Musical structures that appear simplest of all are at times difficult to negotiate. This is not to do so much with understanding them theoretically or demonstrating them in performance, but more related to the manner in which they need to be expressed. The case of the Kaharvaa taal is an excellent example of this situation. Most Hindustani music practitioners would perhaps believe that this is a simple taal of eight matras or time units, symmetrically divided into two equal sections. However, this is where its apparent elementary quality ends, and where performers are expected to enter into the realm of emotion and expression. Sadly, it is here that the best of musicians trained in vocal or instrumental forms pertaining to art music seem to falter or are uneasy. This is because the performance focuses on creating a colour or mood and is not confined to the strict constraints of grammar.
Last week, we listened to two tracks featuring qawwali recitals that employed Kaharvaa. I had chosen qawwali representations because this is one of those musical genres that is categorised as a form of religious music but has elements that are shared with Hindustani music. In particular, the fact that qawwals, or those singing qawwalis, introduce musical elaboration is a key factor that demonstrates features that overlap with those from the art music tradition.
Today, we turn to a tradition that is categorised as folk music, but has musical elaboration and structures that resonate with those present in Hindustani music. This is the folk music of Rajasthan, which liberally uses the Kaharvaa taal. The rhythm is maintained on the dholak. At times, the dholak is also joined by the khadtaal or indigenous castanets.
Here are two tracks featuring ensembles that use Kaharvaa for their rendition. Anwar Khan Manganiar and group sing on the first track.
Unfortunately, the musicians in the second track are not identified in the accompanying text.