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by David Courtney working tools

The word "theka" literally means "support" (Pathak 1976).  Originally the theka was nothing more than a "groove" that is laid down for the accompaniment of other musicians.  However in the last few centuries it has emerged as "the" signature for any north Indian tal.

Theka is generally conceived of as a conventionally accepted arrangement of common bols.  Such bols as Dha, Dhin, Ta, Na, and Tin are the most common.  The majority of common thekas may be played using only these bols.

A very common example is tintal


XDha  Dhin  Dhin  Dha | 2Dha  Dhin  Dhin  Dha | 0Dha  Tin  Tin  Na | 3Na  Dhin  Dhin  Dha |


The topic of the theka and its bols is complicated by the pakhawaj.  There are many thekas which are derived from this instrument.  These tend to use very different bols.  It is very common to see phrases such as Dha Dha Din Ta, or Te Te Ka Ta Ga Di Ge Na.  One very common theka from the pakhawaj is Chautal; it goes like this:


XDha  Dha  Din  Ta | 2KiTa  Dha  Din  Ta | 3TeTe  KaTa | 4GaDi  GeNa |


We may make a few observations about the structure of theka.  There is a tendency for theka to be based upon two symmetrical structures.  Let us look at jhaptal for example:


XDhin  Na | 2Dhin  Dhin  Na | 0Tin  Na | 3Dhin  Dhin  Na |


In this example the structure Dhin Na Dhin Dhin Na is opposed by Tin Na Dhin Dhin Na

This symmetry is also illustrated in dadra tal; it goes like this:


XDha  Dhin  Na | 0Dha  Tin  Na |


In this last example the phrase Dha Dhin Na is reflected in the structure Dha Tin Na.

It must be stressed that there are numerous thekas which do not exhibit this symmetrical quality.  Therefore symmetry must be considered a tendency rather than a rule.  Rupak is a very common theka which is asymmetrical; it goes like this:


0Tin  Tin  Na | 1Dhin  Na | 2Dhin  Na |


There is another observation that we can make about the structure of the theka; there is a tendency for the bols to follow the structure of the vibhag.  If we look back at the jhaptal in the earlier example we see that the 2,3,2,3, clapping arrangement of jhaptal is reflected in the bols Dhin Na Dhin Dhin Na Tin Na Dhin Dhin Na.  Again, the numerous exceptions show that this is merely a tendency rather than a rule.

Closly allied with the concept of theka is the prakar.  The term prakar indicates that there is not just one way to play the theka but there are numerous variatons.  Some of these variations are a technical necessity and others are artistic.



© 1998 - 2017 David and Chandrakantha Courtney

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