Laya and Tala:
                 (Scroll down to find the desired term)


Laya: pronunciation: LU-yuh.. Laya means speed or tempo. It may be slow (Vilambit), medium (Maddhya) or fast (Drut). These terms are explained below:

Vilambit Laya: pronunciation: Vi-LUM-bit LU-yuh. Vilambita means delayed, prolonged or slow and refers here to slow tempo. It may be very slow (Ati - pronunciation: Uh-tee - Vilambit), slow, or "medium slow" (Maddhya Vilambit). The adjective "Ati" means "very". This range covers speeds referred to in western music as Grave, Lento, Largo and Adagio. In really slow tempo, a single beat could well be between ten and fifteen seconds long. In fact, at such slow speeds it is often necessary to ceep count by sounding sub-beats (called Khanapuri pronunciation: KHAR-nar-puree, literally meaning "filling the house") within two adjecent beats of the Tala in progress. (Neither western music nor Carnatic music has such slow speeds: indeed, Carnatic music does not use slow speeds at all, rather, it starts from Moderato or even Allegretto). Such slow speeds are usually used by Khayal (KHU-yaal) singers, especially of the Kirana (KI-raa-naa) Gharana (GHU-raa-naa) or the Kirana school of Khayal singers.

Madhya Laya: pronunciation: MUD-dhyuh LU-yuh. Medium speed. This corresponds to speeds ranging from Moderato (or Andande) to about Allegretto or even Allegro non troppo.

Drut Laya: pronunciation: DRUT ("u" as "u" in "put") LU-yuh.. Drut means fast. It ranges from Allegro to Prestissimo and beyond. At its fastest, the speed can be incredibly and breath-takingly fast, touching approximately eight beats per second or faster. Such speeds are employed by instrumentalists during the Jhala (pronunciation:JHAA-laa) phase. Drut Laya or fast tempo may be either medium slow (Maddhya Drut), fast (Drut) or very fast (Ati Drut).
In ancient musicological treatises, musical time was measured with reference to certain non-musical standards such as the average speed of the normal blinking of the eye or the average speed of the normal cawing of the crow. The late Dr Bimal Roy (the foremost musicologist of 20th century India and with whom both the resource persons of this site Dr Chintamani Rath and Prof. Basavi Mukerji have studied) empirically measured this last standard of time used as a constant measure (the call of the crow) and found it to correspond to ninety beats per minute. To simplify counting, Dr Roy worked by taking this standard to be to be the more familiar ninty-six beats per minute.

Tala: pronunciation: TAA-la. Rhythm cycle. Rhythmic beats or pulses may be strong beats or weak beats; in all cases, the sound syllables that may be produced on a drum are given individual names, such as "Dhaa", "Naa", "Dhin", "Tin", "Tirkit", "Kut", "Thoom", "Ghe" and more. A Tala is an endlessly repeating series of a specified number of ordered drum syllables. The string of the syllables themselves, in any particular series, is called the Theka (approximate pronunciation: THHEY-kaa - the exact consonant used here is not present in English) of that series. A single cycle is called an Avartan (pronunciation: AH-vur-ton). So a Tala is an endless chain of Avartans of a specific Theka. In theory, there are hundreds of Talas; however, in modern day practice, about fifteen or twenty are in common use.

Some examples-

Dadra6 beats - (compund duple time)
Kaharva4beats - (common time)
Rupak, Tivra7 beats
Jhaptal, Sooltal10 beats
Ektal12 beats
Jhoomra, Deepchandi14 beats
Teental, Tilvada16 beats
... and many moreincluding fractional beats like 8 and half and so on


Bandish: pronunciation: BUN-dish. A fixed composition. The word literally alludes to the composition being "tied" by and within the framework of the Tala. That is to say, the Bandish is the theme or subject that is precomposed and not improvised. It is a melodic composition that is short, cyclical (i.e., capable of endless repetition), complete in itself and expoliting as well as demonstrating certain unique, well-defined, characteristic, interesting or novel phrases or note-combinations of the Raga in which it is composed. Dhrupad Bandishes usually have four parts -- the Sthayi, Antara, Sanchari and Abhog. Khayal Bandishes, often called "Cheez" (pronunciation: CHEE-se), have two sections -- the Sthayi and the Antara.

Gat: pronunciation: GUT. A Bandish for an instrument. There are several types of Gat, such as Masidkhani (Ma-SEED-khaa-nee), Razakhani (Ru-ZAA-khaa-nee), Firozkhani (Fe-ROSE-khaa-nee) and others, a discussion of which is beyond the ambit of this article.

Sam: pronunciation: SUM. In cyclic rhythm, it is necessary to fix one beat or pulse as the initial beat of the cycle, otherwise, there would be no cycle in the first place. This beat is called Sam. It is the reference point for all the other beats and is accorded a slightly extra accent over the other beats. In Indian music, all pieces of music are always concluded on the first beat or Sam of the Tala and never on its last beat. The Sam is the point of rhythmic resolution.

Tihai: pronunciation: Te-HI. A sequence of three phrases, that may or may not be melodically identical but must be rhythmically so (although there are some exceptions, but this is beyond the scope of this article) and which culminate at a predesired point of the Tala cycle, usually the Sam or the beat immediately before the Bandish or Gat starts. A Tihai can be an exciting, high-tension and virtuositic technique creating and then resolving nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat rhythmic tension, but it is also easy to overdo its use in a recital. There are several types of Tihai like Chakradhar Tihai, Bemancha Tihai, Navadha Tihai and many more, some of them of very complex structures, used especially in Kathak dance (such as Ghurnidar Tihai of 27, 54, 108 etc. Ghurnis or twirls by the dancer, employing repeated counting in ascending or descending arithmetic progression). For a detailed exposition on this fascinating area, see Dr Rath's essay "A Grammar of the Tihai" on this website.