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Chapter 24: Tihai

 

The last cadential form discussed in more detail will be the indispensable tihai. The tihai is a cadential form which has a piece repeated three times and has a resolution back at the sam. For mridanga players, one is already familiar with the tihai. Look at a common kirtan groove on the Bengali khol through the Prabhupada tala.

 

Look at the last line of Diagram 24.1. This phrase was repeated three times. From matra 5 to the end of the cycle, three units were repeated. That unit was “kitā tiri dhā.” That unit is called the pala, or phrase. That pala repeats three times. This leads to a very interesting and important point to bring.

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Figure 24.1

 

After the last pala has been played, given that the performance or song continues, a new cycle is woven into it. Since we defined tihai as a cadence form with the pala repeating three times, we must also remember that it must resolve on the sam of the new cycle. Since, the “dha” of the last fundamental cycle ends on the sam of the new cycle, this resolution took place. The tihai resolved, or caught back up, with the theka in this manner.

 

kitā

tiri

(1st iteration)

dhā

kitā

tiri

(2nd iteration)

dhā

kitā

tiri

(3rd iteration)

dhā

theka continues…

 

 

 

Also in some kirtans, when you have expert khol players. You’ll hear Prabhupada tala being played a few cycles, and instead of the tihai just mentioned above, you hear them play this.

 

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Figure 24.2

 

Did you notice how the second to the last line took up one full cycle? Some tihais do that. Remember, it is not simply by structure alone, but also by function and bols. Even though structure-wise, this is not a true cadence, as it consumes one full cycle of Prabhupada tala. Functionally, this would not be a cyclic form. Cyclic forms do not bear that “tension and release” style as cadence forms have.

 

Nevertheless, this indeed is a tihai. There is a pala, namely “ tirkiṭa Dhā –.” The pala repeats three times sequentially. And notice, as we mentioned before in the last tihai, the last dha of the last pala is actually the bol of the sam in the new cycle. This is a resolution point.

 

If you exclude the fact that previous example tihai took one cycle and the first example took a partial cycle, then there is another very important difference in tihais. The tihai can either have three palas connect simultaneously, like in the first example. It can either have an equally timed pause between the three palas, as in the latter example. Either way, they must resolve on the sam of the new cycle.

 

The tihai without spaces is known as the bedam tihai, while the tihai with spaces is called the damdar tihai. Bedam literally means “without puff” and damdar means “full of puff.” Puff implies a pause. The first tihai that we did was a bedam tihai, as the three palas did not have a pause. The latter tihai that we did was a damdar tihai, as it had equally spaced pauses.

 

Even though Indian music with notable exceptions did not require mathematical formulas and explicit theories, there are two useful mathematical formulas that could be used to work with tihais. I found these formulas out through David Courtney’s website and indeed, these formulas are very wonderful and acceptable to use.

 

The formula for the bedam tihai is nL + 1 = 3P. For musical composers who want to create incredibly long tihais, this formula as well as the damdar tihai formula are the way to go. Let us identify the variables.

 

The variable “n” represents the number of matras you wish to resolve. Since we want one full cycle of Prabhupada tala before, n will equal 8, as Prabhupada tala has eight matras. The variable L is the tempo known as the layakari. Layakari is actually the ratio of what is being played over the actual number of matras. The layakari implies a speed as in single-time, double-time, and so on. The single time will have L yielding a value of 1, while double time will make L equal to 2 and so on. Since Prabhupada tala, an 8 matra tala, can be counted as sixteen (try counting the Prabhupada tala out loud as if it were a sixteen matra tala), it’s layakari will be double-time, or L = 2, since 16 divided by 8 is 2.

 

The addition of one implies that the resolution of the tala will be on the first beat of the next cycle. The ninth matra of an eight matra cycle is, in actuality, the first matra of the next new cycle. Therefore, the addition of one is necessary.

 

The variable “P” stands for the number of matras in the pala. If composers want to find out how long each phrase should be, this formula will help them find out. The value of P is what we are looking for. The multiplication of three gives indicates that it is being repeated three times.

 

Let us see how we can make a good bedam tihai for Prabhupada tala using one full cycle!!

 

Revisiting our formula for a bedam tihai:

 

nL + 1 = 3P

 n = 8 L = 2

(8)(2) + 1 = 3P

16 + 1 = 3*P

17 = 3P

17/3 = P = 5 2/3 matras

 

What does this mean? As complicated as it looks, each pala will take 5 and 2/3 matras. It will really require a skill of a composer who can understand how to divide a matra in threes.

 

Say we didn’t want one full cycle, but a part of the cycle to bear the tihai, we had in the first example. First we have to find out how many matras of the cycle we wish to use. Since our first example used only the last four matras of the Prabhupada tala, we have to use the formula to have the number of matras equal to 4. Remember, n is equal to the number of matras you wish to resolve, not the number of matras in the full cycle.

 

nL + 1 = 3P

n = 4 L = 2

(4)(2) +1 = 3P

8 + 1 = 3P

9 = 3P

3 = P

 

This means each pala will be three matras given that the layakari is 2! This makes sense though. Look at the diagram. Using the tala notation, I included blue numbers to indicate the matra numbers through the layakari. This diagram will help you analyze the layakari with respect to the actual matras and how the value of P =3 be evident.

 

Try to practice making tihais using this formula.

 

TIHAI AND THE TOD

 

The tihai is very exhilarating during a tabla performance, whether the tabla player is being the accompanying artist or the soloist. We discussed tihais in the scope of a transition point in the middle of piece. We briefly talked about how to begin a piece in the mukhra chapter. However, we never discussed how to end a piece.

 

Any piece that ends the percussive role in music is called a tod. Tod means “breaking” in Hindi. The tod will give it a good finish to the tabla performance. The tod could either be a mukhra or a tihai. Refer back to the figure with Prabhupada tala.

 

See how the mukhra retained its definition in serving as a cadence. This mukhra worked out quite well, as the final bol has a strong baya bol resolving on the sam. You would never use the following mukhra as it does not blend well and can often fool a listener or artist to make them think that there is more to hear, when there isn’t. A tod could be a mukhra, but not any mukhra could be a good tod.

 

Tihais are wonderful for tods. It gives a nice tension development and sudden release mood. Notice how the tintal progression had a nice powerful close with “ka ta tira dha” repeated three times. Tihai’s definition of a pala repeating three times was retained here, as well as the concept of the tihai resolving on the sam of the next cycle.

 

In order to create a good tod, one will need to know how to make good mukhras and tihais. Due to the abstract and improvisational nature of the mukhra and tihai, besides the small amount of theoretical knowledge needed, it is quite difficult to explain how to make tods. It comes from experience and practice only.

 

Here is an example of an eight matra tod. It is written out in sixteen beats to show how the length of the beats.

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Figure 24.3

 

Here is an example of a six matra tod.

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dhin

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Figure 24.4

UPDATED: June 20, 2009