You learn first Thala , that's what my teacher tells me.
Yes. The very structure of music stands on the pillars of thala.
As a bathroom singer for the last 5 decades I decided after I retired that why not I try to learn a few of the Thyagaraja Kritis in another two to three months, so that by January 2008, I would be able to join the stream of musicians at Thiruvaiyaru, to sing ...Jagathaa ..nandhaka...
I spotted a talented Teacher of the locality and with all humility I pleaded unto her to take me as a Student. First she laughed, then she grilled, then she paused, and finally agreed. She then asked me to come on an auspicious day.
That day was yesterday. I presented myself before her in right earnest.
As I started the first day with great hopes of learning a Thyagaraja Kirthana, something like, Rama nine nu Bro vara…., my music teacher asked me to sit on the floor with a posture something similar to Padma Asana. I could not understand, though, why I am to sit in that posture, the teacher started with a smile, that music particularly carnatic music starts with an understanding of Thalas. One can absorb thalas in a sitting posture must better.
I have always seen my mother beating her right lap with her right hand while singing. At that age, sometimes I used to wonder whether she had her palm red because of that continous banging. So I said, yes, teacher. I sat on the floor and bowed my head with reverence.
Now the teacher said, THALA is an integral part of music. One has to be quite adept with the nuances of Thala before you begin the notes.
She said that Thala as an unit consisted of 3 parts or components. They are called Lagu, Dhrutham and Anudhrutham.
You beat and count one..that is known as Laghu.
As you beat once and reverse your palm it is known as Dhrutam.
When you beat on reversing it is anudhrutham.
There are, to start with, seven ways of Thala.
Dhruva Thalam, Mattiya thalam, Rupaka thalam, Jampa thalam, Thruputa thalam, Ata Thalam, Eka thalam.
As my teacher finished, I asked her: Madam, when will I learn singing " Krishna Nee Begane Baro" set to yaman Kalyan and beautifully sung by Higgins.
Surely in 2010, she said, with a characteristic smile.