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Chaal Rhythm for the Punjabi Dhol

Paul Marshall (c) 2002

Thanks to Johnny Kalsi & The Dhol Foundation

The following rhythms are presented for a right handed player , they should be reversed for a left handed player.

The thin thilli cane is held in the right hand, it strikes the high pitched end of the drum. The thick bent cane is held in the left hand and strikes the bass end of the drum.

There are a number of strokes which are either single hits or combination hits. The method of learning uses 'bols' (words) and each word represents one of those strokes. Players use these to teach, learn and pass on information. Johnny uses them to tell the players what is coming next, he can even teach over the phone, It is fascinating to experience.

Dhol 'Bols'

  • Na/Ta - Treble side only
  • Ge/Gi - Bass side only
  • Dha - Bass and treble sides together
  • Ke - Bass side struck and stick left on the head to mute
  • Kin/Kran - muted bass stroke with open treble stroke

It is most common to hear the rhythms as a 'shuffle' feel almost like a dotted eighth, the rhythms are actually regarded as straight and the 'shuffle' is merely an slight advance of every second beat. For the purposes of this introduction, I'd advise treating the rhythms as a shuffle to get the feel of the flow of the music .

The base rhythm is known as the Chaal, most rhythms use this or variations thereof as the foundation It translates excellently to djembe (and bodhran :)

Dha Na..Na .Na .Na .Dha Dha.Na

B ..L...L.. L ..L.. B.. B.. L
1 ..2 ..3 ..4 ..5 ..6 ..7 ..8

The underlying feel is like a light shuffle, if you play it like a dotted eighth you're close enough, it is bit square [?] when played straight.

Here's what it feels like, note how the beats are grouped, it skips along when played slowly but rocks at 200+ bpm on the dhol! :))

.. ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
B o o o o B B o B o o o o B B o


You can hear it on Johnny Kalsi's New Year's day set for BBC Radio,

There's a different version which realy rocks as a base rhythm, you will hear this in The Dhol Foundation set too

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
o...o o o..
o o o . o o o . o o
B ........B B ..B ........B B