Not to be confused with doldrum, the dhol (Punjabi), is a drum (a percussion musical instrument) widely used in the Indian subcontinent, especially the Punjab region, and especially among the Sikhs of East Punjab. Apart from Punjab, Dhol has been adapted into the music of other regions throughout South Asia and abroad including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Sindh and Maharashtra. Nowadays, it is very popular in modern Punjabi music.
The dhol is a drum that dates back to the 15th century. It was probably introduced to the Indian subcontinent via the Persian drum type dohol (duhul). The evidence for this is found in Ain-i-Akbari, which describes the use of duhul in the orchestra of the Mogul emperor Akbar. The Indo-Aryan word "dhol" appears in print around 1800 in the treatise Sangitasara.
The dhol is most commonly associated with Punjabi music and dance. It was used in war by the Sikhs and later to celebrate successful harvests by Jatt landowners. This drum became the ground roots of modern Bhangra music. The Dhol drum is a very common instrument played in the regions of Punjab in India and Pakistan. From North India, the Dhol spread to other parts of the Indian subcontinent as well. Apart from Punjabi music, it is now used in music of other regions such as Maharashtra, Assam, Gujarat, Bengal (including Bangladesh), South India etc. It has also become popular in other parts of the world due to South Asian diaspora.
The dhol is a double-sided barrel drum (straight barrels also exist) played mostly as an accompanying instrument to the traditional Punjabi dance of Bhangra, and the religious music of Sufism, Qawwali. In Qawwali music, the term dhol is used to describe a similar, but smaller drum used with the smaller tabla, as a replacement for the left hand tabla drum. The typical sizes of the drum vary slightly from region to region. In Punjab, the dhol remains large and bulky to produce the preferred loud bass. The drum consists of a wooden barrel with animal hide or synthetic skin stretched over its open ends, covering them completely. These skins can be stretched or loosened with a tightening mechanism made up of either interwoven ropes, or nuts and bolts. Tightening or loosening the skins subtly alters the pitch of the drum sound. The stretched skin on one of the ends is thicker and produces a deep, low frequency (higher bass) sound and the other thinner one produces a higher frequency sound. In contemporary Punjabi music, dhols with synthetic, or plastic, treble skins are very common.
The drum is played using two wooden sticks, usually made out of bamboo and cane wood. The most common rhythm played on the dhol is the Chaal, which consists of 8 beats per measure. The stick used to play the bass side of the drum is a bit thicker (roughly about 10 mm in diameter) and is bent in a quarter-circular arc on the end that strikes the drum, the dagga. The other stick is much thinner and flexible and used to play the higher note end of the drum, the thili. The drum is slung over the neck of the player with a strap usually made up of ropes or woven cloth. The surface of the wooden barrel is in some cases decorated with engraved or painted patterns.
Dhol was a popular musical instrument in both formal and informal dance performances for decades. Dhol players were once sought-after individuals for occasions of celebration, such as weddings, in India, but since the 1980s, the introduction of electronic devices such as tape recorders has led to a decline in their importance. Though formal Bhangra performances still involve traditional dhol, casual revelries are mostly carried out sans dhol. Nevertheless, dhol music still figures in the studio recordings of present day Raas/Garba and Bhangra music artists. The dhol is popular not only in North and West India and Pakistan,but is much-loved throughout India, Fiji, United Kingdom, Australia and North America. A smaller cousin of the dhol is called dholak or dholki.