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Heroic Journey

In this type of composition, we improvise, or expand upon a main theme. I call it a Heroic Journey, but, this is not my composition. This comes from Farukhabad school of tabla playing. The temperament of this particular composition is “I am here to win it”. Phrases are primarily in 4, except for the end phrases of the second and fourth lines which are in 6. The time signature is 4/4, and the whole composition is set to 16-beat time cycle or tintala.

Improvisational tabla compositions have two major parts. I call them male and female from the old Hindu concept of purusha and prakriti of Sankhya Philosophy. This concept of dualism is very Eastern. It is also present in Chinese philosophy as yin and yang.

The following composition is divided right in the middle. First two lines are male and last two lines are its female counter part. Next, each male and female parts are subdivided in identical process. These subdivisions add up to 8 and 8+8 is 16. In this composition, 8 is divided as 5+3. Further division is now required to see the anatomy of the rhythm of the whole. 5 is divided as 1+1+1+1+1, where each 1 has 4 notes. 3 is 1½ + 1½. Each 1½ phrase has 6 notes.

This kind of mathematical phrase arrangement expresses heroic mood. Character of notes used are also important, however, if the theme with its specific meaning is clear in composer’s heart then the notes simply pop up in mind to articulate his/her thoughts. We, students of music, then practice maestro’s creations diligently to improve our understanding of the deeper meaning of abstract sounds.


Parentheses are used to mark the phrases. I am assuming that tabla students know how to produce these notes and the meaning of the numbers ( 2, 1) written underneath. Non-tabla people simply ignore those numbers. | – vertical line is the symbol of metronomic beat. We clap on those lines. – indicates ¼ note rest. The notes in the composition are easy to pronounce for everybody. To grasp the composition rhythmically, clap at metronomic speed 30 and recite the composition the way it is written. We will call it single speed. If for some reason clapping at 30 seems difficult then clap at 60. In that case recite two notes per clap.


In the next few weeks Aloke will begin posting compositions on his website that have not been published in any of his books. It is quite possible that these have never been documented in any tabla book, in any language! He will be describing these compositions technically and mathematically in terms that can be understood by musicians of any discipline. Please check back soon!

Aloke talks about the complex rhythms, philosophy and performance techniques of his latest recording entitled “NUDITYSUTRA.”

Oct 16 2014

A lesson with Aloke

Today tabla master Aloke Dutta released a new recording called NUDITYSUTRA. This work of art can be downloaded now from Bandcamp:

Right after finishing this recording, Aloke underwent successful heart surgery. I’m happy to report that he is currently feeling well and recovering rapidly. Soon he’ll be healthier than ever and continuing on his quest to push the boundaries of pure drum music. Please show your support and appreciation of Aloke and his great music by downloading NUDITYSUTRA.

– Alex

Here is what Aloke has to say about NUDITYSUTRA:
I was born sixty years ago as a human baby. This was the only identity badge I was wearing at that moment. I was totally naked! Soon after my arrival to this planet, however, other humans began to put labels and other stuff on me. I had to study these things with dedication and wear them with pride as the essential elements, apparently, to make my life meaningful. So, from day one of my journey I had already begun to clothe myself, and, without my awareness, I was slowly becoming disconnected from my soul. My new identity was a Brown-Skinned, Hindu, Indian, Resident Alien, Middle class, Drummer Man.

Honestly, I adored all of those identity cards. But, as a matter of fact, I suffered because I was not in touch with myself. I betrayed my soul. I was being disrespectful to the deeper and true “I”. My focus was on the tchotchke placed over me by others. It took sixty years to fully understand that my attachment to the stuff put on me by various societies was the source of my pain. I knew that detachment was necessary. It was difficult initially. Nevertheless, it had to be done if I wanted to be in touch with me, if I wanted to be true.

That was the moment of my awakening. I felt enlightened and began stripping off layer after layer of harmful labels imposed upon me, like scabs, with no fear. I felt relief immediately. No more baggage to carry around! I became free.

In this album, I present four garlands of noise as offerings to your beautiful soul as a naked man; just the way I arrived here sixty years ago!

My students, Rama Malinak and Aaron Alper spent hours recording and mixing this album. My friend and web designer Alex Crane laid out the cover and ensured that you were able to get this album trouble-free from my site, Last but not least, Ana, love of my life, did the sketch on the cover when she was five years old. She is the purest soul around in my life. My sincere blessings and love to all of them.