In our fourth episode in our series on Rupak, a rhythmic cycle with seven matras or time-units, we listen to tracks that feature instrumental explorations of this taal.
Before we go ahead, I might mention an interesting characteristic of many gats or instrumental compositions set to Rupak. Ordinarily, the sthayi of a slow gat, or the first line that acts as the theme for elaboration, is completed in one cycle of the taal. For instance, the sthayi of a gat set to vilambit or slow Teentaal will usually extend over one cycle of this 16-matra taal. However, in the case of Rupak, instrumentalists often design the vilambit gat so as to use two avartans or cycles. The canvas, therefore, expands from a short seven matras to 14 matras. Some may question this decision as it does not necessarily conform either to the basic character and structure of the taal or to the conventional framework of vilambit gats in other taals. But the fact remains that this has become a norm, and it is only on rare occasions that instrumentalists have chosen to restrict the sthayi to one avartan.
This decision has in turn also influenced the manner in which tabla players have structured their rhythmic responses. While the soloists depart from the two-avartan framework and treat each one as a discreet entity, the tabla player has to, perforce, follow the former since the soloists maintain the 14-matra sthayi as a refrain for the tabla players to improvise upon. Once again, this has become a norm, and all tabla players are accustomed to responding accordingly.
The first track in this episode features santoor maestro Shivkumar Sharma. He plays a gat in the raag Desh set to a medium-tempo Rupak taal. Listeners will note that the sthayi extends over two avartans. He is accompanied by tabla virtuoso Anindo Chatterjee.
The next track has a composition set to a medium-tempo Rupak. Once again a two-avartan gat, this time played by sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, who follows it with an instrumental interpretation of a traditional vocal composition. He has chosen Sitarkhani or Addha taal for the latter. The rendition later moves to a climactic end with Teentaal. Tabla accompaniment is provided by the well-known Shafaat Ahmed Khan.