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Classification of Talas

 

Unlike rāgas, there is no systematic scheme of classifying rhythmic cycles, or tālas. If any classification scheme is to be used, it is merely on the way the tala presents itself. Tālas do not typically contain emotional, expressional, or any major aesthetic value, so the concept of bhāva (feel) or samaya (time) is void here. Tālas would be very dependent on the instruments used to represent them. Tablas and khols might be quite diverse for most moods, while a meditative, angry, or fierce composition might call for the use of the pakhawaj. A festive performance might require for dholaki, dhol, or other folk instruments. Therefore, classification schemes can only work for the tāla information.

 

SORTING BY NUMBER OF MĀTRĀS

The most practical and perhaps conventional way is to classify by the number of beats per cycle, or the number of mātrās. There are many rhythmic cycles that exist with the shortest tala being three mātrās per cycle, while the longest is one-hundred-eight mātrās per cycle. Throughout time, many of these have become obscure. Here is a list organizing the number of mātrās of whatever tālas KKSongs.org has.

6

7

8

9

10

10½

11

11½

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

23

26

 

SORTING BY JĀTIS

A least conventional approach is by using the South Indian method of jātis. A jāti is like a ‘caste’ for rhythmic cycles based on the lowest multiple. There are five classifications. Tisra jāti contains cycles based on counts of threes, catasra jāti is based on fours, khanda is based on fives, misra is based on sevens, and sankirna is based on nines.

Tisra

Catastra

Khanda

Misra

Sankirna

 

UPDATED: June 9, 2010