Sonic Saturday

Listen: Classic dhamaar performances by the Dagar brothers, Faiyaz Khan

This is the first part in a series that look at taals with the same number of matras.

Previously, this column discussed the scope of taals or time cycles with the same number of matras or time units and grouped in the same manner in vibhags or khands. But each had a different theka or a conventionally accepted framework of tabla strokes to define the cycle. It is the theka that finally lends character to the taal. This is why each taal is referred to by a specific name and has a special role to play. Some taals are, therefore, used for accompanying vocal or instrumental music while others may be used for tabla solo recitals, and some may even be employed in both cases.

The next few episodes move to a set of taals that share the same number of matras, but that is where their similarity ends. The 14 matras in these taals are grouped differently.

The first taal that we will look at closely in this episode is called dhamaar. The 14 matras are grouped 3-2-2-3-2-2 or 5-2-3-4. It is played essentially on pakhawaj, in solo performances and to accompany a song form that shares the same name. Sung normally by dhrupad singers, the dhamaar form is also rendered by some khayal singers. In the latter case, tabla is used to accompany this form. The dhamaar tala is played in slow and medium tempo.

The first track features a dhamaar sung by renowned dhrupad-dhamaar vocalists Nasir Aminuddin Dagar and Zia Fariduddin Dagar in the raag Yaman. As with the song-text of all dhamaar compositions, this one too describes the celebrations associated with Holi, the festival of colours. The self-evident rhythmic interplay in this rendition between the vocalists and eminent pakhawaj player Raja Chhatrapati Singh is set to a medium tempo dhamaar taal.

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Agra gharana vocalist Faiyaz Khan, known equally for his dhrupad-dhamaar, khayal, and thumri-dadra expositions, sings a dhamaar in the raag Desh. In this case, the dhamaar taal is played on the tabla.

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