1. For all genres other than it is the tabla (two-piece tuned drum set) that is Hindustani music's indispensable time-keeper. Popular and scholarly texts (e.g. the widely-found ) and manuals list dozens of and most of which are rarely, if ever, performed outside of an artificial context. The Bhatkhande Sangeet Vidyapith tabla syllabus,3 for example, expects a working knowledge of, among others, "Shikhar, Rudra, Yati Shikhar and Chitra" and "Basant, Brahma, Laxmi, Vishnu, Ganesh and Mani." Taranath Rao's Pranava Tala Prajna (Feldman 1995) lists, in addition to several common and not-so-common varieties, 101 obscure ranging from two to thirty-five counts. All painstakingly notate the (the beginning of the cycle, with an X), (subdivisions), (claps), (waves), and (counts). One purpose of this seemingly perverse interest in esoterica is, I think, to vindicate the tabla as an Indian instrument with a quintessentially Indian theory, terminology, and repertoire rooted deeply in a Hindu past. Since the tabla has traditionally been played almost entirely by Muslim hereditary specialists, the socio-political significance of this revisionary change in focus becomes obvious, particularly in the context of an increasingly Hindu nationalist India following Independence.4

  2. Although the late-twentieth century has seen an increasingly large number of in use, the tabla's traditional role of accompaniment was carried out with just a few of them and its solo repertoire was, for the most part, set in just one: . The semi-classical and classical vocal genres have repertoires of compositions in various of six, seven, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, and sixteen counts. Instrumental music, according to Ravi Shankar, only began exploring beyond the boundaries of as a result of innovative (compositions) introduced by his teacher Alauddin Khan in the early part of the twentieth century. Shankar himself added more, often using with odd numbers of counts (nine, eleven, thirteen, fifteen) and even fractions (Shankar 30).

  3. Scholars continue to puzzle over the incongruities (see Figure 2) of the Hindustani system. Why does seven-count begin with a wave instead of a clap? Can the in also be the ? Why does a "" occur on the ninth count in when the structure suggests a "," and, conversely, why is there a "" on the thirteenth count when one expects a ""? (See Erdman 23.) Why does the of twelve-count seemingly defy the internal divisional structure of the ? And why does have two ? As Joan Erdman found (ibid.), there is little to be gained from asking traditional musicians since they tend to accept uncritically the knowledge they inherit from their forefathers. Among writers it is common to offer the ready excuse that (theory) simply lags behind (practice) (Ramanathan 15). But most modern theory, in my view, suffers from an inability to problematize Hindustani and an unwillingness to relate it to the sociocultural milieu in which this system emerged.

  4. The answer to these puzzles at the broadest level, I would suggest, is that Hindustani has developed organically from the rhythmic characteristics of a range of folk, popular, and semi-classical genres, and it simply does not fit the classical theoretical model for rhythm and meter. Effectively, the rhythms of these other genres, or grooves as I like to characterize them, have largely been superimposed on existing metrical frameworks derived from Sanskrit verse. This idea is not new: Rebecca Stewart has made a splendid case for this view, and Peter Manuel's excellent work on the has provided evidence that this most influential of genres used folk-derived rhythmic structures.