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Re: Looping Drummers who play tabla

Rick wrote:

>One thing about the traditional use of the tablas is that Indian rhythms
>very linear and are not ostinato/repetitive like the
>west african/caribbean/middleeastern paradigm.

Have to call you on that one, Rick!  :-)  The rhythms of traditional North
Indian classical music are truly cyclical -- if you think about it, a theka
is a basic rhythmic loop, outlining the taal.  Of course, there's a world 
difference between theka and various tabla or pakhawaj compositions in solo
performance.  But as a sitarist my training has been to listen to the
ostinato patterns of the theka to hear where stressed and unstressed beats
fall within the taal cycle, so as to calculate how many beats are left 
the return of the 'sam' (= "one" or highly stressed first beat).  An Indian
musician hears the taal very much as a rhythmic ostinato, over which the
melody is woven.  By contrast, Indian musicians hear most other non-Indian
musical rhythms as being "linear" or non-resolving.

But in solo Indian drumming performance I would agree -- it's often very
difficult to keep track of the taal since there is so much "layakari"
 literally "rhythm work") of doubling/quadrupling/octupling the tempo,
introducing cross-rhythms (e.g., 7 against 16), rubato, etc.  In this 
the drummer will often return to the theka as a resting point in which to
refresh the audience's memory of the taal itself, something similar to
playing the "head" in a jazz composition after many choruses of

>I am extremely fond of playing something like Mozambique
>from Cuba using all of the delicious melodic aspects of the tabla.
>It really grooves and is very unconventional.

The late Collin Walcott (of the ensemble Oregon) used to do this with tabla
as well -- he'd incorporate very standard Afro-Cuban cowbell type rhythms 
the tabla and they always sounded great.

>Any one who has made a serious study out of this most amazing of hand
>drums would know that I'm NOT an accomplished tabla player

Nor am I.  As an instrumentalist within the Indian classical tradition, I'm
expected to have a functional knowledge of tabla.  I've had training and 
play VERY rudimentary tabla, but certainly not to the point of providing
accompaniment to a vocalist or instrumentalist in a high level musical
setting.  But that doesn't necessarily mean I can't have fun with the 
And they certainly are great for looping.

I also have a "tabla machine" which I use for standard ICM (Indian 
music) practice.  This too is a great looping tool.  I often use it to set
up a very off-kilter rhythm bed, for instance an 11-beat taal versus a
7-beat taal, over which to improvise melodically.