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Chapter 11: Seven Matra Cycles


After a brief discussion of tala science, Chapters 7 and 8 started our journey in talas by surveying common talas of the catastra jati by studying sixteen and then studying its half counterpart, which were eight matra talas. Chapters 9 and 10 took a similar approach by studying the twelve matra talas first, then the six matra counterpart. As tisra jati and catastra jati talas are the most commonly heard, we covered them first.


This chapter introduces a cycle which is pretty uncommon to the Western ear. Almost everything is based on a 4/4, cut time (2/2), 3/4, or 6/8 time, which are all pretty much the same as either catastra or tisra jati cycles. However, if you have no exposure to Indian music, then ask yourself this question. “Do I know any 7/8 timed song?” Very rare jazz compositions have “obscure” timings. In fact, in my entire lifetime, I only heard one Western song with a seven beat cycle. It was a group called the “Letter People” teaching children about “Mr. J.” When I hear it and hum the tune, it was indeed a seven beat cycle.


People familiar with Indian music will be pretty familiar with the concept of the seven matra talas. However, those familiar with Western music and even mridanga players included will have somewhat different difficult time. Actually, khol and mridanga have seven matra talas, although their popularity has decreased tremendously, sadly. Nevertheless, this tala is used in common folk, semi classical, bhajans, and other forms of classical music.




Rupak tala is the most commonly used tala with seven matras. The divisions are 3-2-2, which tali on sam, matras 4 and 6. There are no khalis on this tala. Some musicians will argue that there is the sam receives a khali. Again, there is no wrong answer, as there are different ways of looking at the tala. Here is the theka and examine it.




















Figure 11.1

AUDIO CLIP: Figure 11.1


Unlike the previous talas, this tala is asymmetrical. One thing identifying this is the odd number of matras. This is our first instance of an odd number of matras. Seven divided evenly will be three and half matras. For elementary talas, such as this one, we do not consider half matras yet. We will discuss these half matra intricacies later in Unit Five. Another notable difference between this tala and all the previous ones is that the baya influence is lacking in the sam in this tala. This is why some musicians argue that khali should be denoted on the sam.


There are more seven matra talas that could be discussed, however for now, grasping the concept of the seven-matra tala is more important. This tala, unlike the previous ones, might be slightly difficult. Be sure you can play this tala proficiently. The next chapter is based on the same idea as this one.

UPDATED: June 20, 2009