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Chapter 22: Other Cyclic Forms

 

Before beginning this chapter, I would like to tell a brief story. Don’t worry! There is a point to this tale.

 

Around the 1500s or so, the emperor, Akbar, ruled India at the time. As kingdoms of the time were designed, there would be singers, dancers, and musicians who would sing, dance, and play musical instruments for the king’s pleasure. The father of North Indian classical music, Miyan Tansen, was the musician and singer for the king. Miyan Tansen mixed few Persian elements with the traditional Indian music mentioned in the Vedic literature. Although Persian elements, in reality, do not conflict grossly with what the Vedic literature describes in music, this new transformation of music gave it a new basis. While South Indian music was based on scientific scales and ragams emanating from them, North Indian was based on emotion and feel. As Miyan Tansen kept introducing this music to this king, he, himself, invented some new ragas. Once, this phenomenal artist was asked, “How much Indian music do you know?” Tansen replied by taking his pinky and dipping it and a glass of water saying, “The amount of water that will remain in my finger.” His humility was praised, but it did leave a very important point.

 

Each Indian instrument is a universe in its own. Tabla has its own universe. There were bols we never studied about from the first unit, talas which was never discussed in the second unit, and many styles of tempo variations not discussed. Likewise, there will be numerous traditions and styles of cyclic forms in which it is not practical to discuss each one individually. Here are few samplings of the cyclic forms which we have not discussed yet.

 

THAPPI

 

In tabla, each tala is defined by two important things; namely the theka and tala structure. You can tell that 4-4-4-4 with “dha-dhin-dhin-dha…” is tintal. The ancestor of the tabla, the pakhawaj, has a different system of keeping tala. Tala is determined by rhythmic structure and flow, unlike the tabla. The main “theka” for pakhawaj tala is called a thappi. A thappi is not truly a theka. You have not learned the eight matra tala, known as adi tala. However, playing adi tala on pakhawaj will not remain constant, as there will be so much complex improvisation following its 4-4-2-2 cyclic format. Since you will not be playing pakhawaj rhythms yet, you should not worry about thappis.

 

RELA

 

Rela means “torrent” in Hindi. The rela is a really fast movement using tabla bols. Unlike talas, they do not have particular tala structure, although they are cyclic forms. For example, an eight matra rela will continuously be eight matras. Here is an example of a rela based on twelve beats in a symmetrical fashion, like tintal.

 

X

 

 

2

 

 

0

 

 

3

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

ka

ti

ka

ti

ka

ti

ka

 

X

 

 

2

 

 

0

 

 

3

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

gha

ti

gha

ti

gha

ti

gha

 

 

Figure 22.1

 

QAIDA

 

Qaida means “rule” or “jurisprudence.” It is also spelled other ways like “kaida” or “kayda.” Nevertheless, the function of qaidas is to serve a specific theme and embellish upon that theme. It is a very interesting and fun chapter to discuss with students in tabla. This is why along with rela, I decided to put this unique cyclic at the end of this unit. More details on the qaida will be mentioned in Chapter 25.

 

There are probably more cyclic forms known to folk musicians. However, our aspect in this guide is to serve a foundation in classical music of North India. Therefore, these three are what comes to mind when I think of loose ends in cyclic forms. We will now proceed in the next chapter with cadence forms which are not repetitive cycles, but fractions used to cut into cyclic forms. This creates “tension-and-release” feature as well as resolution, which is absolutely important to know and understand when playing tabla.

UPDATED: June 20, 2009