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Chapter 08: Eight Matra Talas

 

As the sixteen matra talas, presented in the previous chapter, are very relevant as well as popular to classical musicians, sixteen matras are not always used in more popular forms of music. In fact, majority of talas focus on having an eight beat cycle. As music starts to resemble more of the Western style, it tends to reach an apparent four beat cycle. Four matra cycles are found in pakhawaj, the supposed ancestor to the tabla. However, there is no room for four matra cycles in tabla. It is too short to allow classical improvisations and ornamentations, which will be described in unit four.

 

Due to the popularity of eight matra talas, there are many talas that follow this sequence. However, for the elementary tabla student, there are four talas that will be covered in this chapter. The four talas of importance are Adha Tintal, Kaherva tala, Bhajani tala, and Prabhupada tala.

 

ADHA TINTAL

 

“Adha tintal” literally means “half of tintal.” The scheme of this tala is that it erases two vibhags of the original tintal theka. This tala deletes vibhag 2 and 3 from the original tintal. Unlike its parent tintal, the behavior is slightly altered, even though the divisions are the similar. The divisions of this tala are 4-4. The sam receives tali, while matra 5 receives khali. Since there are eight matras, being a multiple of four, it is of catastra jati.

 

The theka is in the following form. Notice matra 4 in vibhag 1 is “ta” rather than “dha” from its parent tintal cycle.

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1

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dhā

dhin

dhin

dhin

dhin

 

Figure 8.1

Usually for emphasis of a bol, as mentioned in Chapter 3, a finger ka is added with the bol. Usually matra 5 will add a “finger ka” to amplify the sound of “ta.” This is usually shown to indicate a separation of vibhags. Keep in mind that “finger ka” will be written, but it is usually self understood. By playing this, this seems like a very common mridanga tala.

 

KAHERVA TALA

 

Undoubtedly the most popular of all talas, kaherva tala is found almost anywhere today. From light classical music to film music, kaherva keeps popping up. The reason is due to the amount of freedom shown in kaherva. Even though there is one theka, there are literally thousands of variations and renditions of kaherva. The possibilities are endless, that it is not practical to list all the variation of this tala. However, only a good few will be presented.

 

The theka is almost similar to that of adha tintal. The most general and “standard” theka of kaherva tala is shown in Figure 8.2.

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dhā

ge

tin

ga

dhin

 

Figure 8.2

AUDIO CLIP: Figure 8.2

 

This is the original theka. However, there are thousands of varieties. Here is one common one famous in Punjab and Gujarat. Usually Punjabi players play tabla more open than controlled. Many “tun” sounds result, therefore. Here is one type of theka.

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dhā

ge

din

ga

dhin

 

Figure 8.3

 

Dhin is a very controversial stroke. This is because dhin is a bol representing gha with tin with gha with din. Yet, they are given then same name. This interchangeability is harmless so using din or tin with gha is acceptable.

 

The two previous talas had a very similar construction. However, the next style of kaherva is different from the style shown before.

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dhā

ti

ra

ki

ti

ti

ra

dhin

dhin

 

Figure 8.4

 

The talis and the khalis are kept the same. However, the bols follow a different trend. Unlike the common “trkta” phrase, “ti” and “ra” hold the same duration of half matras. “Ka” has one full matra. Also, this “trkta” phrase ends with “ti” rather than “ta.” This form of kaherva is commonly used in semi-classical pieces, semi-classical bhajans, and thumri songs.

 

Here is another version of the same tala shown in Figure 8.4.

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dhā

ti

ra

ki

ti

ti

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dhin

-

dhin

-

 

Figure 8.5

 

These have the same bols as the tala shown in Figure 8.4. When describing fractional matras, we alphabetize the order. For instance, if matra 1 was divided in three parts, the three parts will be referred to as matra 1A, 1B, and 1C.

 

In matra 7A and 7B and matra 8A and 8B, both “dhin”s are followed by dashes (-). The dashes indicate the swooping of the baya. After the baya has been struck to produce dhin in 7A and 8A, the baya wrist slides towards the syahi producing a pitch bend. When a separate matra or fraction of a matra is used to indicate a pitch bend in the baya, a dash is used.

 

Here is a very common folk rhythm. Figure 8.6

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dhin

tin

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dhin

 

Figure 8.6

 

Notice how “dhin” occupied all of matra 1 and matra 2A. Matra 2B begins with “ta” and the tala continues on. This rendition is found its way in bhajans, kirtans, and regional folk music.

 

Finally, in conclusion to the kaherva renditions, this is final rendition presented here on Figure 8.7.

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dhā

dhin

dhā

dhe

ti

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ra

 

Figure 8.7

 

We haven’t see “dhe” as a bol yet. “Dhe” can mean “gha” and “te” together. Recall that “te” is used in some gharanas as “ti.” Dhe can also represent “dhra.” This tala is also a very common tala for bhajans, regional folk music, thumri and semi-classical music. This tala is assumed to have been derived from Islamic culture, for this rendition of kaherva is commonly used in Islamic devotional music called qawwalis. In some cases this particular rendition of kaherva is known as qawwali tala.

 

These are only just a very small sample of how diverse kaherva is. More forms of kaherva will appear later on in this book.

 

BHAJANI TALA

 

From the name of the tala, the word bhajani means “derived from bhajan.” “Bhajan” is a devotional song in Vedic culture. The musical concept of the bhajan actually came much later, in the 17th century. This tala is very common in accompanying bhajans, although in folk and semi-classical music uses this very frequently. Even modern music tends to be centered on the “adha” style. Since this tala follows kaherva’s footsteps, some gharanas will even refer to this tala as “bhajani kaherva tala” or “bhajan ki theka.” The divisions of the tala are the same as kaherva, namely 4-4, where the tali is at sam, and khali is at matra 5.

 

The bols in the theka are very straightforward as shown in Figure 8.8.

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dhin

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Figure 8.8

AUDIO CLIP: Figure 8.8

 

Note that matra 2B is mixed with matra 3A to form one full matra. This is an example of an uneven full matra. Try to play this theka and make sure you are able to play within the eight matras. This tala is difficult to play.

 

The following tala is in what is known as the adha prakar. “Adha” means “half” and “prakar” means “method.” Adha style usually indicates that the cycle is literally cut in half. Adha Tintal, presented earlier, is an example of an adha prakar. Bhajani tala also has a very popular adha prakar. Unlike adha tintal, you can really the first vibhag as a separate tala. In fact, both vibhags are exactly the same. Since we do not speaking of four matra talas, it is best to present this as an eight matra tala keeping tempo (Unit Three) in mind.

 

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dhin

-

tin

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dhā

ge

 

Figure 8.9

 

The baya sliding is used in matra 1B. Notice how similar this theka is very similar to that of the original bhajani theka.

 

This tala has a special form, which will be discussed in Chapters 21 and 27. Meanwhile enjoy practicing this beautiful tala.

 

PRABHUPADA TALA

 

This is the final eight matra tala presented in this chapter. This tala is very unusual, because it is not found in any North Indian gharana. The origin of the tala emerged on the Bengali folk drum called khol or “mridanga.” This tala was created by Gour Mohan Dey, the father of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada popularized this tala into the Krsna Consciousness movement. Even though it is popular on the khol, it can easily be converted to a tabla tala.

 

Unlike the previous talas, this tala has divisions of 4-2-2. The sam and matra 7 have talis, while khali is assigned to matra 5. Here is the theka.

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dha

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dhā

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 8.10

 

This tala is very interesting for every matra is divided by 2. Even some half matras are divided to form quarter matras. This tala could even classify as a sixteen matra tala, if each half matra is considered a full matra. Since this behaves like a kaherva tala, this is best viewed as an eight matra tala. Notice the accent number 1 marked over matra 7. Also take note that there are three vibhags. However, this is the first tala in our discussion where each vibhag does not have each number of matras. Vibhag 1 has four matras, Vibhag 2 has two, and Vibhag 3 has two matras. Add these matras and it adds up to eight.

 

For the elementary student, all of these eight matra talas usually come out the poorest initially. The only reason for this is due to lack of tabla experience. Do not be discouraged by this remark. In a certain amount of time, when your hands develop strength, you will be able to do magic to any tala. For now, it is important knowing the bols as well as keeping time.

 

One common idea and misassumption by all inexperienced people listening to the tabla is that the tabla is meant to play fast rhythms and perform all of these solos with unbelievably fast rolls. This is the worst idea to think. The most dangerous thing for a driver education student is the desire to speed. Speed kills in driving. Speed kills in tabla too. The goal is not to be the fasted fingered drummer. Believe me, you can have literally no knowledge of the technicalities presented here and still come up with fast, though meaningless, sounds. The goal for the tabla player is sound control. As musician and tabla player, David Courtney said in an interview, “It doesn’t matter where you produced the sound. It matters what you do what you do right after it.” Therefore, be concerned with sound control, sharpness of the bols, as well as time.

UPDATED: June 20, 2009