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Sultal (variously know as shultal, shooltal, sulfak, or soolfaktal) is a tal of the pakhawaj tradition.  It is composed of 10 beats and was very commonly used to accompany dhrupad singers.

There is a lack of agreement concerning virtually everything about sultal.  It has already been pointed out that there is a lack of aggreement concerning the pronunciation and transliteration: this however, is normal for almost everything in Indian music.  Furthermore, there are dissagreements concerning the number of beats; some suggest that sultal should be considered to be of 5 beats instead of 10 beats.  There are a variety of views concerning its vibhag structure and their corresponding claps and waves.  There is not even any agreement as to what the theka should be.  This last disagreement stems from the fact that pakhawaj players of old did not have thekas as we think of them today; instead they used something known as a thapi.

The fact that there is not really a "theka", but instead a "thapi" has tremendous practical importance.  It is very normal for pakhawaj players to freely improvise in the middle of accompaniment.  There is not the pressure to constantly play a simple "theka".  This constant free improvisation may be at times disorienting to the modern concert goer who is used to the theka for the accompaniment of kheyal, dadra, thumri and other contemporary classical forms.

A common version of sultal is shown below:

Clapping/ Waving Arrangement

clap, 2, wave, 2, clap, 2, wave, 2, clap, 2 (disputed)

Number of Beats

10 (disputed)


Theka for sooltal

Popular Songs

Film Songs in Sultal



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