Last week, we began a journey with Rupak taal, a rhythmic cycle of seven matras or time-units. The previous episode featured one composition set to Rupak, but sung at different tempi by three vocalists. Today, we will listen to the same taal used in different compositions and at various tempi. Significantly, Rupak is usually played at vilambit laya or slow speed or at madhya laya or medium speed. It is almost never played at drut or fast pace, unless a specific composition demands such treatment.
Eminent vocalist Kishori Amonkar sings a vilambit composition set to Rupak in Vibhaas, a raag prescribed for the morning. The narrow expanse of Rupak does not deter her melodic elaboration, as she continues exploring the raag over several avartans or cycles before resolving with the mukhda (which literally translates to the face of the composition). The taal assumes the role of a constant pulse with equal weightage given to each matra, rather than making the vibhags or bar-divisions evident. It is only when she engages in subtle layakari or rhythmic interplay using the words of the song-text that the canvas of Rupak reveals itself to the listener.
She follows it with a composition in the 16-matra Addha taal.
Jitendra Abhisheki, renowned vocalist and composer, sings a madhya laya composition in Bhimpalasi, a raag conventionally sung in the late afternoon. The laya chosen for this rendition and the measured melodic elaboration helps in defining the contours of the taal clearly.
The concluding track features Amir Khan, path-breaking vocalist and founder of the Indore gharana. He sings two compositions in Jog, a raag prescribed for the night. Unlike his usual choice of the 14-matra Jhumra at a very slow speed for his vilambit compositions, Amir Khan sings the first composition here in a medium-paced Rupak. Despite it being played at a medium tempo, Rupak appears more as a constant pulse than as a taal in its fullest sense, as the maestro’s relaxed and reposeful melodic elaboration heard in recitals that used Jhumra does not change here with the choice of taal. It is only after several avartans that he sings the mukhda that indicates to the listener the sum/sam or first matra of the cycle.
The second composition, a famous creation of the Agra gharana maestro Faiyaz Khan, is set to drut Teentaal, a cycle of 16 matras.