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 LESSONS, FIRST SERIES

Solkaṭṭu  works  by  combining  spoken  rhythmic  syllables  into  phrases  and  synchronizing  these 
phrases with a stable tāḷa. Once the phrases and tāḷa are synchronized, a large repertoire of pro-
cesses can be applied to the phrases: they may be sped up or slowed down, or expanded, contracted,
or otherwise altered. The internal pulse grouping of beats in the tāḷa may also temporarily change 
to accommodate these processes. This series of lessons introduces some basic phrases and a simple
tāḷa, along with exercises that demonstrate some of the fundamental processes.
Here are some basic phrases, from one to nine syllables in length; many others are possible.
Where more than one example has been listed, they are separated by commas. (01-001)

one syllable: ta, di, tom, nam, jem, tām


two syllables: ta ka, di mi, jo ṇu
three syllables: ta ki ṭa
four syllables: ta ka di mi, ta ka jo ṇu, ta ka di ku
five syllables: ta ka ta ki ṭa, ta di ki ṭa tom, ta din gi ṇa tom
six syllables: ta ka di mi ta ka, ta ki ṭa ta ki ṭa
seven syllables: ta ka di mi ta ki ṭa, ta ka ta di ki ṭa tom, ta ka ta din gi ṇa tom
eight syllables: ta ka di mi ta ka jo ṇu, ta ki ṭa ta di ki ṭa tom, ta ki ṭa ta din gi ṇa tom
nine syllables: ta ka di mi ta ka ta ki ṭa, ta ka di ku ta di ki ṭa tom, ta ka di ku ta din gi
ṇa tom

Longer phrases usually include rests. The use of rests will be introduced in the course of these
lessons.
Tāḷas are made up of hand gestures, called kriyā. Nowadays only three kriyās are used: the 
clap (taṭṭu), which can be the palm of one hand against the other or against the thigh; the wave
(viccu), which is often the back of the hand against the other or against the thigh; and finger counts, 
which always start from the pinky finger. Either the right or left hand may be used.
The introductory exercises that follow are set in tiśra jāti ēka tāḷa, a three-beat cycle made
up of a clap and two finger counts as follows: clap, pinky finger, ring finger. This is the shortest 
cycle in the Karnatak system, which has roots reaching back more than two millennia. The Sanskrit 
word tiśra is a modernized version of the original tryaśra, meaning “three-sided.” Thus a spatial
metaphor underlies even modern notions of tāḷa.