Karaikudi S.S
 
Rhythm is a fascinating subject and the world music students are greatly inspired by Indian rhythms. South Indian rhythms have a very long history. While there are legendary greats in South Indian drumming such as Mamundia Pillai, Dakshinamurthy Pillai,  Palghat Mani Iyer, Palani Subbramania Pillai, Ramnad Murugabhoopathi and others, of late there are hundreds of top drummers in South India. The complexities in rhythm will be bewildering to a beginning student. The following notes are meant as an introduction to basics in South Indian Tala from a simplistic point of view to help the beginners. What would be interesting and instantly rewarding would be the demonstrations through the Tala Keeper programmable soft ware. 
 
NOTES ON TALA ( Pronounced TAALAA)
 
Talas: Hand gestures to Keep time visually for compositions and improvisations. Parts: 1. Laghu (Variable 3, 4, 5, 7 & 9 executed through a beat followed by finger counting) 2. Dhrutam (Constantly represents two-executed by a beat and a wave) 3. Anu dhrutam (represents, one-which cannot exist without the laghu and dhrutam. In other words they are sandwiched between Laghu and dhrutam)
 
Syllables (solkattus) used for numbers are called ‘jathis’. There is another element, jaathi, referring to groups of 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9. It applies to Laghu to define the tala (a beat and two finger counts, for example, will be a ’tisra’ group) The undercurrent of the ‘pulses’ between two beats (or counts) can vary from 3 to 9 according to composition or improvisation. It defines the ‘gait’ or ‘gati’ of a composition or improvisation. It is the flowing time realised within the performer which needs to be strengthened in order to command time and execute a composition or improvisation with precision. 
 
One will hear the words Tisra (referring to 3), Caturasra or catusra (referring to4), khanda (referring to5), Misra (referring to 7) and Sankirna (referring to 9). These terms are commonly referred to define the talas (with respect to lagus), gatis (‘gait’ or the undercurrent of the pulses between two counts) or simply rhythmic groups or patterns. Find the common talas given below used in a South Indian Music concert. There are the theoretical 7 talas traditionally called, Sulaadi Sapta talas or Alankaara taalas. You will notice the talas Dhruva, Matya etc., having adjectives such as Catusra, misra and so on defining the talas). I am using the soft ware Tala Keeper to help in this process.  http://talakeeper.org  
 
 
1. Adi:  4+2+2 = 8 (One Laghu + Two dhrutams) Click Adi Tala
 to play and experience the sound.
2. Capu: 2.1 Khanda (Kanda Capu Tala2.2 Misra (Misra Capu Tala)
2.3 Sankirna (Sankirna Capu Tala)
(The simple and common variety of 3 is played with two beats and a wave can be called ’tisra capu, while the traditional and formal tala is called rupakam)
3. The traditional and theoretical sapta talas are Dhruva (Catusra Dhruva) Matya (Catusra Matya), Rupaka (Catusra Rupaka), Jampa (Misra Jampa), Triputa (Tisra Triputa), Ata (Kanda Ata) and Eka (Catusra Eka)
used in the initial foundation exercises. 
 
Simple structural exercises for Talas in three speeds (geometric progression in speed with respect to finger counts and syllables. 1:1 (One count with one syllable); 1:2 (One count with two syllables); 1:4 (One count with 4 syllables); 1:8 (One count with 8 syllables and so on)
 
How to do it? 
 
Adi Tala: 
 
1. In speed one, say Takadhimi Taka Taka, (one syllable per every count- which will complete one full cycle of the tala-8 counts)
2. In speed two, say Takadhimi Taka Taka  (now two syllables per count-which will complete in half the tala cycles-4 counts)
3. In speed three say Takadhimi Taka Taka (now with four syllables per count-which will complete in quarter of tala cycle-2 counts)
4. In speed four say Takadhimi Taka Taka (now with eight syllable per count- which will complete in one eighth of a tala cycle-that is the entire rhythmic phrase of 8 syllables will be recited in each count. 
 
If you do it precisely with the ‘tala keeper’ programmable metronome software (now available to you through the click of an URL) you will master it in a very short time. Experience it yourself. I will send the rhythmic syllables for other talas for those who can do this through self learning. If you can figure out yourself, well, go ahead with other talas.  
 

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