Archive for August, 2014

Talas (or Rhythmic Cycles) in Carnatic Music -2

August 19, 2014

Talas (or Rhythmic Cycles) in Carnatic Music -2

L V Nagarajan


Many of my readers may have gone through my earlier post on this topic. I would request the new readers of this post to go through my earlier post before starting on this. Earlier I dealt with the most popular Adi Tala (Chatusra Nadai). When describing this Rhythm, I wrote about the parts of this rhythm as one Laghu and two Drithms. For the benefit of those who are not familiar with these terms, I am explaining them below.

Talas in carnatic music consist of Claps, Counts and Turns. A Laghu consists of ‘a Clap and several Counts’ –  (a Thattu and viral in Tamil). A Drithm consists of ‘a Clap and a Turn’ – (a Thattu and a Veechu). There is a third part known as Anudrithm (or sub-Drithm) which is just a single Clap. A laghu may have counts of 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9, including the initial Clap. They are called Tisra laghu, Chatusra lagu, Kanta/Misra/Sankeerna laghus respectively. Now we can say that Adi Talam consists of one Chatusra Laghu, two Dhrithms, totaling to 8 beats. (i.e) Clap -2 –3 –4, Clap-Turn, Clap-Turn.  This kind of division of tala into several parts (or angas) helps the singer to adhere to the rhythm and timing by keeping the beats on his palm and fingers.

Coming to the present post, after the Adi Talam, the next most common Rhythm used in carnatic music is the Rupaka Talam. This Talam consists of : One Drithm, one Laghu, usually a Chatusra Laghu. (i.e) Clap-Turn, Clap – 2 – 3 – 4 (or 1-2, 1-2-3-4). Hence it has 6 beats in a cycle. Even though this is a classical way of keeping the beats of Rupaka Tala, it is more conveniently kept by a 3-beat double-cycle as Clap-Clap-Turn-Clap-Clap-Turn (or 1,1-2; 1,1-2).  Some may call this as Chapu style rupaka talam.

Now let us see how the classical Rupakam feels by using the standard Rhythm syllables as before.

1Tha Ka – 2Tha Ka | 1Dhi Mi –  2Tha Ka – 3Tha Ka 4Dhi Mi – ||

Or in Chapu style of Rupakam,  (Two Cycles)

1Tha Ka – 1Tha Ka 2Dhi Mi – || 1Tha Ka – 1Tha Ka 2Dhi Mi- ||

(Symbol ‘|’ denotes end of an anga of Tala and symbol ’||’ denotes end of cycle of the Tala)

The above is said to be in Chatusra Nadai in slow speed (i.e.) with 2 Aksahras per beat and hence it has only 12 Aksharas.  In the earlier post we discussed Adi Talam with 8 beats and with 1, or 2, or 4 Aksharas per beat and we called the same as Chatusra Nadai (Chatusra Gati). In this Nadai, Adi Talam has 32 aksharas. We may also have a Tisra Nadai with 3 Aksharas per beat and in this Nadai Adi Talam will have only 24 Aksharas. Two cycles of Rupakam as above will match with one cycle Adi Talam – Tisra Nadai.

Now let us see how the Adi Talam (Tisra Nadai) feels by using the standard Rhythm syllables as before.

1Tha Ki Ta – 2Tha Ki Ta – 3Tha Ki Ta – 4Tha Ki Ta |

1Tha Ki Ta – 2Tha Ki Ta – | 1Tha Ki Ta – 2Tha Ki Ta ||

It may already be obvious for some, that this rhythm pattern compliments the Rupuka Talam. Let us put the Rhythm syllables we used for Rupaka Talam above, in the Adi Talam (Tisra Nadai) and see how it feels.

1Tha Ka – Tha 2Ka Dhi Mi –  3Tha Ka – Tha 4Ka Dhi Mi- |

1Tha Ka – Tha 2Ka Dhi Mi – | 1Tha Ka – Tha 2Ka Dhi Mi- ||


Practice the earlier Tisra pattern and this Chatusra pattern alternately. Wow, it really sounds great!

Now let us see the vice versa. Let us fit the Tisra pattern in Rupaka Talam

1Tha Ki 2Ta – Tha | 1Ki Ta – 2Tha Ki 3Ta – Tha 4Ki Ta ||

Or in Chapu style version (Two cycles)

1Tha Ki 1Ta – Tha 2Ki Ta || – 1Tha Ki 1Ta – Tha 2Ki Ta ||

Practice the earlier Chatusra pattern and this Tisra pattern alternately. Wow, it sounds equally great!

We may also mix and match (4 Tha-Ki-Ta’s) and (3 Tha-Ka-Di-Mi’s) with in a 24-akshara Talas as above. (eg) alternate Tha-Ki-Ta and Tha-Ka-Dhi-Mi’s, say, in Adi-Tisra-Nadai.

1Tha-Ki-Ta  2Tha-Ka-Dhi-3Mi  Tha-Ki-4Ta  Tha-Ka-|

                     1Dhi-Mi Tha-2Ki-Ta  Tha-|1Ka-Dhi-Mi 2Tha-Ki-Ta || 

With some practice you will start enjoying the cross beats.

Again we can take 4-cycles of Chapu style Rupaka Talam and make,

1Tha-Ka-1Dhi-Mi  2Tha-Ki- || 1Ta  Tha-1Ki-Ta  2Tha-Ka- ||

           1Dhi-Mi  1Tha-Ki-2Ta  Tha- || 1Ki-Ta 1Tha-Ka-2Dhi-Mi ||

These are generally known as ‘Kanakku’ (permutations). I have only demonstrated very simple ones and restricted only to a few cycles of Talam. But expert musicians can produce more kanakkus overlapping many Tala cycles, some complicated, some beautiful and some both.

Since Tisra-Adi and Chatusra-Rupakam are in synchronism with enchanting cross beats, composers and musicians use this feature very often in their presentations especially in swara prastharas. The legendary composer, Sri Shyama Sastry, has composed a well known Kriti ‘Himadri Suthe’ in Raga Kalyani, to suit this twin Rhythms. You can here this composition being sung in both the above Talas. His composition ‘Sankari Sankuru’ in Raga Saveri also matches both the rhythms.

There is another Tala in Carnatic music known as Eka-Tala. It just has one Laghu, usually a Chatusra Laghu, with 4-counts (Clap-2-3-4). As you can guess, 3 cycles of this Eka Tala will again match Rupakam as above. Hence I am now presenting one more Kanakku, again a simple one, set to 3 cycles of Eka Talam.

Tha-Ki-Ta-Tham + Tha-Ka-Tha-Ki-Ta–Tham (3 times)

embedded in the talam as below:

1Tha-Ki-2Ta Tham Tha-4Ka-Tha ||

                 –1Ki-Ta 2Tham 3Tha-Ka-4Tha-Ki- ||

                                             1Ta Tham Tha-3Ka-Tha-4Ki-Ta ||

:                                                                         – (1Tham)

This sequence of rhythmic syllables ends with an ‘aruthi’ (Tham) – to denote the end of Kanakku. You can enjoy more cross beats by practicing this sequence in all the three talams above.

Having come this far, I am emboldened to give you a swara prasthara based on the above rhythmic sequence. The second line of Sankari Sankuru pallavi, starts with the word Sambhavi in dhirga swara, D. Those who can sing Saveri can try the following korvai (Swara sequence), say, in Tisra-nadai-Adi Tala, to end with ‘Sambhavi’

1srm 2P         d3pmp4d S |      1pds 2rg R1         mg2rsn||

:                                                                         – (Sambhavi)

You may also try the other talas given above for this swara/rhythm sequence. (Swaras in Capital indicates long, Dhirga, notes of two aksharas and Swaras in bold indicate upper octaves).

Conclusion: I am not an expert either in Rhythm or in Melody. I am a good listener of Carnatic music. With this sheer hearing experience and with some borrowed knowledge, I have tried to help other listeners like me to enjoy the rhythmic aspects of our music. In my first post on this subject, I had tried to introduce the different common rhythmic syllables by using them in Adi Talam. In this second post I have tried to expose the readers to aspects of Nadai or Gathi and also to the rhythmic permutations (Kanakkus), within a group of talaas, Rupakam and its complimentaries. In the next post, I propose to explore other aspects of Rhythmn using another popular Talam, Misra Chapu. These simple ideas may be practiced by young students and serious listeners of Carnatic music. It will help them to appreciate the nuances of Talas in renderings of Kritis, Niravals, Swara prastharas, Tillanas and Tani Avarthanams.