The function of rhythm in a composition is to maintain balance in the music as Prof. Sambamoorthy explained. The famous aphorism, ‘Sruti Matha, Layam Pitha’ (Sruti is the mother and layam is the father) brings out the importance of singing to accurate sruti and time.
The presumption about tala is that it is in the Chatusra gathi, i.e., four matrais between two beats. This time frame, which contains four, can be made to accommodate three, five, seven or nine as well. Then they become tisra, khanda, misra or sankeerna gathis. Based on this, well-known musician Abhishek Raghuram and his team have conceptualised a unique tala ensemble, named 4=5. As 4 becomes the new 5, so do a few other numbers change as well.
In an 18-minute video, Abhishek Raghuram, on the kanjira, initiates the tani avartanam in the basic chatusra gathi (four) at a medium pace in chathusra jathi triputa talam. He is joined by Sai Giridhar (mridangam) and Krishna Sriram (ghatam). The trio slowly switches over to Khanda gathi (five) and then divides the Khanda (5) into fours, making the tempo of this ‘fours’ in khandam as adi talam, and increases the tempo. They then play chatusra in these fours of khanda and continue to play tisram on that new chatusra gathi. From this, they arrive at another new, fast-paced chatusram, only to play khandam again. This is further divided into a fast-paced chatusram and the trio plays misram (seven), ensuing in a fascinating crescendo of the laya vinyasa in the new, superfast chatusram. All these variations, played with mathematical precision, are based on the initial Chatusra nadai.
All three artistes vie with each other in keeping up with the increasing tempo. Abhishek Raghuram has proved again that he is a worthy grandson of the legendary mridangist Palghat Raghu. That Abhishek successfully straddles his passion for laya along with his devotion to vocal music deserves appreciation.
The audio recording and mixing by Shri Sainath merits special mention. Similarly, video and editing by S.R.Manivannan, Muthu Krishnan and Balaji Manivannan are brilliant. Stage design and background are by Nandini SaiGiridhar. This video can be watched on Abhishek Raghuram’s YouTube channel.
As their journey continues, their quest deepens, since the scope for innovating, experimenting and evolving new concepts is infinite.
The Chennai-based author writes on music and culture.