Laya and Layakari

The most important part of rhythm in Hindustani Music is the Laya (Speed or tempo). The simplest implication of Laya would be: “the number of beats played in the time period of a single beat” which essentially signifies the time between two bols.  

Layakari (kari means “to do”) is just the implementation of various Layas. The best way to understand Layakari is to go through the various types of Layakaris that are played. Note that the meaning of some complex layakaris are slightly disputed among scholars, but that shouldn’t be a hurdle to our understanding. 

Types of Layakaris

Thah Laya (ठाह) 

Playing one bol in each matra is the simplest of Layakaris. A certain Laya is fixed by the accomopanying singer or instrumentalist, and one bol is playeed for each matra. 

Dugun Laya

Playing two bols in one matra is called Dugun. Whenever this is written in notation form, the bols are shown as clubbed together by drawing a line under them –  1 2  3 4  5 6  7 8 

Tigun Laya

Playing three bols in one matra is tigun – 1 2 3  4 5 6

Chaugun Laya

Playing four bols in one matra is called chaugun – 1 2 3 4  5 6 7 8 

Aad Laya

Things start to get quite interesting from here. While all the layakaris we discussed till now were fairly intuitive and dealt with integral, aad laya deviates from this trend. We start dealing with half matras here. Note that S means an empty bol.

Now, there exists some dispute among scholars as to what Aad laya means. Some argue that aad is a specific layakari in which 1.5 bols are played in 1 matra – 1S2  S3S – While some argue that any layakari deviating from the standard integral multiple pattern should be considered as Aad. We would deal with all the other layakaris under Aad:

Kuaad Laya

What qualifies as kuaad is also disputed and there are two opinions:

  • Playing 5 bols in 4 matras – 1SSS2  SSS3S  SS4SS  S5SSS
  • Aad of Aad is Kuaad, i.e., 3/2 * 3/2 = 9/4. Therefore – 1SSS2SSS3  SSS4SSS5S  SS6SSS7SS  S8SSS9SSS

Biaad Laya

Playing 7 bols in 4 matras is widely considered to be Biaad – 1SSS2   S3SSS4S  SS5SSS6  SSS7SSS

Now, that you know more about laya and layakari, you should go on to practice the different taals. If you are a beginner and looking for a more comprehensive guide to learn it, you should check out our Step-by-Step Guide to learn tabla.

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