a classical vocalist and they often perform together. She says her daughter has always loved music from the time she was a child.
“She will always find little instrument do it and the until came to the age of seven we could see that you know she really had at the interest to play a something rhythmic. So well obviously her grandad gave the inspiration and the instruments to try the music and we could see she has some potential as a girl to go forward and we gave her that support and got into a musical school to see that she has that potential. That made us to be very supportive of her to go forward in in this playing this instrument,” says the proud mum.
Naidoo plans to spread the passion and to teach other young, aspiring female tabla players in the near future.