The fifth episode in our series on Ektaal, a rhythmic cycle of 12 matras or time-units, highlights the use of this taal in vilambit laya or slow tempo by instrumentalists. This is done when they present an instrumental interpretation of the vilambit khayal. As is the case with vocal renditions, instrumentalists in this context also first play the composition and then proceed to elaborate upon it.

Some would consider the absence of the vocal element a major hindrance to a faithful representation of the khayal, as the song-text, an integral part of khayal, is missing from the presentation. This opinion suggests that such a recital is in fact a long free-flowing melodic elaboration of the raag loosely built over a rhythmic canvas of 12 matras, which could well have been played over lesser or more matras with little or nothing to do with all the elements of the taal. But that is a criticism leveled even against those vocalists who do not use the words of the song-text and prefer to employ an aakaar or the vowel “aa” for all melodic elaboration.

Despite this debate on what constitutes a true representation of khayal, there is no doubt that the use of vilambit Ektaal by instrumentalists is influenced by khayal. Similar to certain vocal styles, some instrumentalists choose to accelerate the speed of the taal as they move through different passages of melodic elaboration, while others maintain the original speed. Listeners will note that the instrumentalists presenting interpretations of vilambit khayals either play wind or bowed instruments.

The first track today features bansuri maestro Pannalal Ghosh. He plays a vilambit composition set to Ektaal in Desi (also called Desi Todi by some), a raag prescribed for the morning. He follows this with a drut or fast composition, also originally a vocal drut khayal, set to Teentaal.


Sarangi exponent Munir Khan plays a composition set to vilambit Ektaal in Nand, a raag prescribed for the night.


N Rajam, renowned violinist, presents Malkauns, a raag prescribed for the night. She plays a composition in vilambit Ektaal followed by an instrumental interpretation of a drut khayal set to Teentaal. She is accompanied by tabla player Vinod Lele.


The final track has a harmonium solo recital by well-known performer Sudhanshu Kulkarni accompanied by Mukundraj Deo on the tabla. Kulkarni plays a composition set to vilambit Ektaal and a composition in drut Teentaal. Both compositions are in Madhuvanti, a raag prescribed for the evening.


Also read:

Listen: Enter the world of Ektaal with performances by three maestros

Listen: Fast or slow, Ektaal lends itself to a variety of tempi, as these performances show

Listen: Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Narayan Bodas, Bhimsen Joshi demonstrate how expansive Ektaal is

Listen: Ektaal lends itself to instrumental music too, as these sitar and santoor performances show