SRUTIR MATA LAYAH PITA - A Special Article on Tani Avartanam
- By Neyveli Narayanan
basics of any music are Sruti
and Laya. All worldly
functions are time or laya-bound. Similarly, all the activities of our body i.e., breathing,
heart beat etc. are laya-bound. Therefore, laya
plays an important role in our life.
is otherwise known as rhythm. In most music systems of the world, laya is represented by talas or other rhythmic structures. It indicates the
tempo (kalapramana) and
the gait of a song. Music without laya is lifeless. Perhaps, due to this reason, during mourning,
etc are sung without laya
a Carnatic concert, the role of providing rhythmic support is that of
percussion instruments like mridangam, ghatam, khanjira, morsing etc. In this regard, the Mridangam
assumes the role of the main accompaniment, and is called a Pakka-vadyam (literally meaning side-instrument). The other
percussion instruments are optional, though their presence adds to the
variety and brightness of the concert. In a nagaswaram concert however,
the mridangam is substituted by the tavil, which singularly provides
rhythmic support. There are no other percussion instruments.
music concert comprises songs rendered by the main artiste with
improvisations like raga alapana, tanam, neraval and kalpanaswaras.
These are interspersed with the creative display of the accompanists and
include the Tani Avartanam by the mridangam and the other laya vidwans (percussionists).
Avartanam is the exclusive property of the laya vidwans, where they get to show their technical and creative
prowess. This is usually played as part of the main item of the concert,
after the raga alapana, main
song / Pallavi, as the case may be, neraval
and the kalpanaswaras. It can
therefore be rightly said that the Tani Avartanam is an extension
of the main item.
mridangist plays the Tani Avartanam
using the same tala in which the main artiste left off. He
elaborates either on the central theme that the main artiste presented
or presents something on his own. This part is called vinyasa.
Thus, he has a very wide scope. An able and experienced mridangist gets
the opportunity to exhibit his talent and skill in a remarkable way.
After elaboration or vinyasa,
the mridangist rounds off with what is known as a kuraippu,
(progressive tapering of the number of rhythmic cycles per round), mohra,
which are just set patterns, before launching into the final stage of
the Tani Avartanam, the korvai.
there is more than one laya vadyam in a concert, the Tani avartanam is played by each of
the artistes in turns, where the general idea is delivered in various
parts. In such a case, the artistes generally display the different
gatis / nadais
in the same tala for sheer variety. It is the usual practise to play
different patterns in Chaturasra gati in the first part and in Tisra,
Khanda or Misra gati in other parts, depending on the time available.
All the percussionists merge during the mohra
and play the korvai
together, in a grand finale. Subsequently, the main artiste picks up
where he left off initially and completes the song.
most important aspect of the Tani Avartanam is that it should generally
be in the same kalapramana
(tempo) in which the main artiste has sung the main piece. Besides, it
should also be played at the same eduppu
(starting point of that particular line where the main artiste left
Tani Avartanam in a concert as already said, is to exhibit the prowess
of the percussionists. However, the key word here would be adaptability,
according to the main item of the concert, the type of concert (vocal /
instrumental) and time availability. If the main piece were a
kriti, the approach would be different from the exposition for a Ragam
Tanam Pallavi. Similarly, if it were a vocal concert, the pattern would
be different from that of an instrumental concert.
the art of uttering the rhythmic intonations, occupied an important
place in a concert earlier. So much so, that it took precedence over the
mridangam, in the sense that konnakkol
would be uttered first and would be followed by other laya vadyams. Gradually,
rendering diminished and we hardly have a few artistes
practising this art today.
there were many mridangam stalwarts, the contribution of Tanjore Sri
Vaidyanatha Iyer is worth mentioning as he has codified the procedure
for teaching the art of mridangam playing, which is being followed by
the present day vidwans.
we hear recordings of concerts held 20 or 30 years back, we will find
that the duration of the concert was over 4 hours, with the inevitable
Ragam Tanam Pallavi. In most of these concerts, we also find that there
are two Tani Avartanams - one after the main kriti and one after the
Pallavi, totally lasting for about 30 minutes or more. The present
scenario is different in that, the concert duration is restricted to 2 -
2 ½ hours and Pallavi singing has become a rarity. Such being the case,
the duration of Tani Avartanam is also compressed, depending on the main
artiste and the calibre of the percussion artiste(s). In a nagaswaram
concert, however, even now the Tani Avartanam is played for more than
half an hour and in some places people attend the programmes only for
the Tani Avartanam by the special tavil vidwans.
duration of the Tani Avartanam also depends as to when
it is played in a concert. In a concert of 2 ½ hours, if the Tani
Avartanam is allowed after 2 ¼ hours and the main artiste still has one
or two tukkadas (small
songs) to sing, the percussion artiste ends up with hardly 5 minutes to
exhibit his skills. It would be ideal if the percussionists get something
between 10 - 15 minutes for the Tani Avartanam.
is a general feeling that there is a great exodus among rasikas during
the Tani Avartanam. It is not so in all cases and only happens
sometimes, perhaps due to the following reasons:
Frequent lecture-demonstrations by eminent laya vidwans would help in greater understanding of the laya aspects so that the rasikas can appreciate the laya patterns played in a concert in general, and the Tani Avartanam in particular.
author is one of the top young mridangists of Carnatic music today)