Overlapping talas

The song "Kannalane" from the film "Bombay" is a well known one. I am not a big fan of this song, except for the sufi style singing by ARR in the first interlude. The bass and tabla combination also rocks here. During the interlude before the second stanza, there is a chorus section singing "gubu subu..." and after it is over, there is a small theermaanam in tabla after which the saranam starts. So I was thinking why was this extra bit added after the line / bar has been completed. So I started to look more into the talam of this song.

The talam of the song looks pretty much straightforward - adi talam or 4/4 in western. This is true for most of the song. When we come to the interlude under discussion, the tabla still plays the 4/4 rhythm. However the chorus melody is composed in 7/8 (misra chaapu). Misra chaapu is generally 3+4 counts. For example, tha ki ta ; tha ka thi mi. However this one seems to be 4+3 counts, which is: tha ka thi mi ; tha ki ta. I read somewhere that this talam is called "vilOma". Please correct me if I am wrong. That was very nicely done - mixing a 4/4 rhythm with a melody set in 7/8.

So I went ahead and tried to add 7/8 beats to the song, and here is the result. Somewhere in the middle, the melody changes to 4/4, but I couldn't find out where. This combination of talas necessiated the extra theermaanam at the end of the interlude. Use headphones to hear the below piece. You will hear the original song on the right speakers and the 7/8 rhythm that I added on the left.

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You can also follow this interlude, by putting the misra chappu talam in half the speed of the rhythm that I had played. That means, 1 "gubu subu" is 1 count.

There are a few instances of other such experiments too. I think the most talked about of them is "aagaya vennilave" from "arangetra velai". People say that the song is in roopakam while the tabla plays in 4/4 adi talam. Some time back my opinion was that the song as a whole was in 12/8, and hence the 4/4 rhythm will also suit this song. I am not sure on this though.

I also heard a mridangam player talking on radio. He was saying how tough it was playing for a song by ilaiyaraaja, where he had to play 4/4 adi talam, while the composition was in 7/8. I don't remember the song. You can imagine how tough it would be to play a completely different tala in a live orchestra. These days, with the help of technology, it is pretty much easy carrying on such experiments.

The song "Chinnan chiru vayadhil" from "Meendum Kokila" is in 3/4 (roopakam). After the 1st stanza, during the pallavi, an extra metal sound is heard in 4 counts overlapping with the 3/4 rhythm. This 4 counts may be perceived as a 4/4 or rather 6/8 meter.

One more often used thing is playing an occasional 6/8 theermanam / drum roll on top of 4/4. This is pretty much easy and hence I am not discussing that here. Do you know of any other similar complex experiments?

Finally, I don't know much about talas. So kindly correct me if there are any mistakes in this post. You can point them in the comments section.


  1. Ramesh is great in finding this kind of interesting tidbits within songs. I still can recall the song "Famous" from "Bombay Dreams" where somewhere in between, there will be a very fraction of delay / pause but the song will never seem to be mis-timing. And I never noticed that before hearing from Ramesh.

    Coming to the discussion of the current post on Kannalane song from Bombay, I listened it, especially the interlude part of this discussion. However, in this interlude, I jsut see a simple 4 / 4 timing. I guess, ARR has introduced the "gubu subu" phrase at odd places with a little interesting Tabla march (2 / 2 kinda edhirnadai maybe). Below is the wma file, to support me, that I recorded the interlude with my clapping and pronunciation of 'tha ka thi mi tha ka ju nu". May be you will best hear the bolded part, since i needed breath inbetween. Since the widget cann't be embeded inside the comment, I've posted it in my blog.

    May be I'm missing something, please let me know in that case. While listening, please dont be confused since i started recording from the "tha ka ju nu" part of the previous bar.

  2. Thanks Jerald. I listened to your file. As I said, the table indeed plays the 4/4 or 2/4 rhythm. But I still believe the chorus section (atleast till half of the interlude) is in 7/8. Try counting 1 count for 1 "gubu subu" and you will notice that each line ends with in 7 counts. Did you notice the 7/8 beats that I inserted in the above widget? That is in double the speed of what I am suggesting above. Somewhere in the middle it changes to 4/4. It is all very confusing.

    And thanks for reminding the "famous" song from Bombay dreams. I am still amazed at how ARR managed to intentionally mistime it and still manages to sound it normal.

    Also, can you look at this post. There seems to be an intentional offkey note played on the flute. However I am not sure on that. Can you confirm Jerald?

  3. Yes, I agree with you that the flute is offkey. Though, I'm not sure it is intentional.

    Ok. back to Kannalane sond, did some more research. Yes I agree the chorus can be said to be in 7/8.

    Given a preference, I will say that the chorus is in 14/8. Say the below jathi 4 times along with the chorus.

    | tha ka thi mi | tha ka ju nu | tha ka thi mi | tha ka|

    When finishing this phrase four times, the lyrics "Maman karan rathiri vantha" will start. This is the place where the 14/8 mode stops. You can very well split the 14/8 pattern into two 7/8 pattern (tha ka thi mi tha ki ta)and say it is 7/8. But for me the chorus pattern seems to smoothly fit into two 14/8 pattern.

    So after 4 times playing the 14/8 pattern, normal 4/4 pattern (tha ka thi mi tha ka ju nu) will be played 8 times. Tabla theermanam comes at the final "ju nu" and ends at the "tha" of the bar of the stanza.

    To simply put, you can say the interlude consists of eight 7/8 pattern and eight 4/4 pattern.
    Otherwise you need to say it is of four 14/8 pattern and eight 4/4 pattern.

    7/8 or 14/8 or 4/4, ARR starts the "Maman karan rathiri" lyrics on the 57th 1/8 note of the interlude and then continues to be on the 4/4 mode to get back to the stanza in 4/4.

  4. Thanks Jerald for the deeper analysis and sharing it here. And yes, "Maman karan rathiri" starts at the start of the bar on the 57th count as you say. So 56 is divisible by 4 as well as 7 and 14. The 4th and final section, "Maman karan rathiri" is in 4/4. It is the 3rd section (again "Maman karan rathiri") which is tough to decipher.

  5. OH my God !... I can't analyse it.. but yes as a singer i did enjoy it. Good work

  6. Thanks Neha! Had a look at your blogs. Will listen to your songs from home and get back.

  7. Hi Ramesh, I came upon your blog whiling away my time. Interesting post this is. I have one agreement and one disagreement to your post.

    You got it right in your demo file when you say that the timing changes from 7/8 to 4/4 in the middle of the interlude. Till the end of first half of the interlude, you can count either 28 or 56 (depending on how u count), so the tabla beat going in 4/4 and the melody line going in 7/8 naturally end on the same note. And from there onwards, everything flows in 4/4.

    If you listen to the intro in the telugu version of this song, you will get the clearest picture than from the other language versions. Scat-vocals start in 7/8 for two bars, then two lines of lyrics are sung, with the scat vocals going on in 7/8 and then the scat-vocals change the timing to 8/8 (or 4/4) by adding an additional "gum sum" in the second half of the phrase. From there onwards, in the telugu version, the lyrics fit in meter of the song, where as in the tamil and hindi versions, the lyircs are forced to be sung to 4/4, so they start and end slightly off the beat.

    My disagreement with u is that the tabla theermanam need not have been added because there were two time signatures going on...The tabla was always in 4/4 through out the 2nd interlude, and from the 2nd half of the interlude, the vocals are in teh same time signature for 3 bars (before the tabla stops) and continue in the same. Also, that theermanam does not exactly connect the 7/8 and 4/4 portions of the song, it pops up in the 4/4 section of the song and just provides a variation in starting the 2nd charanam.

  8. When I say half of the interlude...I dont exaclty mean the exact 50%, 1/2 or whatever of the interlude. My first half is 7 bars long and the 2nd half is 8 bars long.

  9. Hi Sam, Thanks for dropping by and providing valuable insights. In the second half I was actually not clear where it changes to 4/4. Your comment was helpful. I will listen to the telugu version too.