Saturday, November 7, 2015

Tihai: Endings are Beginnings

I find myself home early from a gig, and energized, so I want to talk tihais. There's a video below if you just want music.

A tihai is a rhythmic pattern that repeats three times, often, but not always, landing on the sam (downbeat) of a tala (rhythmic) cycle. Unique to Indian classical music, both north and south (where it is called a mora), a tihai has 2 main features: the phrase that repeats three times, and the gap between the phrases.

This isn't going to be a scholarly article, just my observations, impressions and philosophy of tihais and all things cyclical. There will be minimal math.

A rhythmic pattern that repeats three times...that could mean, at its shortest: Dha Dha Dha
or, theoretically, a pattern that takes 3 years to complete.

Simple tihai:
Teteketagedighene Dha -
Teteketagedighene Dha -
Teteketagedighene Dha

Tihais can have tihais within them:

Teteketagedighene Dha - Teteketagedighene Dha - Teteketagedighene Dha - - -  - - - -
Teteketagedighene Dha - Teteketagedighene Dha - Teteketagedighene Dha - - -  - - - -
Teteketagedighene Dha - Teteketagedighene Dha - Teteketagedighene Dha

They can be stacked...here's a tihai with 9 tihais within it:

Teteketagedighene Dha Dha Dha - ne Dha Dha Dha - ne Dha Dha Dha - - -  - - - -
Teteketagedighene Dha Dha Dha - ne Dha Dha Dha - ne Dha Dha Dha - - -  - - - -
Teteketagedighene Dha Dha Dha - ne Dha Dha Dha - ne Dha Dha Dha

Or, to use an example from the previous post, 27 tihais in one, with a bit of shorthand:

{DhaTunNaKetete Dha - ne Dha - ne Dha -
DhaTunNaKetete Dha - ne Dha - ne Dha -
DhaTunNaKetete Dha - ne Dha - ne Dha - - -
DhaTunNaKetete Dha - ne Dha - ne Dha -
DhaTunNaKetete Dha - ne Dha - ne Dha -
DhaTunNaKetete Dha - ne Dha - ne Dha - - -
DhaTunNaKetete Dha - ne Dha - ne Dha -
DhaTunNaKetete Dha - ne Dha - ne Dha -
DhaTunNaKetete Dha - ne Dha - ne Dha - - -  - - - -  - - - - } *3

So, that's a huuuuge tihai, made up of three smaller tihais, and each of those smaller tihais is itself made up of three even smaller tihais, and each one of THOSE tihais contains an even smaller tihai! Wild. Indian music was drilling down into particle physics before we even had a microscope on this planet.

Here's a graphic illustration of that:

This monster tintal tihai runs 16-16, 16.5-16.5 and 1-1

So. Math.

If you're in tintal, a 16 beat cycle, and you want to play a tihai that takes 2 tala cycles to complete (starting and ending on the 1st beat of the cycle), you have 33 beats to work with (16x2,+1...the downbeat of the next cycle). You can play an 11 beat phrase (11x3=33) and it will work. Tihais do not have to start from the first beat of a cycle though. They can start from anywhere. Nine. Three. Fourteen-and-a-half. 7-and-two-thirds. Doesn't matter, as long as your math is sound. There are people who can better explain the mathematics of tihais. It's not my speciality.

What I am interested in, though, is the concept. Of tihais, and of cycles.

Endings are Beginnings, Beginnings are Endings


Tihais are both beginnings and endings. Sure, you can play a tihai to finish a kaida, but it also marks the beginning of the next rhythmic cycle, the next chapter. Within a kaida, or an improv, tihais can mark chapters...the end of one section and simultaneously the beginning of the next section.

You've probably heard the expression 'When one door closes, another opens'. The full quote, by Alexander Graham Bell, is:

When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.
-Alexander Graham Bell

Which might be profound, depending on your mood. I certainly find it useful when big, painful changes happen.

Cycles


Rhythmic time in Indian music is based on cycles. A cycle begins, and at the exact moment it finishes, the next cycle starts. One complete rotation of the earth makes one day. The earth orbits the sun, a process that takes 1 year. Our solar system is itself orbiting the centre of our galaxy, which takes about 230 million years. Google tells me that apparently our Milky Way Galaxy is not really orbiting anything, just drifting around aimlessly, but I bet you 230 lakh rupees it's drifting around in a certain raga that we haven't heard yet, in a great a cosmic alapana ;)

Plus I bet the entire universe is spinning. Everything is cycles. Light is cycles. Sound is cycles. Matter is made up of particles that are vibrating...more cycles. Maybe time itself is a cycle. This is heavy:



So. Tihais are cycles within cycles. You could theoretically play a tihai that took 3 years to complete. Call a year a cycle. It'd be a 12 beat cycle, with each beat taking a month. Let's choose January 1st as the downbeat, sam (even though March 21st, the 1st day of spring, is a better downbeat IMHO). Let's also pretend each month has 28 days.

Here's our tihai:
Teteketagedighene Dha - Dha - Dha - - -
Teteketagedighene Dha - Dha - Dha - - -
Teteketagedighene Dha - Dha - Dha -  - -  - -
Teteketagedighene Dha - Dha - Dha - - -
Teteketagedighene Dha - Dha - Dha - - -
Teteketagedighene Dha - Dha - Dha -  - -  - -
Teteketagedighene Dha - Dha - Dha - - -
Teteketagedighene Dha - Dha - Dha - - -
Teteketagedighene Dha - Dha - Dha

January 1: Te
January 7: te
January 14: ke
January 21: ta
February 1: ge
February 7: di
February 14: ghe
February 21: ne
March 1: Dha
March 14: Dha
April 1: Dha (1 month vacation! you deserve it)
etc.

Totally absurd (but someone should totally do it! 52 Kaidas challenge!) BUT! my point is that it's all perception. We measure our lives in the tala of the year. Your childhood a peshkar, teenage years the kaidas. University, maybe relas. Starting a family, gats. The older years, the poetry of parans and chakradars. And we all have a giant final chakradar tihai coming. Which will begin the next cycle.

When you're playing tabla, or any music, you could think of it in this way. Stages of life. I'm FINALLY getting to the video, if you haven't thought 'dude has finally lost his MIND!' and closed the browser window already.



This is a peshkar/kaida/rela that I learned from Pandit Suresh Talwalkar, and i want to do a cycle-by-cycle breakdown. I've wanted to do one of these forever! Maybe open the video in a separate window, and resize things so you can see both the video and the blog at the same time if that's useful. Or just listen.

So:
Cycle 1: Theka, an intro phrase from khali (9th beat) then a tihai from 13¼
DhaDhinna (Dhatunna) DhaDhinna (Dhatunna) DhaDhinna Dha

Cycle 2: Peshkar theme 1, with a variation introduced on the 4th repeat, from 13

Cycle 3: Theme 1 again, with a variation from 5-9, then a tihai from 11⅞
Dha - kreDhaDhinna Dha ( - - terekite)
Dha - kreDhaDhinna Dha ( - - terekite)
Dha - kreDhaDhinna Dha  ... introducing terekite, foreshadowing theme 2...

Cycle 4: Peshkar theme 2, with a variation again introduced on the 4th repeat, from the 13th beat

Cycle 5: Theme 2 again, with the variation from the previous cycle from the 5th beat, and a tihai from 114/8 
Dha - kreDhaDhinna Dha - (DhagenaTerekite) [underlines denotes double]
Dha - kreDhaDhinna Dha - (DhagenaTerekite)
Dha - kreDhaDhinna Dha

Cycle 6: Peshkar theme 2 again, variation from 5, and a tihai from khali (9th beat)
KreDha - KreDha - Dhin na KreDha - KreDha - Thun na Dha -
KreDha - KreDha - Dhin na KreDha - KreDha - Thun na Dha -
KreDha - KreDha - Dhin na KreDha - KreDha - Thun na Dha

Cycle 7: Peshkar theme 2 w variations from 5 and 13 (i call this an idling cycle... prepping for tihai)

Cycle 8: Peshkar tihai:
{Dha - terekite Thin Na - - Dha - kreDha Thin na - -
                                               Dha - kreDha Thin na - -
                                               Dha - kreDha Thin na Dha - - - } *3

Cycle 9: Kaida! Theme, introduced without baya, with a variation & baya introduction from 13

Cycle 10: Kaida theme, full, with a variation from 13

Cycle 11: Minor variation (Ghe na instead of Dha - ) with a Dha Dha variation from 13

Cycle 12: Ghe na variation from 1, Dha Dha variation from 5, filled version from khali and a tihai from 13 (sort of..there's an intro phrase)
ge Dhatidhagena Dha terekite DhatiDhagena Dha - (kena)
                                                 DhatiDhagena Dha - (kena)
                                                 DhatiDhagena Dha

Cycle 13
: Now the kaida becomes home base, and rela phrases (of 7 & 9) are introduced, from beat 7, and then again from beat 15
The rela phrase is
Dha terekite TakeDhinneNaNaghene (7)
Dha terekite Dha kitetake DhinneNaNaghene (9)
(I'll use only the numbers from here on in)

Cycle 14: Kaida, rela from 3, kaida, rela from 7, kaida, rela from 11 through to sam
or, A 7-9 A 7-9; a 7-9, 7-9, 7-9
(lower case 'a' means khali)

Cycle 15: A 7-9, 7-9, 7-9; a 7-9, 7    {7 Dha - 7 Dha - 7 Dha}

Cycle 16: A 7-9, 7-9, 7-9; 7-9 7-4-4   {9 Dha - - 9 Dha - - 9 Dha}

Cycle 17: 7-9, 7-9, 7-9, 7-9; 7-9, 7-6    {9 Dha -kat- 9 Dha -kat- 9 Dha} 


Cycle 18: final tihai: 7-9, 7-4-6   7 Dha -ne 7 Dha -ne 7 Dha - (ge- din - ne)
                                                     7 Dha -ne 7 Dha -ne 7 Dha - (ge- din - ne)
                                                     7 Dha -ne 7 Dha -ne 7 Dha

Sooooo. The 1st 18 years of the life of a tabla composition. Lots of drama from 14-18, just like everyone. Note that there are 10 tihais in this progression, one used to start the whole thing going, then others to transition between sections, as punctuation within sections, and to end the piece (and start the next cycle).

That's Rattan Bhamrah on esraj, and this was a concert at Musideum in Toronto, July 8, 2014, as part of my Music:India series. 



Najia Alavi
On a sad note, the main camera was operated by a lovely woman by the name of Najia Alavi. She responded to my call for a volunteer to run a camera in exchange for a pair of tickets. We'd never met. She did an awesome job, as you can see, and we kept in touch periodically. Najia passed away, suddenly, tragically, in May 2015. RIP Najia.


18 comments:

  1. Ed! So glad to see you are posting on this blog again. Tabla nerds everywhere rejoice! Sorry to hear about your struggles, but glad that you are seeking ways to work with what's there. I love your blog, love your playing, love the tabla-nerd-wizardry that you display on this blog, and hope you continue to nerd out on the internet for a long time. It's very inspiring!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Eric! More posts planned soon. Cheers!

      Delete
  2. Recursion in tihai. Amazing. Thanks for sharing.

    BTW Check out, Tihai Shastra Lite an android app to help learn, play and compose complex 'tihai' patterns in different taals with the pala in different layas.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.siddhisadhana.tihaishastralite

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