Shruthi and Laya are considered the most essential elements in any form of music. It is generally seen that rasikas, by repeated listening, begin to develop a good sense of appreciation of the kritis or raga alpanas rendered by the main artistes. However, the same cannot be said when it comes to appreciating the percussion instrumentalists. Audience do enjoy and sway their heads for the rhythmic patterns played by the percussionists but many do not know the technicalities of it. The appreciation of carnatic music would not be complete if one does not understand the key aspects of laya. Raga Surabhi is happy to lauch a new segment, Laya Lahari
which is entirely dedicated to the fundamentals pertaining to laya. We propose to discuss the technical elements of laya through series of posts and audio demonstrations without going too much in to the complexities of it.
Laya Lahari features lecture demonstrations by Mridangam Exponent, Thillaisthanam Shri R. Suriyanarayanan
, a senior vidwan and an artiste with more than 20 years of experience in concert platforms. Raga Surabhi is delighted to launch this exclusive laya segment, which is probably the first of its kind, with such an expert percussionist and is thankful to Shri R. Suriyanarayanan, who graciously accepted to work with us and spend several hours in recording various episodes amidst his tight concert schedule. To know more about Shri Suri and to listen to sample Laya Lahiri Mridangam Audio Clip visit the About Laya Lahiri page.
Tala, in carnatic music, is a rhythmic cycle of beats which mainly helps to maintain the tempo of any rendition. Each tala has a fixed number of beats called aksharas and each repeated cycle is called an avartanam. Tala does not have a fixed tempo and the same tala can be played at different speeds. The most commonly accepted tala system categorizes talas into seven families, each of which can incorporate one of the five jaatis, thus allowing thirty-five possible talas. These thirty-five talas when combining with five gatis become one hundred and seventy five talas. Right now, lets us just proceed further without bothering about what is meant by jaati and gati, we will talk about them a little later.
Tala is represented by a specific hand gesture and a tala is composed of various components or angaas. The important ones are described below:
- An anudhrutam is a single beat, with one akshara, notated 'U'. An anudhrutam stroke consists of a downward clap of the open hand with the palm facing down.
- A dhrutam is a pattern of 2 beats with 2 aksharas. This is notated 'O' and consists of a downward clap with the palm facing down followed by a second downward clap with the palm facing up.
- A laghu is a pattern with a variable number of beats, 3, 4, 5, 7 or 9 (depending on the jaati chosen). It is notated 'l' and consists of a downward clap with the palm facing down followed by counting the fingers from little finger to thumb in order and back again after reaching the thumb depending on the jaati chosen. Jaati can be roughly defined as the specification given for the aksharas in a laghu in any tala. The five jaatis with their respective aksharas are given here: Thisra - 3, Chathurasra - 4, Khanda - 5, Mishra - 7 and Sankeerna - 9
Listen to Suri's lucid explanations about seven tala families in tamil. For non-tamil audiences, the gist of the same content is provided below
The seven Tala families are represented below with their anga notation
- Dhruva - I O I I
- Matya - I O I
- Rupaka - O I
- Jhampa - I U O
- Triputa - I O O
- Ata - I I O O
- Eka - I
For example, triputa tala has one laghu and two dhrutams. Since the number of aksharas in a laghu is given by the jaati, if it is thisra jaati-triputa tala, the laghu would have 3 counts and the two anudhrutams would have 4 counts leading to a total of 7 aksharas. However, if it were chathurasra jaati triputa tala, the laghu would have 4 counts, the rest remains the same there by making the count 8. This tala is more popularly known as Adi tala.
If you have understood the concept, try answering these questions: What is the total number of aksharas in mishra jaati triputa tala? What is the jaati of rupaka tala if the total aksharas is 6?
Will come back to you with the answers in the next post, until then happy counting!!