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Lesson 6: Elementary Kirtan Rhythm

 

Now that we got the alphabet of the mridanga (bols), we can now discuss the rhythmic cycles that is commonly used to accompany bhajans and kirtans. To give you an introduction to a rhythmic cycle used in kirtans, this lesson is created. It serves as good hand practice and is easy enough to help you keep up with time.

 

The rhythmic cycles from this point onwards will be presented in this format. The meaning of the each row will be explained in Lesson 7.

 

X

 

 

 

0

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

 

 

ka

ghe

ghe

 

 

This is an eight beat cycle. It takes eight beats to complete one cycle. In Indian music, rhythms are described as “cycles” rather than measures or time signatures in Western music.

 

How do you approach this? Let’s go through each beat.

 

1: tā

 

2: Nothing

 

3: Nothing

 

What does that mean? On that beat, nothing is played. If it’s too difficult to keep time for you, then say the word “PAUSE” or “HOLD” for each space. In effect, you could rewrite the cycle as follows:

 

X

 

 

 

0

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

PAUSE

PAUSE

ka

ghe

ghe

PAUSE

 

4: ka

 

5: tā

 

6: ghe

 

7: ghe

 

Six and 7 should not be hard. Remember that baya bols has vowel tolerance, so “gha”, “ghe”, and “ghi” are the same.

 

8: PAUSE

 

Let’s get a feel of this rhythmic cycle by practicing the elementary kirtan rhythm:

 

 

 

 

 

KARTAL USE:

 

http://kksongs.org/instruments/images/kartal.jpg

 

The backbone of every kirtan and bhajan are kartal use. The most common cycle known in kartals is the famous three-strike kartal heard all over temples.

 

X

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

OPEN

 

CLOSED

CLOSED

 

Some people might play it vice versa (CLOSED PAUSE OPEN OPEN).

 

This is a cycle of four beats per cycle; therefore, it would be improper to define this cycle as a “three-beat.” Since the kirtan rhythm in this lesson is an eight beat cycle, this kartal format is used.

 

If brown represents kartal strokes, then kartal accompaniment would be as follows.

 

 

X

 

 

 

0

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

PAUSE

PAUSE

ka

ghe

ghe

PAUSE

OPEN

 

CLOSED

CLOSED

OPEN

 

CLOSED

CLOSED

 

Let’s practice using kartals.

 

This is the elementary kirtan rhythm WITH kartals.

 

 

The key thing is the ability to accompany kirtans. The basic kirtan we will lead is the traditional Hare Krsna tune. While accompaniment is a bigger topic in itself, the key thing is that the Matra 1 is where the first “krsna” in the mahamantra. Follow the kartals and sing along.

 

 

Get a feel of this elementary kirtan rhythm. Certain properties like empty beats and cycles are very important in learning more complex bhajan rhythms in this course.

 

 

VIDEOS:

 

·VIDEO CLIP 6 – 1: DIDACTIC

·VIDEO CLIP 6 – 2: PRACTICE

 

 

In the video for 6-2 (PRACTICE), Srila Prabhupada’s kirtana was used as the practice kirtan to use this rhythmic cycle. Here is the clip where you can practice along.

 

NOTE: Recording may be difficult to hear due to attempts to reduce volume of mridanga in the track.

 

 

 

UPDATED: August 17, 2017