Pandit Yogesh Samsi's DhageTirakita gegeTirakita Dhinegene Development Transcribed

This is a beautiful composition of Ustad Amir Hussain Khan that I first learned in Delhi in 2006. Since I'm showing this to a few students now, it seemed like a good enough reason for a blog post on the subject. The theme is:

DhageTirakita gegeTirakita Dhinegene / DhageTirakita gegeNaNagene Tinekene


It's a composition that Pandit Yogesh Samsi plays beautifully, as evidenced in the two YouTube videos that I will link to. The first one is the one I transcribed (and by the way, if you haven't heard this solo before in it's entirety, be sure to! It's one of his very best):

...While the second is another example of the same composition but played in drut tintal as opposed to vilambit. The development is a little different, with some of the longer paltas excluded, but it's almost the same otherwise.

I'll stress at this point that the fact I took the time to transcribe Yogeshji's development, and the fact that I'm teaching this composition to my students, does NOT mean that I'm copying his development! I transcribe compositions like this to understand an artist's thought process, but then it's up to us as artists to find our own development for the same composition. Imitation is not creative expression!

That being said, let's take a look at the development. The most interesting part in my opinion (and perhaps the hardest to play) are the long variations with "Dhinegene + Tirakita" repetitions. Going straight from Dhinegene to Tirakita is unusual in my experience and it takes some special practice if you're not used to it. There are also chains of Tirakitas in paltas five and six, meaning that you really cannot play this development using full-hand technique. After the long paltas, Yogeshji switches the structure to begin on Dhinegene, which changes the feel of the groove. Then the development ends with one of Yogeshji's favorite Tihai structures, which is essentially (5+5+5+5+Dha)x3. Note the back-and-forth between bhari and khali phrases in the tihai also.

So there it is! I hope this is useful for a few Tabla players out there. If you'd like help transcribing a Tabla composition you've heard, feel free to write me and if I have the time and the inclination, I'll try to help out. :)


A long-overdue Visitor Request: Pandit Sudhir Mainkar's DhatiDhagena DhaTirakita Development

This is something I've been meaning to do for a long time, and I'm grateful to my visitor Siddhant for prompting me to finally post it. Here, in contrast to Ustad Zakir Hussain's kaida development that I posted such a long time ago, is my own guru's development of the same kaida.

The development of this kaida is strongly influenced by Sudhirji's guru, Ustad Inam Ali Khan, most notably (in my view) in the development of the Tisra jati portion of the composition. That particular tisra jati theme is exactly how Ustad Inam Ali Khan would have played it, and represents his philosophy that tisra jati developments in Tintal should be based on groups of four beats rather than groups of three beats (meaning you start with the original four beat line, such as "DhatiDhagenaDhatirakita, and then add an additional two beats to that, so 4+2+4+2. This is in contrast to the philosophy of establishing a theme of 3+3+3+3).

Apart from that, take note of the methodical approach Sudhirji demonstrates in expanding the composition, starting from "DhatiDhagena" and "Dhinagena" paltas and eventually transitioning to a focus on Tirakita. The development concludes with a crescendo of Tirakita rolls. Notice that the bol "Taka" never appears once, e.g. "DhaTirakitataka," and instead multiple Tirakitas are strung together to produce longer rolls; in this way we never break the rule of introducing bols which do not appear in the theme, a critical element of traditional Delhi gharana development.

As the kaida progresses from slow to medium to fast, I'm compelled to abbreviate the bols first by removing the "h" from Dha and Dhin and eventually writing each bol as a single letter each. I hope everyone can follow along easily enough despite these abbreviations. So with no further ado, here is the development in its entirety:

Sudhir Mainkar DhaTrkt kaida p1
Sudhir Mainkar DhaTrkt kaida p2

Pandit Sudhir Mainkar produced recordings of many kaidas and relas, with the help of such great musicians as Pandit Ramdas Palsule, Pandit Yogesh Samsi, and many others in the hopes that it would inspire young Tabla players to better understand the art of Delhi Gharana improvisation. I hope that providing transcriptions such as these helps to further that goal on behalf of my teacher. Take this development, study it, and see how the approaches taken by Sudhirji might be applied to other compositions in your repertoire.





Pandit Anokhelal Mishra's kitataka DhiraDhira Rela

Is this an intermediate lesson or an advanced lesson?  The answer is it can be either; it just depends on how fast you play it.  So long as you can play DhiraDhira, you can attempt this rela.

When I was in Delhi I was taught a simple DhiraDhira exercise: DhiraDhira DhiraDhira kitataka kitataka.  I practiced it but at the time it wasn't readily obvious that such a simple passage had much musical potential; rather, it looked like the sort of exercise meant to strengthen the hand only. Then I heard Pandit Anokhelal Mishra play it.

Pandit Anokhelal Mishra was a very great Tabla player of the Benares Gharana.  I've heard many stories about him from my gurus; the stories both inspire and intimidate. He supposedly died of gangrene in his legs, the result of sitting cross-legged for hours and hours of practice (obsessive-compulsive?). They also say that he missed his daughter's funeral for practicing.  Whether those stories are actually true or not, he certainly garnered tremendous respect from his peers, not least of all Ustad Ahmedjaan Thirakwa.  There's a story where Thirakwa forgot a gift from Anokhelal on the train: a walking stick.  Upon realizing his mistake, to the dismay of the concert organizers, Thirakwa refused to leave the train station until the walking stick was returned by an incoming train many hours later.

In any case, this remarkable fluency of Kitataka and DhiraDhira seems to have been one of the hallmarks of Anokhelal's playing, and it's well represented in this rela.  What's also remarkable is that the rela kicks of with a series of six Dhiras in a row - not for the faint of heart. There is a lovely back-and-forth between bhari and khali phrases at the end of variation 2, after which the rela quickly reduces in size until it becomes a rapid-fire exchange between DhiraDhira and kitataka phrases.  All in all, it's a fairly self-explanatory development.  All it takes is practice, practice, practice!  But don't lose your legs over it. :)



Advanced Lesson: Ustad Zakir Hussain's "DhatiDhagena Dha Tirakita," Transcribed

As the title of this lesson suggests, this is the complete full-speed development of DhatiDhagena DhaTirakita as performed by Ustad Zakir Hussain on the album Selects.  I've long been captivated by this performance and finally decided to transcribe it to better understand Zakir ji's development process.  The transcription notes the time when each cycle is played so you can follow along.  If you don't own this album, buy it!  It represents some of the finest examples of Tabla music ever released.

I'm going to post the transcription both as jpegs and as a pdf to download.  Please note that the paltas are broken down into constituent blocks of phrases, not by matra.  I feel that this makes the composition much easier to read and better illuminates the thought process.

After completing the transcription, a few things jumped out at me.  Note that the bol tirakita, the primary subject of this kaida, is not played to an overwhelming degree; In fact, the only time two "Dha Tirakita" phrases are ever played back to back is once in avartaan 11 (in fact, the phrase is "Ta Tirakita" as it only occurs in the khali section).  The relationship between "Dha Tirakita" and its neighboring phrases of "Dhati" and "Dhagena" are of much more interest to Zakir ji.  The entire development is distinguished by the fluidity of the paltas, the use of farashbandi (paltas where the khali section does not match the bhari section, such as avartaans 4 and 11 among others), and the way one palta informs the next.  Note that the extended roll in the khali section of avartaans 12 and 13 is a throwback to Ustad Habibuddin Khan.  Overall the performance has a feeling of spontaneity which I find extremely enjoyable. 

I hope that other tabla players can use this transcription to help inform their own kaida developments, rather than just memorize and imitate this one.  In a future blog post I'll provide a transcription of my guru Pandit Sudhir Mainkar's development of this same kaida for contrast.  If you appreciate this material and want to see more, let me know!


The First Practice of the Day

One of my students asked me to write something on how to start practice every day, and for general bayan/bol clarity practice.  Luckily, both of these can be tied together into one basic sequence of exercises.

This is not the end-all, be-all morning practice for every student; naturally, the practice one does has to be personalized for your own particular needs, and furthermore it evolves over the years in which you learn.  That being said, the exercises below are always valuable to play regardless of a Tabla player's skill level.  The difficulty of each exercise can be increased with speed/power/duration of exercise, et cetera, so there is always something to be gained by playing these patterns.

So let's take a look:


Exercise 1 should begin at a slow pace, around 45 beats per minute or thereabouts.  You should first focus on the sound of the individual drums, particularly the resonance of the Na and Tin syllables.  The pace of the right hand will not change for the duration of the exercise, which is a good thing as students rarely (if ever) practice Tintal bols at a slow speed and then later struggle to do this well.  After the speed has been established, one by one we will add bayan strokes within each matra.  The goal should be to reach sankirna jati, or a total of nine beats on the left hand for every matra of Tintal, but beginners can start by trying to achieve four bayan strokes per matra.  Not that kat should be played in place of ghe during the khali portion of the cycle.

For the subsequent exercises the speed can be increased to a medium-fast tempo depending on the ability of the student.  Exercise 2 implements a swift low-high modulation on the bayan, a technique which I call gamak due to its similarity to the vocal technique of the same name.  Vishal ji used to call this "pulling."  This is probably the most physically demanding of these exercises assuming that one plays it at a challenging speed.

Exercises 3 and 4 are basically the same, alternating low and high notes on the bayan throughout the bhari notes of tintal.  Note that if you end on a high note before khali, the bayan resumes on a low note, and vice versa.  The student should make an effort to exert a lot of pressure on the high notes to get a significant change in pitch.  I find that this exercise in particular drives students crazy!

Exercises 5 and 6 train you in dynamic bayan playing.  Each alternating stroke should stand out in volume rather than pitch.  Use the impact of the wrist to provide this effect.

Finally, for exercise 7 we start at our highest possible pitch on beat 14 of Tintal and gradually let the pitch drop until the final bayan stroke on beat 9.  For convenience I have started the bols from beat 14 so that the exercise is easier to visualize.

Throughout these exercises, the student should take care that they are alternating their bayan fingers.  They should also take care to listen carefully to their sound production and slow down if necessary to play clear bols on the dayan.  Exercises do no good if we use them to reinforce sloppy technique!

Practicing each of these exercises for a mere 5 minutes will mean more than half an hour of combined Bayan and Tintal practice every day.  In Delhi I could practice Tintal for an hour easily every morning without even the aid of this carefully developed sequence, but of course I used to practice 6-8 hours there.  So the length of practice can be scaled down to suit the time frame that a student has to play.  And of course there is much more to practicing Tintal, or developing good bayan technique, than these seven exercises but I think this is a great way for anyone to get started.

I hope this lesson proves helpful!  Please feel free to post follow-up questions below or let me know what you think of these exercises.  I will try to post a video of me playing the exercises in sequence soon.  In the meantime, if you have any other requests for online lessons please let me know.


Punjab kaida: Dha - Tete DhaDhaTete DhageDhinagena

This kaida is credited to Ustad Alla Rakha, and among current masters it is being played with astonishing brilliance by his student Pandit Yogesh Samsi.  I first learned it from my guru Pandit Vishal Nagar and the first recording of it I ever heard was from Ustad Zakir Hussain's Tabla solo album "The Ultimate in Percussion Music [1986]" where he plays a modified version in 14 beats.  As this is a Punjab kaida, Tete should be played index finger first and middle finger second, rather than the other way around, but of course people play it both ways.  For students who have never before practiced Punjab style tete this is a good kaida to learn it with.

So here's the composition as it appears in Tintal:

Dha - Tete DhaDhaTete DhageDhinagena Dha -

Dha - TeteTete DhaDhaTete DhageTinakena

Ta - Tete TaTaTete TakeTinakena Dha -

Dha - TeteTete DhaDhaTete DhageDhinagena

Let's go ahead and analyze it quickly.  This is basically a two-line composition with each line ending in the identical phrase "DhaDhaTete DhageDhinagena [or Tinakena]."  This phrase comprises five beats.  The first line begins with "Dha - Tete" and the second line begins with "Dha - Dha - TeteTete," so a doubling of that motif.  Taken together, the first line comprises seven beats and the second line 9 beats.  Let's compare the two lines separately:

Dha - Tete DhaDhaTete DhageDhinagena (7)

Dha - Dha - TeteTete DhaDhaTete DhageTinakena (9)

Ta - Tete TaTaTete TakeTinakena (7)

Dha - Dha - TeteTete DhaDhaTete DhageDhinagena (9)

The unequal length of these phrases leads to interesting variations at the outset because while a typical dohara or 3+1 -type variation is technically possible, it will sound rather dull in comparison to some of the other options now available to us.  So now I'll quickly provide some sample variations along with a breakdown of the structure and indications for where each new phrase starts.

Option 1: 7+7+9+9

/ Dha - Tete DhaDhaTete DhageDhinagena / Dha -

Tete DhaDhaTete DhageDhinagena / Dha - Dha -

TeteTete DhaDhaTete DhageDhinagena / Dha -

Dha - TeteTete DhaDhaTete DhageTinakena

Option 2: 7+7+7+11

/ Dha - Tete DhaDhaTete DhageDhinagena / Dha -

Tete DhaDhaTete DhageDhinagena / Dha - Tete

DhaDhaTete DhageDhinagena / Dha - Dha - Tete

Tete DhaDhaTete DhaDhaTete DhageTinakena

Option 3: 7+9+11+5

/ Dha - Tete DhaDhaTete DhageDhinagena / Dha -

Dha - TeteTete DhaDhaTete DhageDhinagena

/ Dha - Dha - Dha - TeteTeteTete DhaDhaTete

DhageDhinagena / DhaDhaTete DhageTinakena

All three of these variations serve as a potential starting point, or they can all three be played in a row.  These are all very superficial variations, just playing with the structure of the composition; we haven't yet even begun to play with the actual language available to us.

I hope you found this helpful!  If there are other compositions or subjects that you would like me to write about, please contact me and I will try to accommodate your request.