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Chapter 20: Cycles and Cadences



Let us imagine that we were back in English class. Let us consider these sentences.


how are you today i am doing fine look at the great weather it is really sunny outside yesterday it was raining


Obviously, you would point out couple of problems. One thing is that you cannot distinguish sentences. In addition, you won’t be able to show differences in expression. There was a question and few exclamations. Reading this sentence from a distance would be a bit difficult to find that. Reading that phrase would be difficult, as the question mode won’t appear in the voice. We need major readjusting to the phrase above.


This example is here to introduce you to a new unit with a new concept. I’m sure a musician was really impressed that you learned tabla and wants you to accompany him or her. You may use the original theka, a few prakars of the theka, as well as new filler phrases from Chapter 17. However, your tabla playing will be missing something. Those who have been mridanga players beforehand, you will notice that at the end of every mahamantra or phrase in a song or kirtan, you will use a special ending phrase which starts off the beginning of a new tala cycle. In some cases, you will know to have started a phrase off with a special opening to enter the cycle.


These phrases are examples of cadential and cyclic forms. This whole unit will deal with these two forms in great detail. Cadential and cyclic forms are very important for the accompanying tabla player or tabla soloist. In Chapter 33, we will talk about tabla solos in great detail.


Cyclic forms are forms in a specific number of matras looping as a cycle. For instance, any cyclic form of tintal would have sixteen matras. It is very important to make few distinctions as “cyclic form” is very easy to confuse with “tala.” Cyclic forms do not possess any association with a specific tala. A sixteen matra cyclic form does not necessary mean it is that of tintal. It does not mean it is that of sitarkhani tala (Chapter 7) either. It could be played in either cycle, but that does not mean that that cyclic form is a tala in itself. A good way of putting it is “a tala is a cyclic form; any cyclic form is not a tala.” A tala is indeed a cyclic form because it goes in a cycle.


Cadential forms are forms in which it breaks in the tala and serves as a completion of one tala cycle or the beginning of another tala cycle. For instance, in an eight matra bhajani tala cycle, the tala could be played normally until the beginning of matra 5 where there is a special piece that completes that particular cycle. Cadential forms are never played as cycles! If you want to think of an analogy, then think of a cyclic form as a sentence. A cadential form is a fragment. A fragment, if inserted properly, could add to the sentence and give it a new meaning. However, fragments cannot be said alone. Fragments alone have no meaning, while sentences have some meaning, even if it is the shortest or dullest.


Some will say that this unit will be something of most interest. This unit will cover so much linking the two worlds of elementary tabla to advanced tabla. It will help bring more liveliness to accompanying a tabla player. Study this unit carefully and always remember to learn the concepts as well as the forms shown. From these pieces of information, you can make your own forms.

UPDATED: June 20, 2009