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Chapter 21: Theka, Prakar, and Laggi

 

Theka” and “prakar” are words that should be quite familiar to you. Let us revisit these terms again.

 

Theka is the simplest form of the tala using as few bols as possible to get the original flow of the tala. Usually, there is a 1:1 bol to matra ratio. The theka, besides the tala structure, is the way to determine which tala it is. If you see a Figure 21.1 anywhere, I’m sure you will point it what the correct answer it is.

 

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Figure 21.1

AUDIO CLIP: Figure 21.1

 

This is the theka of rupak tala. It is pretty obvious that we talked about thekas pretty much in Unit 2.

 

In Unit 2 and Chapter 17 of Unit 3, we talked about prakar. A prakar is an alteration of form of a tala. Here is a prakar used in Chapter 17 of rupak tala.

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Figure 21.2

 

What do thekas and prakars both have in common? They are both cyclic forms. Remember from Chapter 20 that cyclic forms consume cycle of certain number of matras. Also remember the important distinction made in the previous chapter. Thekas and prakars are both examples of cyclic forms. However, any cyclic form is not necessarily a theka or prakar.

 

Having said that point, we must also not confuse “theka” with “prakar.” Theka is the simplest form given in a fixed number of matras. “Prakar” is a variation, and it is not always in the simplest form. As you can see, we will have many more cyclic forms to be discussed that would also need distinction and clarification.

 

If you remember from Chapter 8, there was special type of prakar for symmetrical talas. They were called ādhā prakārs, since they cut the tala in half using the appropriate changes in baya bols. You may see the adha prakars used in Chapter 8 for bhajani tala or the adha prakar for tintal. Here is an example of an adha prakar for ektal.

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Figure 21.3

 

LAGGI

 

If you have been playing bhajani kaherva, you might mix in a few prakars of the tala. But even using a variety of prakars and fillers will not get full satisfaction. You would need some difference to make the tala alive and not dull to make the audience and musician fall asleep on you! You want something that will change the feel slightly for one or two cycles of a tala. That change of feel is called a laggi.

 

Some very important characteristics of laggis are that they are aggressive by nature. Usually, they are fast and open strokes that are nice, loud, and in sync with the tala being played. In addition, they do not have any affiliation with any specific tala. As they are cyclic forms, they must remain within the cycle. Since bhajani tala is in eight beats, a respective laggi must be in eight beats or eight matras. A particular laggi, like the one used in the bhajani, is not restricted to bhajani alone. If you are a non-classical mridanga player, this is a lesson taught to you informally. During any kirtan, whether soft or loud, it is possible that you might be accustomed on using the whole hand, instead of properly sliding or controlling the sound correctly. Since this open-handed technique is very “aggressive in nature”, what appears to be the theka or prakar is, in fact, the laggi.

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Figure 21.4

 

Using our bhajani kaherva example, here is a mini-compositional form. As you can see in Figure 21.4, you see there are three avartans of bhajani kaherva. On the fourth avartan, you will notice how there is a new phrase consuming one whole avartan. That is an example of a laggi. Note the bols are more “open” and louder than before. Now, let’s get back to the original kaherva with the fifth avartan. It goes for another two more avartans, with the eighth avartan having another laggi. This time it’s a different one.

 

Let us re-examine the two laggis used. Play the first laggi four times consecutively. Did you notice how with the laggi alone, you have an almost equal weight with daya bols as well as baya bols. Laggis are so powerful that they can suffice as their own rhythmic backbone! With the second one, it’ll be a little difficult to play it at first, but it also has its own rhythmic backbone that one could actually perform in that. Of course, playing laggis as the main rhythm is a sign of lack of maturity in tabla player and accompanying. Remember that the theka and prakar are the real rhythm. The laggis are good sidekicks.

 

Another famous laggi in which everybody knows is the garba laggi. The garba laggi is originated from Gujarat, India in their traditional garba dances. The garba laggi is also considered almost equivalent as khemta tala (recall from Chapter 10). The bols for the garba laggis is as follows.

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Figure 21.5

 

Garba laggis, like the previous laggis, are structured in such a way that they could suffice as their own rhythmic backbone. Just as the previous eight matra laggis were good to mix with any eight matra tala, the garba laggi, bearing six matras, could mix with any six matra tala. Figure 21.6 shows the composition of mixing khemta tala and dadra tala in the first three avartans, the last avartan has the garba laggi which mixes quite well. Despite the almost-mirror image to khemta tala, there are few variations in the bols which does not make it the best tala to hold full rhythms on.

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Figure 21.6

 

One feature of this entire unit is that with each cyclic of cadential form, there are too many forms to list and discuss. It would be impractical to list every single laggi that exists. Even with every laggi form, there would be many variations which depend on the artist’s style. From my experience, I strongly recommend listening to music that has classical tabla playing. This could be in bhajans, semi-classical recordings, or folk recordings. You probably won’t find too many laggis in classical recordings. But just keep your ears open. By keeping your ears open, you will be apt to learning new things in tabla.

 

For now, just remember the properties of the laggi. They are cyclic forms not affiliated with one tala, but with talas with a specific number of matras. They do not have a tala structure in terms of tali and khali, but they do replace one or more full avartans of a tala. They cannot remain as rhythmic structures. Remember, theka and prakar are the true basis for rhythm.

 

Another way to view the laggi is to think of it as a folk theka. Most of these laggis will only be found in folk application. Although, there is a relative classical tala associated with it.

UPDATED: June 20, 2009