World Music

When it comes to music from around the world, each style has its own approach to rhythm and metre.

Indian classical music

In the Indian raga the rhythms are played on a tabla. Rhythms in Indian classical music are based on rhythmic cycles.


This is a picture of a person playing the tabla

The tal is a repeating rhythm pattern usually played by the tabla - small drums. It usually has between six and sixteen beats. The beats are grouped into small sections within the pattern. The first beat of the cycle is known as sam. It marks the beginnings and ends of improvisations so it is often accented.

Tintal is the most common tal. It has the following characteristics:

  • 16 beats (4 + 4 + 4 + 4)
  • four sections beginning on the first, fifth, ninth and thirteenth beats

A drone is a note held (or repeated) throughout a passage of music. It is the sound usually heard first, stating the tonic note, Sa.

The drone is now often played by an electronic box, but is more traditionally played on a tanpura.

A drone is provided by a tanpura playing the notes Sa and Pa which in this case correspond to the notes D and A.

It is common to mark tala by hand claps and waves. In tintal, the beginning of the first, second and fourth sections is marked by a clap, but the beginning of the third section is weaker and this is shown by a wave of the hand.


Latin American and South American rhythms

Toby Shippey talks about his love of Latin American music and introduces his band Salsa Celtica

Music with Latin American influences includes salsa, samba and rumba.

The clave rhythm is found in all these styles, particularly in salsa.

Indonesian gamelan

The use of repeated musical ideas is a key feature of gamelan. Rhythmic ostinato is used to create textures based on layers of sound. Listen to some gamelan here:


What is the name of the rhythm found in most Latin American and South American musical styles?


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