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Chapter 23: Mukhra

 

The theka, prakar, and the laggi are all examples of cyclic forms, since they are all take one cycle. Even though laggis will serves as good fillers, they are not always the best way to enliven the tabla performance. In fact, laggis, after a while, can become predictable and not exciting. We would need the help of the cadential forms. Cadential forms come from the word “cadence.” Cadence usually refers to the end of a cycle.

 

Cadential forms are fragmented portions of a certain number of talas. Since they are fragmented portions, they may never be played as cycles. They are not simply judged by the number of beats alone. They are also judged by bol structure. The number of beats in a cycle are always relative to how the mukhra fits.

 

One common example of the cadential form is the mukhra. Just as theka is the best representative of the cyclic form, the mukhra is the best representative of the cadential form. Mukhras could end talas to end a phrase of a song or prepare a thrilling beginning for a line.

 

Here is a very common bhajani tala. It is simply the regular theka for four avartans. Quite dull! Let’s enliven it.

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dhin

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Figure 23.1

 

Let’s take the last avartan of the piece. We will add a mukhra. Remember, mukhras are not cycles or cyclic forms. We will have to add a mukhra.

 

Here is a simple, yet very common mukhra for an eight matra tala.

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ti

ti

ka

ti

ra

ki

ṭa

ka

ti

ra

ki

ṭa

 

Figure 23.2

 

Even though this is not a tala or any cyclic form, we still measure anything with a rhythm associated with it with the simplest unit of time, namely: “the matra.” This particular mukhra has four matras. It is very simple. Since bhajani tala is eight matras, you replace the last four matras of the original tala with the mukhra.

 

Now your new pattern of bhajani kaherva will look this. Pay attention to the fourth avartan in the piece.

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dhin

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ti

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ki

ṭa

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ti

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ki

ṭa

 

Figure 23.3

 

This mukhra will be a little difficult to play, as you have not had too many experiences with playing “trkta” quickly with other bols before and after the phrase. This is a very important phrase that you will use very frequently.

 

Unlike the theka, laggi, and prakar chapter, mukhra is very important to know. So this chapter will explore a wider variety of mukhras.

 

Let us examine the previous mukhra. The form is a “ti-ti ta-trkta ta-trkta.” If you delete the “ti-ti” the application process is still the same. Deleting the “ti-ti” in the phrase, the mukhra is three matras. Since bhajani tala is eight matras, subtracting three from eight tells you which matra number the mukhra falls after! Thus, after matra 5, the mukhra replaces matras 6 through 8. This is the new mukhra described:

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ka

ti

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ki

ṭa

ka

ti

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ki

ṭa

 

Figure 23.4

 

Here is how the composition looks with the new mukhra inserted.

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Figure 23.5

 

Let us examine the mukhra for dadra tala. Another famous tala in the hit list is the six matra dadra tala. Here is the theka of dadra tala and a suggested mukhra.

 

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dhā

dhin

dhā

tin

 

Figure 23.6

 

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ka

ti

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ki

ṭa

dhin

 

Figure 23.7

 

Now, let us use a mukhra in Figure 23.7. This mukhra is six matras. Recall from the last example, you take the tala number of matras and subtract the mukhra’s number of matras from that. Thus, 6-6 = 0. After matra 0, you insert the mukhra. This means that this particular mukhra takes one full cycle of dadra tala. You are probably having many questions in mind when seeing this. “How can a six matra mukhra not be a cyclic form?”

 

Mukhras are most certainly not cyclic forms. They are cadential forms that will replace the necessary matras to create the proper ending form. This cadence form does the necessary to replace the number of matras to create the effect.

 

Here is how the dadra tala will look like with the fourth avartan having the mukhra replacement. Play the following peace twice without breaking. You will see the function of the mukhra connecting the cycles.

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dhā

dhin

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ka

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dhin

 

Figure 23.8

 

There are too many mukhras to discuss. By listening to tapes, recordings of tabla playing, you will encounter various types of mukhras. Naturally, they will come. Here are some examples of rupak tala, bhajani tala, and ektal with a mukhra typed in a bold green font. Play these and feel free to improvise.

 

RUPAK TALA:

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tin

tin

dhin

dhin

trkṭ

 

 

BHAJANI TALA:

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0

 

 

 

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dhin

dhin

dhin

ke

ti

ke

ti

 

EKTAL:

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0

 

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dhin

dhin

dhā

ge

ti

ra

ki

ṭa

tun

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ka

dhā

ge

ti

ra

ki

ṭa

dhā

ge

ti

ra

ki

ṭa

 

As you can probably see, chapters after unit three is more “abstract” than the previous chapters. You saw that learning the tabla bols were very straightforward. Likewise, learning about tala science and some popular thekas were also very straightforward. How to go about speeding or slowing down a tempo was also easy to write about. When discussing cyclic and cadence forms, it becomes a tough task to write about formally. Indian music is taught by the ear. No notebooks or sastra was used to describe talas. Students would select a tabla guru and learn from him. This parampara continues, although not popularly, today. Having a tabla teacher to explain this concepts and detail and acquiring a “feel” for the tala will help one understand and appreciate this chapter more. Remember, this guide is not to replace a tabla teacher. It is to give you a good introduction to how to approach the tabla.

 

Bowing to all tabla players, teachers, and promoters of the true tabla playing, we move onto the next chapter. Please review this chapter material as much as possible. This has information that is extremely vital to the tabla player’s survival in accompaniment.

UPDATED: June 20, 2009