Khayal uses the concept of the awartan, with its recurring mukhada and the sama, for developing the raga. Hence, just like a musician develops the ability for effortlessly producing the raga phrases, he also needs to develop the ability to know where he is within the awartan.
Using specific Tabla Bols for specific beats gives the Tala its unique structure. We can see that there are mainly two kinds of bols played on the tabla. The heavy ones, where the Baanya or the Dagga is used, such as the Dha and Dhin. When you take the weight of the Dagga out, you have the corresponding lighter ones, the Ta and Tin. And then you can also combine two bols to make one joint bol, such as DhaGE, TirKIt etc. Using different sounding bols in succession creates a sort of a lilt, almost melodic, which becomes the audio guide for the cycle. This is what helps an artist develop the ability to know, or to “feel” where he is within the awartan.
The tala also can be visualized as groups of Matras, which are known as the khand. For example, teen tala consists of four khands of 4 matras each. Particularly in the khayal presentation, the singer uses the khand for development, rather than a single matra. This helps create patterns which, besides keeping in with the Raga chalan, also are true to the tala structure.
You will also notice that the tala is divided into two parts. The first part generally uses the heavy bols, and is known as the Bhari of the tala. At around the mid point of the awartan, the weight goes out, and the Khali, or the lighter part of the awartan begins. This then proceeds on towards the Sama, to begin another cycle. The Sama normally happens to be a heavy bol, such as the Dha or Dhin. Tala Roopak with seven beats is of course an exception, where the sama and the khali coincide, on the first beat, which is Tin.
The Khali Bhari division of the awartan provides that very useful aesthetic principle of symmetry. This divides the tala into matching bol phrases on either side of the middle axis, which is particularly useful during tabla solo presentation. In case of the Khayal accompaniment, the khali becomes the audio clue that the awratan is halfway, and the singer then can start winding up the developmental pattern of that awartan, and prepares himself to glide seamlessly into the mukhada, towards the Sama.
We saw earlier how the laya, like the swara, is seen as a continuum, and the entire space besides the beat strokes is musically utilized. To help achieve this during a khayal performance, the accompanying tabla player provides the awartan with longer and sustained sounds ( the Baanya becomes particularly useful for this), and additional bols, rather than just giving short staccato punctuating beats. This would become much more relevant at slower tempo, or vilambit laya. This is known as the theka.
More about that, and the different tempos of laya in the next post….