During Women’s Month, South Africa celebrates some dynamic and inspiring women. Women who continue to break barriers in their fields and leave a lasting legacy in their communities.

Parusha Naidu from Queensburgh in the KwaZulu-Natal province is among those women. She is one of the few female percussionists playing the tabla instrument in the country.

Hand drums originate from the Indian subcontinent and are usually played by men.

Thirty-six-year-old Naidu started playing the tabla at the age of eight. A pair of drums is made of wood and some metal. The musician usually sits cross-legged with the tabla in front of him. It is a complex movement between the fingers and the palm 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. Naidu was born in a musical family. She clearly remembers watching her parents’ performances. This inspired her to follow suit.

“Well, it started after my grandfather taught me the basics. After that, I entered the appropriate music schools, where my formation and development of skill began. I’ve been fascinated by it from the beginning because it’s in my blood and passed down through my inheritance, so I always knew it was my passion.”

She became one of the few female players in the country. In fact, it’s not unusual to see women playing the tabla on a music stage anywhere in the world.

“Yes, it is perceived as a dominant male instrument. But I have to say that this is changing in recent years and I am glad that I was part of the first women who broke the barrier and boundaries. I have struggled over the years when I was younger with it being perceived as a male dominant tool, insecurities and other issues, but I choose to take the challenge or take something negative and change it into something positive. I challenge myself every day to be able to go out and play to keep that flag flying high,” says Naidoo.

Her passion has given her the privilege to perform all over the world. Some of her highlights include India, Mauritius, Singapore, Bali and Germany.

“I’ve played in different countries, but one of the highlights is having or being able to play in India with a group of women, so it was an international women’s event and we all came together from different countries and collaborated and presented a donation in India.”

Her mother, Marlini Naidoo, is a classical vocalist, and they often perform together. She says that her daughter has always loved music since childhood.

“She would always find a little instrument to do it, and it wasn’t until she was seven that we noticed she was really interested in playing something rhythmic. Obviously, her grandfather gave her the inspiration and tools to try music and we saw that the girl had some potential to go forward and we supported her and enrolled her in music school to see that she had that potential . This made us very supportive of her playing this instrument,” says the proud mother.

Naidoo plans to spread the passion and teach other young aspiring tabla players in the near future.

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