Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dhatete, Dhagenatete

Not one, not two, but three kaidas! ah! ah! aaah! (in my best Count von Count voice)

UPDATE: New audio...see the PPPS at the bottom of the post for details.

<a href="http://tala-wallah.bandcamp.com/track/dhatete-dhagenatete-trad">Dhatete, Dhagenatete (trad) by Tala-Wallah</a>

In light of my taciturn posting style of late, I thought a big splashy 14+ 15 minute recording was due.

So, here are three tintal kaidas, all related to one another. The second kaida is the centre of this little family, and the other two are its offspring, if you like.

Now, it should be noted that these are extremely tabla-geeky. Nothing flashy, no fireworks, just simple kaidas expanded as far as I can take them. A non-trained ear is probably not going to follow all the subtle variations and modulations on the thematic material, but please, don't let that discourage you!, it's just that these are very detailed and, well, deeply geeky. There are a veritable cornucopia of methods of rhythmic variation herein.

DhaTete DhaTete DhaDhaTete DhageThunnaKena is a famous Delhi gharana kaida. I've even heard of it referred to as the 'King of Kaidas'. Suffice to say every single tabla player knows this kaida, and in a vast ocean of repertoire, that really is something.

The kaida has very few strokes in the theme, but has a massive scope for improvisation and composition. I learned this from my first teacher, Ritesh Das, who learned it from his teacher, Swapan Chaudhuri.

The kaida is so famous that there is a great story, nay, legendary story, about it:

One time someone challenged my teacher, Pandit Anokelal, to a contest. He agreed, but exercised his prerogative in choosing the first composition. "Okay, I will play," he replied, "but we must start with the kayda, dha tete," a famous beginner's composition with only a few strokes in its theme. He began to play the kayda. He played and played, using only 'dha te te' strokes. Everything he composed in the khuli (open left hand drum section) was matched exactly in the mundi (closed section). Two hours later he was still playing this simple composition and showed no sign of relenting in his outpouring of energy or invention. Hearing this incredible display of mastery, the challenger decided not to try to answer at all, and packed up his drums.
-Mahapurush Misra

[from The Classical Music of North India by Ali Akbar Khan, pg 225]

Two hours people. Chased the guy right out of town!

The first kaida in the recording is a version of DhaTete in tisra nadai (triplets) that Swapan Chaudhuri taught in a workshop years ago. I use these three kaidas as a warmup before practice, and while this one can be played at a faster tempo (usually to the discomfort of the accompanist), I like to use it as a sort of lengthy exposition of the original DhaTete kaida in the transitional tisra phase.

Next up is the the original DhaTete (including some of my variations), and after that I transition directly* into a Lucknow response:
DhagenaTete DhagenaTete DhageThunnaKena

* technically, I'm breaking all sorts of rules here...I should finish one kaida, play theka, introduce the next theme in slow speed and so on, but I like to keep these three close.

I learned DhagenaTete from Ritesh Das (who learned it Swapan Chaudhuri), and it was identified as a sort of companion to DhaTete. In the old days, before recordings and concert goers laden with secreted recording gear, a tabla player would hear a composition in a performance, and perhaps only imbibe the core idea of the composition, and would then compose something inspired by what they heard, but not exactly the same. I like to think that this is one of those. (There's a term for this, usually applied to gats: Jhora (similar), that I'm not sure applies to this...or that I've spelled it right...feel free to elucidate in the comments)

While it's Lucknow, it uses the Delhi two-finger style, and naturally forks off in a completely different direction, albeit with some similar approaches early on (accents on the bold):
DhaTete DhaTete DhaDhaTete - DhaTete DhaDha...
DhagenaTete DhagenaTete - DhagenaTete...


Anyway...I hope you enjoy. Only 45 more to go.

On a completely different note, have you heard Bollywood session musician Charanjit Singh's prescient 1982 Acid-house record 10 Ragas to a Disco Beat? Really, you must hear it:

(video at the bottom of the post)

and be sure to read part 2:

PS: the recording...I usually don't like stereo tabla recordings where the tabla and baya are widely separated (I think of it as one instrument, not two) but I thought that it might be fun to try for this one, if only because the interaction of the 2 drums is so darn cool. Also, I mixed the stereo field from the tabla players perspective-tabla on the right, baya on the left.

PPS I am going to try to get my friend Chris Hale to record the lehara on sitar, so the audio might get updated soon, but I want to post it asap, even if the lehara is a cheese-tasticly effected mix of harmonium (gasp!) mandolin and Wurlitzer. Too much 70s Bollywood in my musical diet lately, I guess ;)

PPPS Audio Update: I recorded Chris Hale playing the lehara on sitar. I also did a slightly different mix...easter eggs to be found later in the recording. (rewards for people who hang on until the 9:43 mark ;) [I decided against the slight remix-y thing I originally did...still up on the bandcamp page though]

Many thanks to Chris, and to Anita Katakkar, who let us use her house and her very nice microphone for the sitar recording. Bhairavi lehara melody from iLehra app.


  1. There are some digital artifacts from the mp3 conversion process Bandcamp does when I upload the original file...hopefully they won't happen again when I post the updated version in a week or two.

  2. You have a very nice way of explaining what's going on for those of us who are completely ignorant :)

  3. Thanks Memsaab! (though I think you give yourself too little credit)

  4. ...the digital mp3 conversion artifacts didn't happen again, though a hi-res version will sound better. And may i recommend headphones?

  5. Excellent man - a pleasure to listen to. You have a really nice sound! Keep it up!

  6. amazing tabla and AMAZING lehera. Can you post those leheras somewhere?

  7. Hi tablawaala. The leharas are from the iLehra app, as mentioned in the post, but I re-record them with live people. If you don't have a device to access iLehra, then feel free to lift/transcribe them.

  8. Hi Tala-Wallah. Did i tell you it's such a pleasure to visit your blog? :) ... Every week i'm very curious to see what have you posted... and this time too, you have exceeded my expectations!

    This rendering of the first 2 was superb! The third one which was kinda remix-ish ... didn't suit me so well. I've a feeling... and this is just me... that the things that are miscible can be mixed and they come out pretty good.. and there is the other case of mixing oil and water... Please don't get me wrong.... there are plethora of remix lovers who try to mix western and indian music, however, I think these music types have their own "taste" which cannot be enjoyed together... for me it's like having lasagna mixed with chicken tikka masala! (.. bad analogy but you get the point!).

    Anyways, keep them coming. I'm very impatient to see what you play next... perhaps the most famous Swapanji's Kaida

    DhaGeNa DhaTiRaKiTa DhiTiTe DhaGeNa
    DhaTiRaKiTa DhiTiTe KaTiTe KaTaKaTaKaTa
    KaT-Ta DhiTiTe GheNaDha TiGheNa
    DhaTiRaKiTa DhiTiTe GheNe TiNaKeNa


    ??? :)

  9. funny you should mention that Mac, I've been wondering about the 'remix' choice myself...it was late, and 10 Ragas to a Disco Beat had been on repeat for days...when I have a moment, i'll put up a non-remix version. It's something I've been thinking about because the original intention of the blog was to highlight traditional tabla, and this was a bit left of centre...as for the kaida-rela you mention, maybe...one day. I know it, but don't do it justice. ;)
    Thanks for you comments, and thanks for listening.

  10. well that was easy...new mix sans remix-y schtuff above.

    The next recording I'm planning is fairly involved, and a bit ambitious...we'll see if I can make it happen. Probably not for a couple of weeks though...as I raise the production values, it takes longer to make the recordings. Thanks for your patience!

  11. thanks for the story of your teacher and his 2 hour dha tete meditation. what focus. what fingers:)

    and your recording is brilliant. just what i needed today. thank you....

  12. Thanks Salima!

    (not my teacher in the story, btw...I wish! ;)

  13. Dhaa tete dha tete dhadha..is my favorite kaida as well..thanks for all these useful posts. I wonder if there is any limitation of style and bols to be used regarding the improvisation aspect of this or any other kaidas?? Please do share..

    1. Generally, you're restricted to the bols in the theme. In this case you can use phrases (eg Dhatete, DhaDhatete) or single strokes (Dha) to build new phrases. So, while DhaDhaDhatete is not in the theme, it's still made of strokes and phrases that are. Part of the reason we learn so many kaidas is to develop a wide variety of tools to use in improvisation...hard to get too specific here, but I might do a complete kaida breakdown at one point.

  14. very good playing

  15. Hi there:(
    Since a cuple of years i'm learning this awesome instrument..as complicate...
    I'm from Spain and guitar player.
    I was find a lot of help in your blog.
    thanks india source of inspiration.
    .flamenco .rithm. Like universal language