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Chapter 18: Drut Lay Talas

 

We have discussed two speeds at two styles of roads. We talked of residential roads through vilambit lay and city roads with moderate speeds in madhya lay. Sometimes, a little more speed to excite things will be needed, and an expressway will be needed. That expressway is drut lay. Drut lay is a very interesting one, an exciting one, and a difficult one.

 

In the previous topic, you were asked to play the vilambit lay style in a very fast tempo to let you get to the madhya lay feel. You can try to play the madhya lay as fast as possible, but you will notice that even playing the ordinary simple theka as fast will cause a fatigue in hands! What to speak of playing vilambit lay that fast! This concept was illustrated in the previous chapter. Since we have touched the last of the three lays, we can make one very important conclusion. As the tempo increases, the bol density decreases.

 

Let us look at ektal. Madhya lay theka of ektal had matras 4 and 10 with the phrase “trkṭa.” Playing “trkṭa” is no big deal. In fact, you will play this really fast when you learn more forms and phrases in the next three units. However, playing trkṭa too many times quickly with will cause some fatigue. Instead of playing “trkṭa,” a simpler phrase “tira” is much easier for the hands as well as speed. Remember, too many bols can throw one off, just as too little bols. Look at Figure 18.1 and Figure 18.2 to compare the regular theka and drut lay of ektal, respectively.

 

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dhin

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ka

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Figure 18.1

AUDIO CLIP: Figure 18.1

 

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Figure 18.2

 

Besides lowering the number of bols, technique may be altered. Using drut ektal for example, in matra 3, there is a phrase “dhā-ge” here. Playing two distinct “ghe” bols will be difficult to do very quickly in a faster tempo. In addition, you were playing “dhin dhin dhā-ge” in matras 1 to 3. They all used open baya techniques. For matra 3, you could use a totally open baya without the wrist for “dhā”. For the “ge”, you simply swoop your wrist from the air to the edge of the maidan and syahi of the baya. It is like an airplane landing. It comes from the air and gradually ends. This way, you only use your fingers for baya only three times instead of four.

 

Let us see another example of how bols will be altered. Drut tintal has a very important structure that one single bol cannot be taken out. In fact, tintal has a 1:1 matra to bol ratio. Every matra has one bol. However, just by altering the bols and the manner of playing them will help bring up speed and clarity. On the dayan, the original theka for tintal was “ tin tin ” repeated for a total of four times. In regular time, the only finger on the right hand that is actually drumming is the index finger. Imagine playing the theka at high speed. It would be really hard to either keep time, if not your fingers being in pain.

 

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dhā

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Figure 18.3

AUDIO CLIP: Figure 18.3

 

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Figure 18.4

 

Instead of playing “ tin tin ” on the dayan hand, a “ ta ” will allow an easier way to go about a faster tintal.  (“Ta” without the long “ā” is the same as “ra.”) Of course, it will be hard at first, but it will become easier to do that. Think of your finger usage flowing from the left to the right, for a right handed tabla player.

 

On the left hand, there are two possible ways of going about it. The first is merely changing the amount of pressure applied on the baya. Remember from Chapter 3, that baya’s pitch can fluctuate by two factors. The two factors are the distance from of the wrist from the syahi, and the pressure pushed downwards on the baya’s maidan. For vibhags 1, 2, and 4, you may push down and release for every other gha. Also, it is quite common and convenient to use ring and middle fingers.

 

Similarly, it is possibly to slide your wrist up and down for every other “gha” bol used. It is very much recommended that powder is used. Otherwise, the left hand will either feel tired or will have a hard time controlling a slide. A good replacement is using the open and swoop technique shown in drut ektal’s matra 3.

 

As far as timekeeping is concerned, it is much easier to keep time when there is such a high speed. There are less bols to work with. Usually, this will yield to an approximate 1:1 bol to matra ratio.

 

Depending on which musician you have, you may even have to go faster than drut lay. The lay is called “ati-drut” lay. Only common tala that is known to go at ati-drut lay is tintal. Tintal can maintain its structure without any problems. Try doing an ati-drut ektal at a higher speed than drut ektal. Your fingers will not only hurt if done properly, but the bols and sounds will all seem to blur. Such a blur is never a good thing. Even beyond an ati drut-tintal, the bols and rhythm will become vague and ambiguous. Tintal has such structure that if you incorrectly start off the tala, it will feel like you are playing an odd version of drut bhajani tala.

 

Similarly on the other end, some musicians will play an incredibly ati-vilambit lay which is slower than vilambit lay. Adding too many bols will cause too much saturation between time gaps and playing the tala will resemble a madhya lay. If you didn’t use too many fillers, then it will just be much harder to keep time.

 

Take some of the most common talas from Unit Two and try deriving a drut lay. Some will change like dadra tala and bhajani tala. Look at the bottom two figures to see the differences. Using these examples and the previous examples of ektal and tintal, try to derive drut lays. Once you get the hang of how to derive drut lays, you may move onto the next chapter. The next chapter will give more insights on these lays.

UPDATED: June 20, 2009