Laya to Tala

Having seen how the Raga comes into being, let us now see how the other element of music, the Laya, transforms itself into the Tala. The Tala, just as the Raga, is also unique to Indian music.

On a very basic level, the clip below should explain how Laya is processed for the purpose:


I think the fundamental principle underlying the making of a Tala is that of Awartan. The Hindu philosophy generally believes in cyclic happenings, things coming back to where they started. Like the cycle of life and death, beginning with the birth, the life and then the death, only to be reborn again. The point of death also happens to be the point of birth of another life.

The Tala is such a cycle, or Awartan of beats. The end point of this awartan also becomes the starting point of the next awartan. This point assumes tremendous significance musically, and is called the Sama.

Teen Tala





As you can see here, the matra is the space between two beats, the tabla bols, which themselves are two separate points. So the Sama is the starting point of the first Matra, which is also the starting point of the awartan, and also the end point of the last matra of the Tala.

The most important thing the Awartan does is to provide a platform for repetition. The Bandish, which is a musician’s tool for presentation, is possible only because of the Tala awartan. The Mukhada of the Bandish, which generally occupies the last few Matras of the Tala, repeats itself in every awartan. The musician builds other supporting material in the rest of the space, and reaches the Sama through the Mukhada. We have seen earlier, that how an artist does this gracefully and with variety, awartan after awartan, decides the class of his/her music.

It is the length of the Matra, or the distance between two beats, which will basically define the tempo (now this is also known as the laya!), of the Tala. The length of the awartan will also depend upon the number of beats chosen. So if we have a Tala with ten beats ( Jhaptaal) instead of the 16 of the teen taal, the length of the awartan will obviously be smaller for the same laya. Taal roopak happens to be the smallest cycle with 7 beats. And then there are various Talas composed with different number of beats, the most commonly used being 9 ( Matta Tala), 12 ( Ek Tala), 14 ( Ada Chautaal)  and the teentaal with 16 beats. Dadra with six beats, and Keherwa with 8 beats, are known as Chhand-talas, as they offer an easy to count meter. This is also the reason for their being used in the popular and the semi-clasical forms of music.

We will go on to look within the Tala, to understand how the cycle is structured to provide aesthetic values during presentation…


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