No baby talk this!!!
These are syllables describing rhythms. The Carnatic music system has evolved a
complicated rhythmic structure which involves the usage of permutations and
combinations. The tala system is a "mathemusician's" dream come true, where he
can endlessly dapple with rhythmic combinations. Its a fascinating area in
Carnatic Music. Feel the pulse. Get into the rhythm. Let the talas tell you
"Sruthi Mata, Laya Pita" is an oft quoted maxim which means Sruthi the basic
pitch and rhythm are the parents of good music. Rhythm is important to give any
kind of music a balance. Laya is a word which encompasses all aspects of rhythm
while Tala is a system evolved to measure laya.
Carnatic Music has evolved a very complicated Tala system. There are 7 basic
talas which are divided and further sub divided to give raise to a total of 175
In Carnatic Music every composition is set to a particular Tala. The pace in
which the composition should be sung is also indicated. The percussion
instrument Mridangam is an indispensable accompaniment in every Carnatic Music
A good grip on laya is very essential for Carnatic Musicians- considering the
fact that rhythm is thought of as "father" of good music
Laya is derived from the root lai meaning to move. Laya means movement.
In music, laya is rhythm while tala is time measure. Laya has a much wider range
of meaning than tala. Laya is movement and Tala is the measure for gauging the
tempo of this movement.
The variations in tempo constitute the variations in laya. The classification of
laya (movement) is three fold-based. There is movement in the slower range of
speed, medium range of speed and the faster range.
The word tala comes from the fusion of the words tandava and lasya. Tandava is
the dance of Shiva (the cosmic male force) and Lasya the dance of Shakti (the
cosmic female force). Suggesting that a tala should have the characteristics of
two kinds of rhythm- one aggressive and the other tender. Hence a tala is an
amalgamation of masculine energy and feminine grace.
Types of Talas with structure
The tala system (system of rhythmic cycles) though very complex is worked out
mathematically making it easy to understand.
There are seven basic types of talas. A tala is performed with the right hand
and on the right thigh. Each tala is made up of one or more of three "Angas" or
They are as follows:
1. the Laghu, which is a clap(palm facing downwards) and finger counts
2. the Drutam, which consists of a clap (palm facing downwards) and a wave (palm
facing upwards), and
3. the Anudrutam, which is just a clap (palm facing downwards)
The components are indicated by the following symbol
The seven basic Talas are as follows
1. Dhruva |0|| one laghu, one drutam and two laghus
2. Matya |0| one laghu, one drutam and one laghu
3. Rupaka 0| one drutam and one laghu
4. Jampa |U0 one laghu, one anudrutam and one drutam
5. Triputa |00 one laghu and two drutams
6. Ata ||00 two laghus and two drutams
7. Eka | one laghu
Lets see how the seven asic talas become thirty five talas.
The laghu can be of five "jatis" or types.
1. Tisra (3) Laghu - i.e laghu with one clap and two finger counts
2. Chatusra (4) laghu - i.e laghu with one clap and three finger counts
3. Kandam (5) laghu - laghu with one clap and four finger counts
4. Misram (7) laghu- i.e laghu with one clap and six finger counts.
5. Sankirnam (9) laghu - i.e laghu with one clap and eight finger counts.
Each tala can be varied in five different ways by varying the type of laghu. For
example you can gave Tisra jati Dhruva tala, Chatusra jati Dhruva tala, Kanda
Jati Dhruva tala, Misra jati Dhruva tala and Sankirna Jati Dhruva tala.
Likewise all seven talas can be varied on the laghu thus giving rise to a total
of 7x5= 35 talas.
In addition the laghu can be varied on speed also. By varying the speed a total
of 175 talas can be obtained. Let us see how.
The laghu can be of five "gatis" or speeds
1. Tisra -three : denoted by the syllables Ta-Ki-Ta
2. Chatusra - four : denoted by the syllables Ta-Ka-Di-Mi
3. Kanda- five: denoted by the syllables Ta-Ka-Ta-Ki-Ta
4. Misra -seven: denoted by the syllables Ta-Ka-Di-Mi Ta-Ki-Ta
5. Sankirna - nine: denoted by the syllables Ta-Ka-Di-Mi Ta-Ka Ta-Ki-Ta.
Each of the above mentioned thirty five talas can be varied in five different
ways on the basis of speed. For instance you can have Kanda jati Matya talam in
Misra gati and so on.
So the seven basic talas when varied by the five types of laghu give rise to
thirty five talas which when again varied by the five kinds of laghu speed give
rise to 175 talas.
Hence we have a total of 7 x 5 jatis x 5 gatis = 175 talas in all.