by David Courtney working tools

Tal, (variously transliterated as "tala", "taal" or "taala") is the Indian system of rhythm.  It has been argued that rhythm is fundamental to the creation of any musical system.  Certainly from a historic standpoint, rhythm existed many centuries before the word rag was ever used.  Given this historical preeminence, it is not surprising that rhythm occupies an important position in the Indian system of music.

The word talTal literally means "clap".  Today, the tabla has replaced the clap in the performance, but the term still reflects the origin.  The basic concepts of tal are: tali or bhari, khali, vibhag or (ang), matra , bol, theka, lay, sam and avartan.  We will now discuss these concepts.

Tali -

Tali is the pattern of clapping.  Each tal is characterised by a particular pattern and number of claps.

Khali -

Khali is the wave of the hands.  These have a characteristic relationship to the claps.

Vibhag (Ang) -

Vibhag is the measure.  Each clap or wave specifies a particular section or measure.  These measures may be of any number of beats, yet most commonly 2, 3, 4, or 5 beats are used.

Matra -

Matra is the beat.  It may be subdivided if required.

Bol -

Bol is the mnemonic system where each stroke of the drum has a syllable attached to it.  These syllables are known as bol.  It is common to consider the bol to be synonymous to the stroke itself.

Theka -

Theka is a conventionally established pattern of bols and vibhag (tali, khali) which define the tal.

Lay -

Laya is the tempo.  The tempo may be either slow (vilambit), medium (madhya), or fast (drut).  Additionally ultra-slow may be referred to as ati-vilambit or ultra-fast may be referred to as ati-drut.

Sam -

Sam is the beginning of the cycle.  The first beat of any cycle is usually stressed.

Avartan -

Avartan is the basic cycle.




© 1998 - 2018 David and Chandrakantha Courtney

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