Rhythm refers to the arrangement of time in music. In addition to melody and harmony, rhythm is one of the fundamental elements of Hindustani music, just as it is in most of the major music systems of the world. The occurrence of strong and weak accents is known as meter.

Tal (equivalent of Tala in Carnatic music) refers to the rhythmic pattern or time cycle format. The beats in a Tal are referred to as matras and the subdivisions, Khanda or Vibhaga (called kalai in Carnatic music)). The entire cycle is called Avarta (Avartana in Carnatic music). The mnemonic pattern, called Theka, is composed of bol-s (solkattu) like dhin, dha, etc.

Three kinds of beats are recognized in Hindustani music:

a) An emphatic beat known as the Sam,

b) Empty beats or rests called Khali, and

c) Other beats called Thali.

The mnemonic pattern for Pakhawaj (a kind of percussion instrument) is known as Thapiya while that for Tabla (percussion instrument) is known as Theka.

The different types of Tals are Dadra, Roopak, Kaharwa, Chanchar, Thap-tal, Ek-tal, Adachantal, Thumratal, Dipchandi Tal, Teental, Tilwada and Addha-teental. The Tals specific to Pakhawaj are Teevra-tal, Thap-tal, Shul-tal, Suraphatka, Chan-tal, Dhamar-tal and Gaja-jhapa tal. Pakhawaj is normally used for accompanying Dhrupad.

The strike on the drumhead usually synchronizes with the beat. This is called Sam. This can also synchronize after the beat called Ateeta or even before the beat, Anaghata.

There are a variety of compositions where the Tabla player is permitted to play extempore in a performance. These are Peshkar, Uthan, Mohra, Mukhda and Kayada. These variational compositions are distinguished from each other by the presence or absence of the cadential Tihai, which is a stroking pattern played three times in succession and timed so that its last stroke falls on the Sam.

The term Laya is used to refer to both the implicit rhythmic principles as present in the inherent meter, as well as to tempo. There are three main tempos or Laya that are frequently handled. These are the Vilambit (slow), Madhya (medium) and Drut (fast) each being twice as fast as the previous one.

Related links: Rhythm in Carnatic music


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