Vibhag : The measure

The vibhag in north Indian music is somewhat analogous to the Western concept of the measure or bar. However, in Indian music the cycle (avartan) is much more important than the measure. In the old scriptures the vibhag was often referred to as the "ang".

The vibhag may be any number of beats; however two, three, or four-beats are the most common. The vibhags may be put together in any fashion; but the arrangement is always fixed by convention. Therefore, tintal by convention will always be four vibhags of four beats each, ektal will always be six vibhags of two beats each, etc.

The vibhags must be designated with either a clap or a wave of the hand. This convention makes communication easier. In the rhythmic notation (tal lipi) any vibhag which is khali is designated by a zero at the beginning. Any other symbol is used to designate a clap or tali. Usually a number is used which corresponds to the clapping. Therefore a "3" at the beginning of a vibhag would indicate that it was the third clap in the cycle, a "2" would indicate the second clap, etc. The sam is the most important and it is designated with a cross, or an "x".

by David Courtney, Ph.D