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Re: Tabla loops, samples and my Indian Rhythm mistatements

Rick wrote:

>Sorry for my innacurate statement about Indian rhythm:

No need to apologize.  I wasn't trying to flame you, just giving my two
cents' worth from long training in ICM.

>I guess what I meant
>to say is that in practise the focus of most of the tabla playing that I
>have heard has been the ornamentation over the thekas (if my terminology 
>correct here).

In solo drumming the theka is all but ignored, and used as just a reference
point between extended cycles of improvisation.  When accompanying singers
or instrumentalists, though, the theka is heard almost exclusively, 
it's acceptable to make small variations like doubling a stroke or leaving
it silent.  Many instrumentalists prefer a more robust, challenging, as you
called it "commentary" type of accompaniment where the tabla player will
echo the instrument's phrases, play cross rhythms against the melody, etc.
This is a very recent innovation, only from the last 40 years or so.
Vocalists still prefer to have only the theka, not the added ornamentation.

>Of course the talas are repetitive but there is a distinct difference
>between the way most Indian classical drummers approach rhythms as opposed
>to the way West African drummers approach rhythms.
>African drumming seems to be much more
>'part' oriented with the emphasis on the sound of all of the parts
>interlocking (without a tremendous amount of variation) as opposed to the
>more individualist,
>'commentary' oriented tabla players.

That's true -- on the whole Indian music is much more geared to the
individual as opposed to an ensemble with multiple parts.  So in North
Indian music ususally a performance of classical music would be a very 
ensemble of vocalist or instrumentalist, accompanied by a single drummer 
a drone background.  In fact it's not really thought of as an "ensemble" at
all -- more of a soloist (vocal or instrumental) accompanied by drum and

>Neither one is better or worse

You couldn't have said it better!  They are two separate aesthetics -- it's
"apples and oranges" and any attempt to say one has more worth is
ridiculous.  It's like saying water is better than air.

>(though don't get some african or indian
>musicians or, worse yet, students of african or indian musicians who are
>originally from the culture going on this subject........it'll never end).

Aha!  The zeal of the converted.  I know it well.

>I did an improvisational duet concert with my good friend Debhashish
>Battycharya (the hindustani slide master) where I only used
>ostinato groove rhythms from the african paradigm and the middleeastern
>It produced some interesting results, particularly as Debhashish is an
>rhythmatist, soaring over the 'grooves' I laid down for him. He has 
>inpired me to get a lot deeper with polyrhythmic and polymetric phrasing.
>have used looping techniques to learn how to phrase in any time signature
>against any other time signature.

In Indian music the soloist (vocal or instrumental) is at the top of the
musical hierarchy in a performance setting.  This means that they have full
control of what raga gets sung or played, as well as which taal it will be
performed in, at what tempo, etc.  I once was asked to accompany a great
pakhawaj (older, deeper sounding drum than the tabla) master, Pandit Arjun
Shejwal, for a tour of solo pakhawaj performances.  So our roles were
reversed - he was the soloist and I was the timekeeping accompanist.  I
played a repetitive timekeeping melody called "lehera" (the melodic
equivalent of theka) on the sitar while he improvised incedibly complex
rhythmic patterns within and against the taal.  It was quite humbling,
trying to keep perfect time while playing the same unornamented melody for
over an hour at a stretch, especially since Panditji was utiling the entire
array of cross-rhythms, halving/doubling/quadrupling/octupling the taal,
playing elastic phrases that stretched across several cycles of the taal,
using complex tihais, etc.  The whole experience gave me a chance to see 
the other half (drummers) lived, and gave me a deep respect for

>I just find it fascinating that most people who use tabla samples
>Indian masters like Talvin Singh) end up having them
>sound like they have a west african or african diaspora rhythmic
>Of course the rhythmic sensibility of the african diaspora has dominated
>modern global
>pop music.........witness the ubiquitous nature of the backbeat in pop.

That's true.  In Indian pop/film music there's a very healthy dose of both
African and Western elements, with only minimal input from classical Indian

>Please pardon the ignorance of my earlier statement.

Again, no apology needed.  There was no "ignorance" at all - you were
describing what you hear in tabla playing.  I was just commenting, not
trying to provoke a flame war.

It's a big world getting smaller all the time, so it's a fertile time for
diverse musical traditions.