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taal tales
September 25, 2010 8:21 PM   Subscribe

The original beatboxing. Sheila Chandra shows us how it's done.
posted by flapjax at midnite (33 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wiki page for taal (tala).
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:22 PM on September 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Back when I was in high school, we obsessively listened to her version of "Tomorrow Never Knows," made with the band Monsoon.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:26 PM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nice. I had a crush on Chandra when I was nine years old and she was UK kid TV.

I think this might be a better claimant to OG beatboxing: German Empire Beatboxing (1965).
posted by meehawl at 8:48 PM on September 25, 2010


"Taal" is just the rhythmic pattern, right? I thought the vocal percussion was something else (wikipedia sez "Vocal percussion is also an integral part of many world music traditions, most notably in the traditions of North India (bols) and South India (solkattu).").
posted by kenko at 9:12 PM on September 25, 2010


"Taal" is just the rhythmic pattern, right?

That's correct, kenko. The word doesn't specifically refer to a vocalized taal.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:34 PM on September 25, 2010


"Taal" is just the rhythmic pattern, right?

The repeating patterns can be long and complex, so listeners sometimes tally them using their fingers, on both hands, touching them in sequences to keep track. It looks like her hand movements are referencing that in places.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:50 PM on September 25, 2010


So awesome. Thank you.
posted by Go Banana at 10:26 PM on September 25, 2010


I think her sleeve liner notes explained that this "vocalised taal" was basically a way for musicians - and I think drummers in particular - to learn & practice their rhythms without actually using an instrument. I don't believe it was ever intended for performance.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:37 PM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


...this "vocalised taal" was basically a way for musicians - and I think drummers in particular - to learn & practice their rhythms without actually using an instrument.

Absolutely. Actually, it's my understanding that the study of just about any Indian musical instrument begins with vocalizing, as opposed to playing. It's true of bansuri flute and tabla, for sure, and I think probably for all Indian music apprentices.

I don't believe it was ever intended for performance.

I'm not so sure about that. I've seen other performances by Indian musicians that included vocalizing in this way. Perhaps it's something, though, that's only come into fashion relatively recently, doing it in formal, live performances. Maybe someone can clue us in on that.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:54 PM on September 25, 2010


Drummers and dancers. If you watch classical Indian dance performances, there is usually at least one segment where the taal is spoken (bol is simply the Urdu/Hindi word for speak/spoken words/lyrics). My understanding from the dance performances I've seen is that the vocalised taal is a way for the performer to show off technical skill. Like Paganini scales for a violinist.

And yes, she is marking the taal divisions with her hand gestures. In some of it, she's actually counting out loud. Aik (1), do (2)...aik do teen (3)....aik do teen chaar (4).... and then the sequence of aik do teen chaar paanch (5).
posted by bardophile at 10:56 PM on September 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh and yes, all North Indian classical music lessons include lessons in vocalizing taal. Not all of us ever get as far as Chandra, of course. :)

I'm thinking about other performances including spoken taal. And of course, singers will often have sections of taal in their extended performances. In song, the bol is often combined with the sargam (solfege).
posted by bardophile at 11:00 PM on September 25, 2010


In southern India it's called Konnakol.

Here's a cool example of it being used in live performance.

And here's another example, which is cool because he starts slow enough that you can sort of follow it, but then he gets faster and faster and faster and...

And here's an example of vocal percussion being used alongside...uh...percussive percussion. You know, the kind with actual hitting.

And here, with a complete ensemble.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:25 AM on September 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Finally, if you've ever wanted to learn how to do it yourself, here's a nice fellow from Denmark who'll teach you the basics.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:27 AM on September 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ahhh, table bols are a percussive poetry of sorts.

Here is Ravi Shankar elegantly explaining.

Bilingual beatboxing.

I'm particularly fond of the bol in Indian dance. Here in the lovely Odissi style. And two sylphs.
posted by nickyskye at 12:44 AM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Great post, as ever flapjax. Sheila Chandra is exquisitely beautiful as well as singing that sensuously, marvelously.

infinitywaltz, Thanks for the info about Konnakol. Just found this awesome clip: Lori Cotler Sings Konnakol.
posted by nickyskye at 12:58 AM on September 26, 2010


*tabla bols
posted by nickyskye at 12:59 AM on September 26, 2010


this "vocalised taal" was basically a way for musicians - and I think drummers in particular - to learn & practice their rhythms without actually using an instrument.

Depends on whether it's Carnatic or Hindustani music, no? I believe that Hindustani vocal percussion is used for communicating and practicing rhythm, while in Carnatic music it has a different purpose.
posted by kenko at 1:17 AM on September 26, 2010


Nice. Interesting how certain syllables are used to capture the timbres of the different percussion hits.

I believe vocal taal is used to announce the rhythm during a performance (sometimes?) so someone might go through a whole rhythm pattern before the tabla plays it.

So it's more a part of the performance than just counting in 1 2 3..
posted by Not Supplied at 1:40 AM on September 26, 2010


Depends on whether it's Carnatic or Hindustani music, no?

Could be. I'm pretty sure it was in the notes for Weaving My Ancestors' Voices, which I can't find right now. The Zen Kiss also has a couple of these tracks - Speaking in Tongues III & IV.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:43 AM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I knew the Boosh didn't actually invent this genre!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:31 AM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fabulous either way, but the first referent I thought of when I heard this was not beatboxing but scat.
posted by kcds at 6:16 AM on September 26, 2010


More bilingual beatboxing, and some jungle style mcing, funk and hip hop by a n american
posted by Not Supplied at 7:16 AM on September 26, 2010


I just spent ninety minutes going through videos on YouTube. My conclusion:

This may be the coolest stuff I've ever seen/heard. (And Sheila Chandra's voice is from another world.)

Thanks so much for the horizon-broadening.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:46 AM on September 26, 2010


In 1:50-1:53 she's counting 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4 in completely clear colloquial Finnish. I'm not kidding.
posted by ikalliom at 12:38 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great post; thanks, flapjax! I first ran across Sheila Chandra on college radio when I was living in Ann Arbor, and the bit you linked to was the very first thing of hers I heard. I remember it well, as I was coming down from a lonnnnng night, and I had to listen to it again the next day to make sure I hadn't hallucinated it all. It's some incredible vocal maneuvering, for sure. Tasty, tasty stuff.
posted by heyho at 1:05 PM on September 26, 2010


There are bols (words/syllables) for melodies, rhythms, and even dance steps.

For melodies the general term is "sargam", from the note names "sa re ga ma" which could almost literally be translated into Western classical solfege as "do re mi fa". See swara on wikipedia for more. This is used pretty often in Hindustani vocal music.

One interesting thing about the rhythm syllables for tabla is that notes played on the right-hand drum are made with the tip of the tongue while notes on the left drum are made with the back of the tongue. So a roll on the drums is similar to double-tonguing for a trumpet player - "takatakatakataka" which can be pronounced or played significantly faster than "tatatatatatatatata". In strictly classical music this is a teaching tool and you'd be pretty unlikely to hear this performed except as part of a tabla solo, where you might recite a particularly complicated passage before playing it. Sheila Chandra incorporates it for crowd-pleasing effect but associating this style of vocal with her is a good way to make a tabla player wince.
posted by nixt at 1:32 PM on September 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


nixt: agreeing about the takataka pattern not being used much by singers, but you would often hear it being used in performance by classical dancers, or by someone accompanying the dancer, in conjunction with the tabla player. I haven't ever noticed the tabla player wincing in those performances. But I must admit, I was usually watching the dancer. :)

On a related note, training in aural skills in Western conservatories also includes the vocalizing of rhythms, and smaller subdivisions usually use different syllables. So ta-ta-ti-ti-tiri-tiri, etc. And drum rolls have all sorts of fun names - paradiddle is one that I remember offhand.
posted by bardophile at 11:24 PM on September 26, 2010


Terrific. I also love the examples of tabla players vocalizing what they are about to play, proving that, unlike scat, it's not always improvised, but sometimes completely planned out.
posted by umbĂș at 1:39 PM on September 27, 2010


Jati [pdf] syllables seems to be part of what she's doing, but not all.
posted by umbĂș at 1:41 PM on September 27, 2010


umbu: That's an interesting distinction. Do you consider improvisation to preclude planning? I know very little about scat.
posted by bardophile at 11:05 PM on September 27, 2010


I am not a scatologist, but sometimes movements aren't planned but just happen of their own accord.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:44 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


This little guy gives us the bol and then the beat.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:24 AM on October 3, 2010


Nice post. Thanks, flapjax.

I'm pretty sure it was in the notes for Weaving My Ancestors' Voices, which I can't find right now.

Shit, I can't find mine either.
posted by homunculus at 8:46 AM on October 3, 2010


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