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GAT-TORĀ Gat-Torā (gat, Hindustani, "form" or "movement of the body in dance" + torā, Hindustani, "an ornament for the wrists") is instrumental music in North Indian classical music, particularly for the sitar and sarod, in which a composition alternates with improvisations. Masit Khan, who lived in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, popularized this form of performance, and one of the most important of these composition patterns bears his name. Gat, as a reference to a way of walking, also refers to a kind of drum composition for tabla and a category of dance movements.

In sitar and sarod performance traditions, gat refers specifically to a kind of precomposed melody and to the entire measured section of the performance (as contrasted with the unmetered ālāp section) that such precomposed melodies commence. A gat presents the rāga (underlying melody) in a composed melodic form and often illustrates the qualities of the tāla (underlying time cycle).

Gats are commonly composed of one or more sections, each of which will be in its own specific register.

The most important of these sections is the sthā'ī (Sanskrit, "steady") and is usually limited to the lower and middle registers (purvāng). Complementing the sthā'ī is the antarā (Sanskrit, "contrast") which serves as a counter theme and usually explores the middle and upper registers (uttarāng).

Most commonly, the beginning of the sthā'ī (the mukhrā [Hindustani, "face"]) emphasizes beat one (sam) of the tala in such a distinctive way that musicians often repeat only this part of the gat, especially when they get to the final and fastest portions of the performance.

Two standardized rhythmic patterns for gat are common. In Masitkhānī gat (gat in the style of Masit Khan) the mukhrā begins on beat 12 in slow or medium-tempo Tīntāl and cadences on the sam in a tripartite rhythm. Rāzākhānī gat (gat in the style of the Raza Khan family, notably of Ali Raza) and other fast-tempo gats tend to be less regular than Masitkhānī. This more specific use of the word gat as a composition refers to a rhythmic pattern of plectrum strokes (usually mnemonically represented by the syllables and ). These gats also imply melodic shape so that, over all, the term has a matrixlike quality encompassing metric, rhythmic, pitch, and kinesthetic organization.


vilambit layappearance of gat
often begins with a drum solo (peshkār)
features long solos, often with elaborate tihā'īs
madhya layincreasingly virtuosic solos
drut layshort fast tāns
fewer tabla solos
atidrut laymetered jhāla
dramatic devices such as sawāl-
jawāb, tār paran/sāth sangat
may conclude with an elaborate
cakradār paran played in unison

The notion of torā encompasses the elaborations that contrast with the recurring gat. Explorations of the rāga, tāla, and the limits of the performer's technique occur in the torā's that come between statements of gat. These improvisations (sometimes known as tān [extension]) usually exhibit the virtuosity of the performer. In the broader structural context of performance, the gat marks the point at which the drummer enters and, in alternation with the improvisatory torās (especially in some performance traditions), where the drummer solos. Vice versa, when the melodic soloist is improvising or playing precomposed elaborations, the drummer maintains the time with a thekā representing the tāla.

After the melodic soloist has finished with his or her solo variations and improvisations, performances sometimes feature various kinds of interaction between performers, commonly the soloist and the drummer. Perhaps the most notable of these is the sawāl-jawāb (Hindustani, "question-answer"), a telescoping responsorial format. Sometimes this occurs between two instrumental soloists, one of whom states a musical line in one musical medium while the other repeats it, translating the musical line into the characteristic shape of his or her medium. The most common version of sawāl-jawāb is between a melodic instrumental soloist and a drummer.

Gordon Thompson


Miner, Allyn. Sitar and Sarod in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1997.