Tala (music)

Tala (music)

In Indian classical music, Tala (Sanskrit tāla), literally a "clap," is a rhythmical pattern that determines the rhythmical structure of a composition. It plays a similar role to metre in Western music, but is structurally different from the concept of metre. Each composition is set to a tala, and as a composition is rendered by the main artist(s), the percussion artist(s) play the pattern repeatedly, marking time as well as enhancing the appeal of the performance.

The most common instrument for keeping rhythm in Hindustani music is the tabla. The pakhavaj is also used, especially for the Dhrupad genre of Hindustani music. In Carnatic music, the Mridangam is a stock feature in vocal, violin, Veena and flute concerts, with the Ghatam, the Kanjira and the Morsing also featuring at times. In Nadhaswaram concerts, the thavil takes the place of the Mridangam.

While Indian classical music has a complete and complex system for the execution and transcription of rhythms and beats, a few talas are very common while most others are rare. The most common Tala in Hindustani classical music is Tintal. This tala has a cycle of 16 beats divided in 4 bars. Bars 1, 2 and 4 are accented while bar 3 is light. Most talas can be played at different speeds, but no tala is generally slowed down as much as Ektal, with its 12 beats sometimes taking more than a minute.

"Tala" in Carnatic music

Traditionally, Carnatic music vocalists mark the "tala" by tapping their laps with their palm. Instrumentalists such as violinists and flutists that use both hands mark the "tala" by tapping their feet on the ground inconspicuously.

"Tala" varieties

In Carnatic music, each repeated cycle is called an "Aavartanam", while each "tap" is called an "aksharam" or a "kriyā". A "tala" thus describes the number and arrangement of "aksharams" inside an "Aavartanam". Note that the intervals between the "aksharams" are all equally long. The "aksharams" are subdivided into "maatraas" or s"varas".

There are three patterns of beats that recur in all "talas" - these are the "laghu", the "dhrutam" and the "anudhrutam".

* A "dhrutam" is a pattern of 2 "aksharams", with the first "aksharam" marked with the palm face down, and the second with the face up. This is notated 'O'. (ie., Tapping once with your palm facing down and once with it facing up.)

* An "anudhrutam" is a single "aksharam", marked with the palm face down and notated 'U'. (ie., Tapping once with your palm facing down)

* A "laghu" is a pattern with the first "aksharam" marked with the palm face down, followed by a variable number of "aksharams" marked with successive fingers starting with the little finger. This is notated '1'

The number of "aksharams" in the "laghu" is one of 3, 4, 5, 7 or 9, and this characterises the variety ("jaathi") of the "tala". The five varieties are:

These are very rare and lengthy talas. Compositions are rare in these talas. They are mostly used in RTPs.Some examples of anga talas are:

Sarabhandana talaYou can hear examples of these Bols on some of the pages cited in the External Links section below.

Common Hindustani Taals

There are many taals in Hindustani music, however, only a few are in common use

Additional Taals [Kaufmann(1968)]


(International) Literature

* Oxford Journals: [http://mq.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/XVII/4/427.pdf A Study in East Indian Rhythm, Sargeant and Lahiri, Musical Quarterly.1931; XVII: 427-438]
* Ancient Traditions--Future Possibilities: [http://www.ancient-future.com/atfp.html Rhythmic Training Through the Traditions of Africa, Bali and India] , Author: Matthew Montfort, Mill Valley: Panoramic Press, 1985. ISBN 0-937879-00-2 (Spiral Bound Book)
* Manfred Junius: "Die Tālas der nordindischen Musik" (The Talas of North Indian Music), München (Munich), Salzburg: Katzbichler, 1983.

title=The Ragas of North India
publisher=Oxford and IBH Publishing Company

Online Tutorials

* Pete Lockett (Multi percussionist): [http://www.petelockett.com/lessons/index.html Indian Rhythmic concept for drum set...]
* Swar Systems : [http://www.swarsystems.com/SwarShala/ SwarShala Indian music software]

Audio files

* [http://kksongs.org/talamala.html KKSongs Talamala] : Recordings of Tabla Bols, database for Hindustani Talas.
* [http://www.ancient-future.com/india.html Ancient Future] : MIDI files of the common (major) Hindustani Talas.
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYCASUWy24M Rupak by Pt.Kishore Banerjee]

External (Web) Links

* Colvin Russell: [http://www.pathcom.com/~ericp/tala.html Tala Primer - A basic introduction to tabla and tala] .
* [http://www.bsmny.org/features/iidtabla Instruments in Depth: Tabla: Drums of North India] , an online feature from [http://www.bsmny.org Bloomingdale School of Music] (March, 2008)
* [http://www.chandrakantha.com/tablasite Chandra & David's Tabla site] : [http://www.chandrakantha.com/tablasite/articles/cyclic.htm The Cyclic Form in North Indian Tabla] , [http://www.chandrakantha.com/tala_taal/index.html Index of Tals] (Tala) and others.
* San Diego State University: [http://trumpet.sdsu.edu/m345/knowledge_webs/7Indian_MusicY/Indian_rhythm.htm Rhythm - Indian Rhythm]
* SICA Festival: [http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/fr/2006/03/24/stories/2006032401500300.htm Indian rhythm in Carnatic music...] (The Hindu), 24th March 2006
* Mannarkoil J.Balaji (Mridhangam player): [http://www.angelfire.com/mb/mridhangam/tala.html Rhythmic structure found in Carnatic Music... Chanda, Melakarta & Chaapu Talas] (5th Aug 2006)

Other Indian Rhythmic techniques


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