Sonic Saturdays has previously featured articles on taals used in Hindustani music. These were primarily taals that are more popularly used for accompaniment and tabla or pakhawaj solo recitals. But there are others that are less commonly heard, particularly for accompanying vocal music. This is the first episode of a short series that will focus on such taals.
We begin with Matta taal, a rhythmic cycle of nine matras or time-units. The commonly accepted distribution of the matras across the vibhags/khands or divisions of this taal are 2-2-2-1-2. Another version distributes the matras as 2-2-2-1½ -1½. In the latter case, the theka includes a cadential phrase over the last three matras, which almost invites the sum/sam or the first matra of the approaching cycle that is a point of resolution. This cadential phrase is often mirrored in instrumental gats or compositions and in the manner that performers often structure their melodic-rhythmic elaboration over the canvas of this taal.
Bansuri maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia present the raag Jog on the following track. He plays a gat in Matta taal. Listeners will note that he explores the aforementioned cadential phrase to the fullest. However, this phrase played on the tabla changes to a straight phrase of three syllables as the tempo increases towards the end.
The next track has a gat set to Matta taal in Bairagi Bhairav, a raag prescribed for the morning. The iconic santoor virtuoso Shivkumar Sharma includes a series of cross-rhythmic patterns while elaborating upon this theme.
The illustrious sitar player Nikhil Banerjee plays a gat set to Matta taal in the raag Nat Bhairav.
Matta taal as played on pakhawaj has a completely different structure to the one that is played on tabla. Here is a pakhawaj solo featuring Arjun Shejwal, an exponent of the Nanasaheb Panse gharana.
One of India’s leading tabla players, Aneesh Pradhan is a widely recognised performer, teacher, composer and scholar of Hindustani music. Visit his website here.