Types of Music Compositions: Tarana


Tarana  is a type of composition in Hindustani classical vocal music in which certain words and syllables (e.g. "odani", "todani", "tadeem" and "yalali") based on Persian and Arabic phonemes are rendered at a medium (madhya) or fast (drut) pace (laya). It was invented by Amir Khusro and is similar to the Qalbana form of Sufi poetry.

Another vocal form, taranas are medium- to fast-paced songs that are used to convey a mood of elation and are usually performed towards the end of a concert. They consist of a few lines of poetry with soft syllables or bols set to a tune. The singer uses these few lines as a basis for fast improvisation. The tillana of Carnatic music is based on the tarana, although the former is primarily associated with dance.


Tarana is based upon the use of meaningless syllables in a very fast rendition.  There is an interesting legend concerning its origin:

The story refers to a music competition during the time of Allaudin Khilji.  It had come down to two finalists; a Hindu by the name of Gopal Nayak, and a Muslim named Amir Khusru.  Gopal Nayak was well aware that he was up against a formidable opponent.  He therefore sang a very fast song in Sanskrit, knowing quite well that Amir Khusru did not know the language.  Amir Khusru then sang the same song, note for note, but substituting Persian words for the Sanskrit.  The resulting performance was thrilling even though it was unintelligible.  In this way Amir Khusru won the competition and invented tarana.

The structure consists of a main melody, usually short, repeated many times, with variation and elaboration at the performer's discretion. There is a second, contrasting melody, usually with higher notes, which is introduced once before returning to the main melody.[citation needed] The tarana may include a Persian couplet, and may use syllables from sitar or tabla such as "dar-dar" or "dir-dir"; singers might recite full compositions (e.g. tihais, gats, tukdas) within the body of the tarana.


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