Identifying the timing / thalam of songs

Identifying the timing (thalam) of a song is always very interesting, especially songs with a bit complex rhythm. I remember arguing with my colleagues that "Roja poo aadi vandhadhu" song from Agni Natchathiram is in 3/4 or some multiples of it, where as they were arguing that it was in 4/4. You can actually count 1-2-3-4 with that song and it will actually fit into the song rhythm. Only after a few days, did we conclude that the song was in 6/8 (tha ki ta ; tha thi mi). Other similar songs in 6/8 include Iravu nilavu (Anjali), Vegam Vegam (Anjali), Kaalam Kaalamaga vandha (Punnagai Mannan), Theme Music (Punnagai Mannan), Vaan Megam (Punnagai Mannan), Oh Oho Megam vandhadho (Mouna Raagam), Aathadi Ammadi (Idhayathai Thirudathe), etc. Interestingly IR has composed the last 3 songs, which are actually rain songs, in similar rhythm. Infact 6/8 rhythm generally conveys / brings in a jolly mood. I also heard that IR has composed many of his songs in 6/8, while ARR uses 4/4 by default. But I guess a composer will not generally start composing by saying, let me do it in 6/8 or 4/4 or whatever. It comes natutally to them when they start composing. It would also depend on the environment and culture in which they were brought up I believe. IR would have probably heard a lot of folk songs in his childhood, and hence 6/8 might be natural to him.

OK, now try identifying the thalam / timing of the song "Malarae Malarae" from the film, Power of Women and post it in the comments. The rhythm pattern is not a normal one for this timing and hence might be a bit confusing. It is a good song by Vidyasagar with a strong kaapi flavour, and sung by Hariharan (he is the lead artist too in the film).


  1. I guess the timing is in the 7/8 family. ie : it could be 14 / 16 (this is what i initially guessed).

  2. Yes jerald, you are absolutely right. Even i think it is in 7/8. Not sure if it is in 14/16. I will listen once again to confirm.
    When I first heard the song the rhythm pattern was a bit confusing. It is not a normal rhythm pattern for this timing. 7/8 is generally "tha ki ta ; tha ka thi mi". But in the pallavi portions it sounds more like "tha ka thi mi ; tha ki ta".

  3. Yes Ramesh, "tha ka thi mi; tha ki ta" sits perfect.

  4. Anonymous1:39 AM

    Nice blog and interesting post. I never observed such nitty-gritties for songs like roja poo i think i will have something to learn technically from this blog.
    The ones that made me think hard were - Aagayia Vennilave(uma ramanan& KJY - arangetra velai) and Solladha Ragangal from mahanadhi - ramesh i was surprised to see this song caught your attention too.
    Agaya vennilave seems to fit in thisra nadai and chatusra. This is how i think it is(take the syllables aagaya vennilave - it fits in as tha ki ta(4 times) or thaka thimi(3 times). its basically 12 beats(3*4 or 4*3) i see tabla is played as thakathimi*3 in the song.
    Solladha ragangal - i would think this would fit in rupaka thalam throughout. i could figure out only from the interludes and definitely not from the song.
    To raaja, the meter of the words was not a concern - the words would just fit in perfectly whatever the meter. imagine raja composing for 7 adi thirukural and thirupugazh with complex metres each it would be just awesome.

  5. Viji, Thanks for reminding about 'Aagaya vennilave'. What you say is absolutely right. I read about it earlier in this article. We also had a discussion on this with my colleagues. We concluded that the song is in 12/16 during the prelude, pallavi and saranam (or is it 12/8?) and 16/16 (or 4/4 if you might want) during the interludes. But the rhythm pattern is similar during the whole song.

    One other song that comes to my mind is the pallavi of "Thendral vandhu theendum bodhu". Infact I heard this song just today morning on radio and tried to identify the timing. No conclusion yet. It seems to fit in 4/4, but the first 2 lines of the pallavi goes for 5 bars (if 4/4) and hence I get confused.

    There are some other songs by Raaja with complex timings, but I will blog about them later.

  6. Rajesh5:17 PM

    6/8 rhythm generally conveys / brings in a jolly mood

    Take these songs :
    Azhagiya Kanne (Uthiri pookal)
    Karpura Bommai Ondru (Keladi Kanmani)
    Unnai Nenaichen (Apoorva Sagotharargal)
    Thenpandi Cheemaiyile (Naayagan)

    And there are lot more of IR songs in 6/8 that are not really jolly mood songs. Infact these are not also those pathos songs, but ones that touches the soul and impacts. My lack of vocabulary is not allowing me to explain this feel !

    Hard to recollect many of ARRs 6/8 nos. but those stand out are
    Enna Vilai Azhage (Kaadhalar Dinam)
    Kalakalavene (Rhythm)
    Main Vari Vari (Mangal Pandey)

    I've heard from my drums teacher that producers and directors force music directors to do songs only on 6/8 or 4/4, so that its easy to choreograph and generally it reaches the masses and becomes a hit. A 7/8 song is tough to follow for novice people and choreography (steps !) is not easy. With IR people can not enforce this and thats why he could do more whereas new MDs have to go with what producers say !

  7. Yes, IR has given many sad songs in 6/8 like Nana paadum mouna raagam, naan oru sindhu, etc. And yes ARR has done only few songs in 6/8. Some other songs that come to my mind are Aalankaati mazhai, Injirango, Odakaara maarimuthu, Radha kaise na jale, etc. But predominantly he uses 4/4 and sometimes 7/8.

  8. Rajesh, I agree with you on the choreography point of view. It is quite easy to choreograph for 6/8 or a 4/4 song. Today morning I heard the song "Ila nenje vaa" from "Vanna vanna pookal". It is in 7/8 and saw prashanth dancing to it on TV few days back. It was a bit funny to watch.

    This song gives a feeling that you are alone in a forest island, admist trees, birds and happily singing. Probably the rhythm, the tune, the flute overlaps, all attribute to creating such a virtual environment in your minds. Anyway, I don't really like this song, but it was interesting for its 7/8 rhythm and the choreography.

  9. I am listening to the legendary "chippi irukudhu" from Varumaiyin Niram Sigappu. It starts in a 6/8 and then goes on to something like 4*3(Thakathimi*3) in the last charanam - what do you call this as - 12/16?
    The rythmic pattern is interesting - starts in pallavi with 6/8. first charanam starts with 3/4 and ends with thakathimi(4*3).
    One interesting background to this song is that Raaja gave the sandham to the lyricist - none other than the Kannadasan and kannadasan composed lyrics on the spot. Was this also Kannadasan's last film song?

  10. chippi irukkudhu is a wonderful song. Yes it is 6/8 in the pallavi and 3/4 in the interludes and charanams. As you said the tabla pattern in the first charanam does end something like Thakathimi*3. But in the second charanam, it ends slightly different. More like thaka thakathimi. I am not sure whether you call it 12/16. The Thakathimi*3 also reminds me of the charanam ending of "Kalyana then nila". And I think "chippi irukkudhu" song is by MSV and not IR. I am not 100% sure though. BTW, I wanted to sing this song for a long time (though I am a bad singer) and finally sang it during the new year function at my company. Have a look at the snap here.

  11. Yeah, It is by MSV. I am so obsessed about raja I assume it is Raja if I hear a good song.

  12. I saw the snaps - do u have the audio too?

  13. I don't have the audio, we had the show recorded on video, but fortunately my song was not recorded ;-))