Wednesday, October 27, 2010


This is a composition I learned recently from Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri, and it's lovely, groovy and very fun to play. The strokes aren't terribly complicated (then again, I'm not playing it terribly fast) but the shapes are very interesting. The theme is a reduction (aka Gopuccha Yati) 9-8-6-3 DgTnkn and it features lots of sur strokes and very active baya. Great practice, as the naDhi combinations are tricky to nail accurately at speed, lots of off-beats (1/8 & 1/4 beat), and the variations are exquisite: phrases of 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 and 3 all make an appearance; a series where sam* is hidden; compound variations with internal tihais...a real goldmine of rhythmic tools! The tihai...well, the tihai is a mind-bender to be sure ;)

About the recording:
Another exotic location! I spent 2 dreamy weeks at the Banff Centre in Alberta Canada, rehearsing and creating with my band Autorickshaw and a 5-piece brass band before going on tour. Each musician at the Banff Centre gets their own rehearsal space, in my case, a small hut. I took a portable recording solution (laptop, small USB interface and 1 microphone) to test it out for my upcoming trip to India, and I recorded this one morning to see what the setup produced, quality-wise.

My music hut in the mountains
I didn't really intend this for the blog...I was noodling a bit before playing the composition, and it didn't cut the mustard, hence the abrupt beginning. I recycled one of George Koller's dilruba tracks for the lehara.

The portable setup doesn't capture the baya as well as I'd like, but I think that's a combination of the room (tiny, soundproof), the mic, and the almost total lack of humidity in Banff, which is at an elevation of 1,463 m (4,800 ft) in the Rocky Mountains. I have never, ever had such a hard time keeping my drums in tune, but the beauty of the surroundings offset that a bit. :)

My music hut, from slightly farther away...
I performed a short (52 Kaidas-style) tabla solo in concert while we were at the Banff Centre, and I'm waiting to get a copy from them. If it's passable, I'll post it.

*Sam=the first beat of the rhythmic cycle, aka the downbeat.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Farukhabad Chalan-Kaida, Punjab Kaida, new Dha Dha gegenage AND Funky Lucknow Rela

Four-in-one super-special mega-simul-post extravaganza!  
Featuring: Exotic Locations! Triple Gharana Action! Spicy Photos! Silky Dilruba! High Fidelity Stereophonic Sound! Mad Experimentation!

Farukhabad Chalan-Kaida

<a href="">Dhin--Na-Kre Dhin-Na Chalan-Kaida by Tala-Wallah</a>

Punjab Kaida

<a href="">Ghen-Na- Punjab Kaida by Tala-Wallah</a>

Dha Dha gegenage update

<a href="">Dha Dha gegenage by Tala-Wallah</a>

Funky Lucknow Rela

<a href="">Funky Lucknow Rela by Tala-Wallah</a>

All four recordings feature super excellent, Zen-master-esque musician George Koller on Dilruba, with a pair of fretless bass treats...look for more GK in the future...

Notes on the first recording, Farukhabad Chalan-Kaida:

Things open with a Lucknow Paran taught by my first teacher, Ritesh Das, who I believe learned it from Swapan Chaudhuri. KeTageDhatunna KeTageDhatunna KeTageDhatunna KiteDha = tricky! But ultimately satisfying.

The main composition I very recently learned in a 3 day workshop with Subhajyothi Guha. He originally ID'd it as a Peshkar-Chalan but the way it's presented here is more Chalan-Kaida in character. I fell deeply in love with it immediately. Farukhabad Gharana. 

This was composed by Subhajyothi's teacher, Pandit Sankha Chatterjee, himself a student of Ustad Masit Khan, Ustad Keramatulla Khan (the son of Ustad Masit Khan), AND Ustad Allarakha Khan (more on this below...). All super heavyweight tabla players. Wow. Holy lineage, Batman.

I have to share a story here...Subhajyothi very generously asked me to perform in a Saraswati Puja celebration concert at his home in Kolkata in 2002. I was nervous (1st tabla solo in India, at my teacher's house, on Saraswati about pressure) and I had no idea who was playing lehara. Turns out that Pandit Sankha Chatterjee was there, and very generously volunteered to play harmonium. Oh dear. went fairly well...he was of course an awesome accompanist and very gentle and encouraging, even when the wheels came of a couple of tihais right before the finish line....{blushes}

Pandit Sankha Chatterjee, and some nervous guy...

Back to the composition. Really really lovely composition. The phrases are Peshkar-like for sure (and yet have a folk-y quality, no?), and I love the way it moves...very spaciously funky (Tabla Space Funk? you heard it here first people!). I'm going to work on the Peshkar side with Subhajyothi when he comes back in September. 

Where this was recorded:

Family vacation cottage rental, Oxtongue Lake, Ontario, Canada.
Tala-Wallah Studios, Algonquin Branch?

Yes, I took not only my drums on vacation, but also my recording studio! My family is soooo tolerant...very grateful that they put up with my antics. ;) I was staying in a tiny cabin that was apparently (if the owner, who we dubbed The Big Lebowski is to be believed) the original Algonquin Park rangers cabin from something like 1908. An honest-to-goodness log cabin, people. Great for capturing that...ummm...woody log cabin sound that is so sought after. That carpet really ties the room together, does it not?

Disclaimer: I usually like to sit with a new composition for a long time before I attempt to perform or record it, and this is brand new in my repertoire, will mature with age. ;)

Notes on the second recording, Punjab Kaida:

Up next is another composition I learned from Subhajyothi Guha, a Punjab Kaida, composed by none other than the great maestro Alla Rakha, who taught it to Subho's teacher, Sankha Chatterjee.

Let's talk oral tradition for a second here...This composition isn't very old compared to some tabla compositions out there, but has been passed down over 4 teacher-student generations: Alla Rakha->Sankha Chatterjee->Subajyothi Guha->moi. Pretty cool to be able to trace the path through time and people, no? 

This falls squarely into the Very Challenging Kaida category. "Two kinds of 'Ghe Na' " was how Subhajyothi prefaced this in class. It took me a long time to feel's so technical that it demands a ton of practice before the hands get comfortable and the ears can open up...that's how it was for me, anyway. Total left hand burner, with all the deep, open Ghen strokes. Boom! Very Satisfying! Very grounded feeling too, while still floating over the tala...interesting combination. Of course, the sur Ta is sweetness and light!

By the way, Alla Rakha was my introduction to tabla. Story time! (what is with all the stories?? I must be getting old...)

When I was 18, a good friend {waves at Karen} recommended I listen to Indian classical music, which I had never heard. I picked up a Ravi Shankar cassette on the Deutsche Grammophon label, and lo-and-behold, 3rd track, side A: an Alla Rakha tabla solo. Totally. Blew My. Mind. Karen knew a fellow named Art Levine who knew Ritesh, got his phone number, and my journey started. 

Here's the album. You can listen to a sample of the tabla solo in question....notice anything unusual? No accompaniment! Just pure, raw Alla Rakha 14-beat tabla awesomeness! 

I love this, however....I think that some sort of accompaniment is really important for tabla solo repertoire...without the framework of the tala cycle clearly shown, a beautiful composition can turn into a blistering stream of notes, especially to non-tabla players. Plus, I find a good lehara completely hypnotizing, allowing some sort of deeper listening, not to mention helping the tension and release that is so important. not criticizing this recording in any way....just saying the lehara is the canvas on which the solo is painted. Of course, Alla Rakha could pull anything off...

This is an excerpt of a much longer recording (45 min) I did in June as prep for a tabla solo concert at Musidium in Toronto. I wasn't planning to do anything with it, but this is at a sprightly tempo, so here it is....

This was recorded in my brother's living room while I was house sitting....not quite an exotic enough location for the new tag, but, every space sounds different, plus it features a rented AKG 414 microphone. be perfectly honest, the Sennheiser 421 proves itself again and again as the best tabla recording mic I own. I always end up using about 75% 421 in the blend, even with a +$1000 mic on hand. 

Notes on the Third Recording, Dha Dha gegenage update:

This is an update of the previous post, Dha Dha gegenage, with a new, vastly improved lehara. If you bought the old version, and want the new one, drop me an email and I'll send the new file. Thanks to the folks who buy tracks, by the way. Especially those folks that invariably buy each one as soon as it comes out. The support means a lot. You did know you can buy these, right? Pay what you want, starting at a buck. There's a 'Buy' link right on the player!

Did you know you can also embed these fancy Bandcamp players anywhere you like on the web? Click the 'Share', link on the player, pick your destination, pick a psycho-tastic visualizer and you're off!

PS listen for the bonus George Koller quote right at the end of the recording! I had to...just HAD to keep that in! :D

Which leads to my favourite recording of this little quartet....

Notes on the Funky Lucknow Rela:

This is a Lucknow Rela I learned from Subhajyothi Guha in the recent workshop mentioned above. Once again, it was love at first hearing. The Terekite is a real treat in here. I was practicing this at the cottage, but didn't get to record it, mainly due to the increasing difficulty of waking up early as the trip progressed. :P

While this is a Rela, I've given it a bit of a different treatment here (heh...'different' to say the least...): introduce the skeleton of the composition, and then fill in the body (aka Rang...I think....definitionally challenged, again. Anyone confirm Rang is the right term?). 

Here's the deal: In the case of a kaida, the thematic material is presented at 1/2 or even 1/4 speed before the final performance speed is reached via doubling. The approach used here is different...example using a sentence: 

Tarun And Bikram Love Appalum. 

Just the first letters?

 T A B L A! 

So...rather than playing single-double, this approach uses just the first letter of each word, then fills in the rest of the letters. The trick is that the speed doesn't increase...just the density. When the maestros do this, it's like a blurry picture suddenly coming into sharp focus. With 3D glasses on. Deeply cool. 

The underlying groove of this composition is so completely funktastic that I spent one whole practice session just playing the skeleton, and thought to myself...what would the skeleton and the body sound like together on different pitched tabla? 

So....the experimentation part: There are 4 tabla parts on here...2 low D tabla tracks, playing the skeleton all the way through, and two high D tabla parts playing the full Rela. 

I knew the funk was strong with this once the tabla was recorded....then George laid down the bass track, and my head exploded. Let me put it this way....George took the funk, distilled it into 100-proof tabla-funk moonshine, lit it on fire and launched it into orbit. Killer bass playing And yes...that is a single take on bass. No edits. He did 2 takes, and I used the entire 2nd take, blending in parts of the first take in the alapana and at the end for extra phatness.

oh brain melted all over the camera
shortly after this pic was taken

While the core is traditional, the addition of the fretless bass definitely makes for a non-traditional presentation, but I make no apologies. If a more modern interpretation brings people into the world of tabla, I'm all for it. Funky Lucknow Rela needs Funky Treatment. Who am I to resist?

One of the things I like about having a recording studio perpetually set up and ready-to-go is that I can embrace spontaneous ideas like this, fire up the studio, and have a result in a pretty short time. One of the best things a musician can have at home, as far as I'm concerned, is a recording matter how basic.

While the tabla parts are not quite up to my usual standards of cleanliness and precision (high speed unison is fun...but can be messy...when the train goes off the tracks, it ain't pretty), I was inspired, it was spontaneous, and it'll do for a first attempt.

I composed 2 variations in here, and I break down to the skeleton and back to the body for variation has increasing Taka's...1-2-3-4, (akin to Srotogata Yati in Carnatic drumming; lit. 'stream becoming a river') and the other  has increasing and decreasing Taka's...1-2-3-2-1 (à la Mrdanga Yati in Carnatic drumming, a shape following the shape of the Mrdangam)*.

So, many thanks to Subhajyothi Guha for teaching me the three main compositions presented here, George Koller for absolutely knocking the accompaniment out of the park into outer space, and of course to Ritesh Das, who guided me expertly and patiently in the early years.


UPDATE: Now with video:


*Yati definitions from The Principals and Practices of South Indian Drumming by Dr. Trichy Sankaran

Once again, all the lehara melodies are transcribed from the indispensable iLehra iPhone/iTouch/iPad app.

Special thanks to Memsaab for her razor sharp brother doesn't actually have a LOVING room...but he does have a living room. ;)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dha Dha gegenage

Oh's been almost 2 months! Who'dve imagined that the spring and summer would be so busy? ;)

So, a treat! Here's a composition very close to my heart: Dha Dha gegenage...

<a href="">Dha Dha gegenage by Tala-Wallah</a>

UPDATED. I've edited the text below, given that I have some new information...

This might raise some eyebrows, since, as far as I can tell, it's an unusual version of this composition

This was taught to me by Ritesh Das, my first teacher, and Ritesh's first teacher, Shankar Ghosh, taught it to him.

I have heard a number of different versions of this composition, though I've never formally learned any other version. When I play this version for most tabla players, I am immediately corrected...tabla controversy! BUT: this is the Jnan Prakash Ghosh version. That is my understanding, anyway. There are other versions.

This is a Chalan, more specifically, and Chalan-Kaida. Chalan means movement or flow.

Chalan is a pretty wide-ranging compositional form...some Chalans are short, fixed compositions, like the famous:
DhatiDha - DhatighenaThunakena DhatiDha -
KreDhet - Dhagena Ti - Dhatighena thunnakena
Ti - kttk Ti - kttk Ta trkttk Ta trkttk
trkttgDha trkt DhatiDhagena DhatiDhagena

This type has only a few versions, and is presented more like a gat, thukra or chakradar. Others are structured more like Kaidas, i.e. theme and variations, and, as I learned yesterday, even Peshkar-Chalans exist. Excellent! The Reese's peanutbutter cup of tabla compositions! ;)

So, here's the little history I've gleaned: The original version was modified (re-composed?) by Jnan Prakash Ghosh, and is more Na-heavy than the original. There is a story that someone played this new version for tabla giant Karamatullah Khan, and his response not terribly positive. Still...Jnan Pakash Ghosh was unquestionably a master tabla player and composer, and I adore this composition. I'd love to learn the other one(s).

This is another one of those very deep tabla compositions...the more I play it, the more the possibilities open up. I thought it was all about NaNa when I first learned it years ago....then Dhene seemed to be defining things...of course Tete is it's own universe as well...and the baya is like long, slow ocean swells....if I could get them all singing and flowing together, equally balanced, I think the picture would be complete. Actually...I think that the beauty of this composition is that different elements come into focus as the kaida progresses. The art is in being able to smoothly and seamlessly draw the ear from one to another as they develop.

Check out Dhene for sets up its own pattern within the complexity around it, and the first bunch of variations highlight Dhene, creating lovely little patterns. Then, TageTeteGhege comes into focus, then Nanaghene...heh...this is rather too subjective. If you zoom in on other elements, you'll hear different things. Very cool. I LOVE tabla.

What else...I did the lehara myself this time...I might record someone else playing later. I'm trying to coordinate with a dilruba player. OH! and I love that Ta is on sur in the 2nd part of the theme and variations (TegeTete gege), and the way the 2nd part morphs in size to accommodate the first part tickles me to no end.

Things start with a short tihai (from khali), then directly into the theme, single speed, then double. No theka, I know I know, bad Talawallah!, but I like the intensity of this composition, and didn't want to have a drawn-out introduction.

Hope everyone is having a grand summer!

Thanks to my teacher and good friend Subhajyothi Guha for the history of this composition, and to Kirby Shelstad and Don Robertson who initially identified it as a Chalan on Facebook. Thanks!

Percolates. I wanted to use percolates in here somewhere, but it didn't fit. Percolates.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

DhageTete GheGheTete

This edition of 52 kaidas features an apparently simple* tintal kaida from the Lucknow gharana. Actually, more like 2 kaidas, with a strong family resemblance. Lucknow twins, perhaps? I think of them as parent and child, but either one works.

<a href="">DhageTete GheGheTete by Tala-Wallah</a>

DhageTeteGheGheTete KeTaGheGhe Terekite / DhageTeteGheGheTete KeTaGheGhe NaNaGhene

and, starting at 3:13:

KeTaGheGheTerekite / KeTaGheGheNaNaGhene

The 2nd one I learned a long time ago in a workshop with Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri, and the first one I've kind of pieced together from listening and practicing. More on that later...

I say apparently simple because the strokes are not complicated, and appear very straightforwardly square at first glance. In fact, the 2nd chapter, KeTaGheGheTerekite...doesn't even have any combination strokes at all until the tihai: everything is individual RH or LH strokes. Should be easy, right? Beginner composition, right? HA! Very tricky, and uniquely so, in my repertoire anyway.

Ever try to brush your teeth with your left hand? (flip of you're a southpaw) Ouch. A friend of mine studied with the Kodo Drummers on Sado Island in Japan for a year, and the first thing they did when he arrived was forbid him from using his right hand for anything....chopsticks? LH. Brush up the teeth? LH. Throw/catch? LH. Write, cook, clean, you name it?....LH. This was to try to break the RH's dominance, and make his drum strokes more balanced. (It worked, by the way....he's practically ambidextrous at this point).

In this kaida, the bass drum leads the way, and it is a fantastic way to develop baya prowess, stamina, speed, strength and control. [<- things tabla players dream about]

The LH conundrum aside, and despite the 'simple' strokes, the kaida is very lush and fertile, with lots of possibilities for improvisation. The elements that make up the theme are very small and compact, and fit together like puzzle pieces...including the fact that some pieces don't fit together at all, so you have to spend time with it to learn the ins-and-outs. As usual, I feel like I could practice this every day for a year, and still have farther to go....but then my already glacial pace of posting would completely grind to a halt!

As mentioned, I've never had a formal class on DGTTGGTTKTGGTRKT. I have a practice exercise based on it, and I've heard Swapanji play it a number of times, so I have worked on it over the years, developing a few of my own variations, and trying to lift as many off recordings as possible. The fit with KTGGTRKT is so obvious that I glom them together into a big extendo-super-kaida!

Couple things to note:

I have heard Farukhabad Gharana versions of both of these kaidas with one important difference: it seems that Farukhabad plays the Ta on gab/sihai, while Lucknow plays the Ta on sur. It makes a HUGE difference, not only in the character of the composition, but in the variations that can be made. I like both, but am partial to sur, as you might have noticed. ;)

In fact, there are probably dozens of versions of this composition, possibly from different Gharanas, with slightly different strokes (Dhene NaNaGhene instead of GheGheNaNaGhene for example)...feel free to share if you have any! and feel free to chime in if you have history or stories.

Another interesting point to note is that KTGGTRKT follows an unusual form for a kaida: rather than the usual binary Bhari-Khali form where the same phrase is played twice with Bhari and Khali falling over the 2 phrases, this one is a four-parter:

Bhari-Bhari-Khali-Bhari or Open-Open-Closed-Open

Similar to Tintal theka, n'est-ce pas? Usually I see this type of form with relas, especially when the phrases are very short, but not usually with kaidas. The variations follow the form Bh-Bh-Kh-Bh form for the most part, but there are 2 regularly proportioned ones in there, one directly from Swapanji, and one of mine.

What else....let's see: I recorded this twice, because my baya was tuned waaay too low the first time (it was raining) and it just didn't translate into the recording (still...slap on those headphones people!) PLUS the C# drum didn't agree with my usual mics or mic'ing technique for some mysterious reason, so I rented a nice AKG 414 for a month. :D

I plan on upping the posting pace while I have this mic, so stay tuned.

Almost forgot: there are 2 other compositions in this recording!

Things open up with a Chakradar that is based on one I learned from Swapanji. I did a bol-swap to make it pertinent to the kaidas in focus (with apologies to Swapanji). In other words, I adored the calculation, and adapted it to fit the theme of this post. It features one of my very favourite rhythmic devices: the reduction (aka Gopuccha Yati in Karnatic music).


The recording closes with a Farukhabad Gharana Gat (Gat=fixed composition, usually very rich in varied stroke combinations) that I learned from Pandit Anindo Chatterjee. I don't have any history on this one (composer etc) but it has lots of open tabla strokes (din, dheneghene, dhenenanaghene etc to contrast with the total lack of those strokes elsewhere in the post), and a very nice very compact tihai.

Deepest respect and thanks to my friend Prosad, who played sitar on the recording. Check his stuff out here. And here and here.

Finally, in what is rapidly becoming a 52Kaidas tradition, I have a music recommendation.

I think my dear friend Memsaab absolutely nailed it when she intro'd him on her fabtastic blog, and I'm stealing it: meet Tamilian Renaissance Man Wilbur Sargunaraj.

Put it this way: I smiled so much the first week I had his album that my face hurt. And that was before I dug into his 38-and-counting youtube videos, his eye-popping website and started following him on Facebook, where he's super-humanly hyper-actively engaging with his fans on a daily basis.

Ahem...I give you the newly adopted theme song for 52 Kaidas: Blog Song

<a href="">Blog Song by Wilbur Sargunaraj</a>

Chicken 65 is also mouth and eye watering-ly fantastic, and Melanin Man is another fav, albeit on the more serious side. You know what?....the whole album is good. Buy it from Bandcamp and all the $$ goes directly to him.

Love Marriage is the big 400,000+ hit breakout youtube viral video.

I think that's all....I hope you enjoy.


*as if anything in tabla is 'simple'. Who am I kidding?? ;)

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="">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.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Uthan, Palta Theka

Ok, so the whole 'Kaida a Week' thing may not be entirely accurate....BUT, I will record 52 of these, eventually. Sign up for email notifications (down, right). The blog will email you when I put a new recording up.

To get back into the swing of things, 2 of my very favourite introduction compositions: an Uthan and Palta Theka.

<a href="">Uthan, Palta Theka by Tala-Wallah</a>

An Uthan is an introductory composition, either improvised, or pre composed, that features heavy-duty tabla bols, and usually multiple nadais (aka subdivisions: 4, 6, 8 in this case). This particular composition has an absolutely massive tihai, with 9 repetitions of Dha tun na ke tete Dha- ne Dha - ne Dha - in each palla, so 27 in total. There are 81 Dha s if anyone is counting. The math is interesting as well...16-16, 16.5-16.5 and sum to sum. Composed by Swapan Chaudhuri.

The next composition was taught to me as a Peshkar, but it's much more like a Palta Theka. Basically, variations on the strokes in the theka, tintal in this case.

Swapan Chaudhuri composed this for a tabla ensemble at the Ali Akbar College of Music a long time ago, and it is really very lovely (the composition...not necessarily my rendition;). The development of the bols is orderly, yet incredibly interesting and creative. Note that the usual kaida rules apply here...bhari-khali and maintaining the original bols, but there is a bit more leeway...dheneghene (on sur) isn't in the theme, for example, but since sur strokes are such a big part of the theka, they fit. Interesting. Oh, and the tihai has kept me up late on many is a serious handful, and a perfect example of the beautiful complexity of Indian classical music.

I used the same Darbari Kanada lehara (from iLehra app) as last's quickly become a go-to lehara.

Update! my friend Chris Hale played the lehara on sitar. Hopefully, we'll be able to do this on a regular basis.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dhatreke Dhigena Dhigena Dhagena

Third post, so, in my best Dennis Hopper voice...Tisrafy, Man!

Tintal (16 beats), tisra nadai

<a href="">Dhatreke Dhigena Dhigena Dhagena by Tala-Wallah</a>

Tabla never ceases to humble me. This composition is deceptive: the strokes aren't particularly hard, but the groupings are tricky...lots of 5s and 7s going on, along with Gopuccha Yati (rhythmic reductions) and other goodness.

Tonally, it's a treat...lots of sur strokes, which I love, combined with growling baya. Well, my baya growls, though it should probably purr. Ah, practice, how I need thee.

There's a bit of a trompe-l'oreille* off the top...working on the 7+5 conundrum got me into a kind of chalan thing, and I thought I'd include it.

Speaking of which...I guess this is a kaida, though it has a bit of a chalan vibe going on too...

I learned this in a workshop with Swapan Chaudhuri in Toronto in 2007. After the workshop was over, he played a tabla solo that completely blew everyone's minds. I was fortunate enough to occupy the sound-guy chair...ever so stressful, but he and Ramesh (Misra-sarangi) sounded fantastic.

I have to say that the mandolin lehara** took almost as long to get together as the tabla part did. I'm never really satisfied with my recordings either (he says, several mixes later) I'd love to record in a large reverberant space, but my apartment is small and dry, so canned 'verb will have to do.

* Trompe L'oreille, from the french expression Trompe L'oeil (fool the eye)   L'oreille means ear...

** The lehara is a direct transcription from the iLehra iPhone/iPod application. Darbari Kanada, in case anyone's interested.

If you are a tabla player, and have an iPhone/iPod touch, this is app is
Totally. Amazing. Best $15 you'll ever spend. Go...GO NOW!:

There's also an iTanpura (cool, also used on these recordings) and (cringe) and iTablaPro app, which will apparently "blow your mind with his virtuoso tabla playing"...riiight. Of course, I'm as guilty on the lehera front, so I'll shush now. Seriously though, the iTablaPro app will be very useful for instrumental/vocal/dance practice. Great apps all around, and kudos to the developer.

PS I have a big contemporary piece to learn for a concert on Feb 7th (rehearsals approach), so I'm not sure if I can get another solo together in a week...we'll see.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

DhagenaDha terekite

A kaida-rela in tintal (16 beats). I learned this in a workshop with Swapan Chaudhuri years ago. It's fairly short, but the sur strokes are a nice touch, and very Swapanji.

<a href="">DhagenaDha terekite by Tala-Wallah</a>

A kaida-rela, by the way, is a composition that has a kaida-like structure, but has strokes that resemble a rela (fast & flowing). Interestingly, the usual khali-bhari clues, ThunNaKeNa and DhinNaGeNa are not present here, but takeTa- and tageDha- serve the same purpose. I'm assuming it's Lucknow gharana*.

The sruthi is D, and the lehara is a fairly common one in raga Chandrakauns (courtesy iLehra app).

*Gharana: lit. 'house' or school, akin to style