In the fifth episode of our series on Kaharvaa, we listen to a few vocal renditions that use a taal consisting of eight matras but one that has a theka quite different from any variations of Kaharvaa that are more commonly heard. The theka (the string of syllables that maintain the framework of the taal) is in fact quite similar to that of the seven-matra Rupak, which is why it is referred to as Ashtarupak, literally meaning Rupak with eight matras.

The first track in this episode features eminent vocalist Jitendra Abhisheki singing a dadra in the raag Pilu set to Ashtarupak. The recital ends with a climactic laggi section in which the tabla player introduces various short rhythmic phrases in quadruple tempo with permutations and combinations of syllables that approximate the gait of the conventional Kaharvaa.


The next track is a Kafi written by Khwaja Ghulam Farid, a 19th-century Sufi poet, and sung by Salamat Ali and Nazakat Ali, prominent vocalists from Pakistan and chief representatives of the Sham Chaurasi gharana. The composition is set to an eight-matra cycle that is often referred to as Punjabi Kaharvaa, a taal that is employed more by vocalists in Pakistan than in India. It is similar to Ashtarupak that was played in the earlier track, but is often played a little faster than the former.

Interestingly, the gait of the Punjabi Kaharvaa also resembles Dhumali, a taal used to accompany abhangs or devotional songs written by saint-poets from Maharashtra. But the difference lies in the fact that the Punjabi Kaharvaa starts with a flat palm stroke on the bass drum, whereas Dhumali starts with a resonant open stroke.

Accompaniment on this track is provided by tabla player Faryad Hussain Khan also called Bhulli Khan and by sarangi player Ghulam Muhammad.