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Electronic ‘sangat’ to ‘raga’

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The Economic Times, March 6, 1988

Mr C. Raj Narayan, an electronics engineer-cum-musician, has made yet another instrument, Taalamala, an electronic tabla.

In a lecture-demonstration programme Mr Raj Narayan showed that the instrument can reproduce as many as ten commonly used – but widely varying – Hindustani taals, such as teentaal, ektaal, jhaptaal, roopak, tilwada, jumra, adachoutaal, deepchandi keharwa, to the amazement and admiration of his audience. The instrument produced the thekas (rhythmic sounds of the tabla) typical of each of these rhythmic cycles.

The taalmala is a box-type gadget, compact and portable, with controls, which are easy to use, to facilitate proper adjustment of volume (loudness), pitch (the basic shadja) of the tabla, speed (tempo) and balance control for relating the volumes of the left-hand (“bayan”) and right-hand (“dayan”) sounds.

In the course of his lecture-demonstration, Mr Raj Narayan said that the selection of various taals was achieved through a calculator-type keyboard equipped with the “start” and “stop” keys. Various ranges of laya like drut, vilambit and ati-vilambit, can also be secured to get the desired range. There was, besides, another knob, designed to adjust the speed continuously within any of these ranges. The instruments could automatically insert additional bols (sounds) in the theka for vilambit and ati-vilambit modes. All this simulate a true-to-life rhythmic accompaniment – as though you have a maestro at your command!

Above all, what made his presentation so communicative is that he punctuated his narration with brief fluke renditions of Jhinjhoti and Bageshree, both set to teentaal. And he played these to the simulatedtaal that emanated from his taalmala.

In 1970 he made his first electronic gadget, named the “Sarang”, an electronic tanpura; then the “Dhruve”, the electronic shruti box, in 1978; and the “talometer”, to provide percussion support to Carnatic music in 1979.

Mr Raj Narayan says that he started his work with a modest initial investment of Rs 470, which incidentally is also the present cost of his first instrument. The Dhruva cost a little more, while the Talometer was priced at Rs 1100. All the three are now available to indenting customers. The latest innovation, he added, was yet to be put in the commercial market and it would be priced at Rs 1,900.


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