South Indian Solkattu

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Ancient Traditions Book Cover

Further study on this subject: Ancient Traditions–Future Possibilities:
Rhythmic Training Through the Traditions of Africa, Bali and India.

By Matthew Montfort. Ancient Future Music (1985).
ISBN 0-937879-00-2. Book/CD Set: 69.95. SALE! $52.95:

Solkattu refers to the onomatopoetic drum syllable (konokol) language and hand gesture counting system associated with the mridangam (a South Indian two-headed barrel drum made of jackwood with goatskin heads).

Khanda Gati Adi Tala

Tabla Icon AudioMIDI

This composition in khanda gati adi tala, an 8 beat rhythmic cycle where each beat is divided into quintuplets, is an advanced level example from Chapter 3, Exercise IV, pages 86-87, of Ancient Traditions – Future Possibilities. It was taught to the author, Matthew Montfort, by Guruvayoor Dorai at the Center for World Music in San Francisco in the summer of 1978.

Each South Indian tala is kept with a series of claps, waves, and finger counts. Beats labeled "C" are marked by a hand clap, "W" by a hand wave, "4" by placing the fourth finger (pinky) of the right hand on the left palm, "3" by placing the third finger (ring) of the right hand on the left palm, "2" by placing the second finger (middle) of the right hand on the left palm, and "1" by placing the first finger (index) of the right hand on the left palm.

To practice reciting solkattu, use the pronunciation guide to South Indian konokol along with the solkattu notation shown below.


Solkattu Notation
Solkattu Notation (328k .pdf)

Futher Resources

Using MIDI

The GM Standard MIDI files of South Indian rhythm exercises from the book presented here are arranged for General MIDI conga and bongo. Use these to practice, or as a rhythm track for an original composition. To set up playback on a MIDI synthesizer or sampler, see the mridangam MIDI map of the sounds of the mridangam.

Ancient Rhythms–Future Grooves

Tabla Icon Audio (selected tracks from Ancient Rhythms–Future Grooves)

Ancient Rhythms–Future Grooves: Audio and MIDI Percussion Groove Tracks from the Traditions of Africa, Bali, and India. Want more audio and MIDI files? Get this complete collection of groove tracks from the book Ancient Traditions–Future Possibilities. For a limited time, get both the book and the enhanced audio CD set with MIDI files for only $52.95 (SALE! Normally $69.95): Add 1 to Cart. Buy 1 Now.

Skype School

Skype online music lesson guitar pick icon carved in Bali for Matthew Montfort

Further instruction on this material is available through private Skype lessons with the author, Matthew Montfort.