Monday, April 5, 2010

Shahana: the popular Kanada

I first heard Shahana from Ustad Vilayat Khan. Must have been in the early 1970s. He drifted into it without announcing the raga. As the raga unfolded, I said to myself -- "How clever! He is playing Darbari with a twist -- replacing the Komal Dh of Darbari with a Shuddha Dh, and delivering an entirely different musical experience!".

In those days,Kausi Kanada was the most commonly heard Kanada variant. Shahana was a relatively unknown raga. Over the last quarter of the 20th century, however, Shahana (also known as Sahana or Shahana Kanada) grew considerably in popularity. As a result, today, you are likely to hear it as frequently as Darbari -- the primary Kanada. Shahana is classified as a member of the Kanada group because it shares with Darbari Kanada its descending melodic line (n-P/g-M-R-S).

The raga finds occasional mention in mediaeval texts, but was probably documented only in the 19th century. The name “Shahana” is of Persian origin, with mediaeval texts referring to it as being allied to a Persian melody called Firodast. This Persian melody is unknown in India now, but may have once been in circulation. Another perspective interprets Shahana as a blend of Darbari Kanada, Adana, and Malhar. Considering the seamless character of the raga, this theory could be more analytical than historical. The Carnatic (South Indian) tradition has an immensely popular raga of the same name, which bears no resemblance to Shahana in the Hindustani system.

Between the three major authorities, who have documented the raga, we have four variants of its melodic personality. The Subbarao version deploys only komal (flat) Ni, while the Bhatkhande version deploys both shuddha (natural) and komal (flat) Ni in the ascent, and only komal (flat) Ni in the descent. The Tagore version, cited by Bhatkhande, matches the Subbarao version in swara material, but varies in phraseology. The Patwardhan version legitimises a Bhimpalas suggestion in the uttaranga, a Megh Malhar suggestion in the madhyanga (mid-octave region), and the Adana suggestion in the uttaranga. However, Patwardhan suggests that this raga originates as a blend of Darbari and Malhar, but also sees shades of Bahar in it.

Considering that poetry composed in the raga has a decent presence of imagery related to spring and the rainy season – both suggesting a relief from extreme conditions – a degree of euphoria is, indeed, integral to the psycho-acoustics of the raga within the culture-specific context.

Subbarao B. Raga Nidhi. Vol. IV, 4th Impression, 1996, Music Academy, Madras.
Ascent: n S g M P n P/ D M P S’: Descent: S’ n D n P/ D M P g/ M R S

Bhatkhande Sangeet Shastra Vol. IV, 2nd Edition, 1970. Sangeet Karyalaya, Hathras. Ascent: n S g M P n P N S’ Descent: S’ n D n P M P g M R S

The Tagore version cited by Bhatkhande:
Ascent: n S R g/ M n P/ M P n S’: Descent: S’ n D n P/ g M R S

Patwardhan, Vinayakrao. Raga Vigyan Vol. V.5th Edition, Sangeet Gaurav Granthamala.
Ascent: Rn S Mg M P/ n D n P/ M P n P S’: Descent: S’ n D n P M P Mg M R S

Subbarao and Patwardhan consider Pa-Sa as the primary and secondary dominants of the raga. Both Subbarao and Bhatkhande consider the raga to be anchored in the upper half of the melodic canvas. Contemporary practice appears to reflect all the tendencies documented by authorities, along with a sharper differentiation of Shahana from other members of the Kanada group, now consisting of over 30 melodic entities.

Contemporary practice
Contemporary interpretations of Shahana appear to conform to three broad patterns.

Ustad Vilayat Khan rendered Shahana on the heels of Bageshri (December 1973, unpublished). The melodic identity of the raga revolves around Dh in the uttaranga (upper tetrachord) of the middle octave, suggesting a Bageshri bias (g-M-D/ D-n-P). In the poorvanga (lower tetrachord), his interpretation of the raga has a touch of Bhimpalas (R n-S-M/ g-M-P/ S-g-M-P-g-M-R-S). This Shahana variant recurs on his son, Shujaat Khan’s commercial recording. The Bageshri-biased pattern is also evident in Ustad Ameer Khan’s rendition of the bandish “Sundar angana baithi”(EMI/HMV: STC:850351).

The second pattern conforms to the Bhatkhande documentation incorporating the twin-Ni usage. This can be heard in the Dhamar composition “Kunjan udat gulal” performed in the Darbhanga (Vidur Malik) gharana of Dhrupad. This feature may suggest the Bahar / Malhar facet of the raga.

The third pattern is the one performed by Jaipur-Atrauli vocalists, and heard on a recording by Dhondutai Kulkarni. This interpretation of the raga has shades of Darbari Kanada, Adana, and Bhimpalas, while retaining its distinctive deployment of shuddha Dh (g-M-D-n-P). In the poorvanga, it follows the Darbari phrasing (n-S-R-g-M-R-S) along with Bhimpalas (R-n-S-M). In the uttaranga, it uses the Adana ascent (M-P-S’), as well as Bhimpalas (M-P-n-S). In the descent, Adana phrasing (P-n-P) features alternately with the distinctive Shahana phrasing (D-n-P).

The skeletal phraseology of Shahana is drawn using the following recordings as reference. Ustad Vilayat Khan (December 1973, unpublished), Ustad Ameer Khan (EMI/HMV: STC:850351), and Pandit Jasraj (EMI/HMV: STCS: 851013). It also incorporates the twin-Ni option exercised by Darbhanga gharana Dhrupad vocalists.

Chalan: P.n. P. N. S or n S n R S/ n S R g M R S/ R n S M/ S M M P or S R g M P/ g M D n P or g M n P / M P S’ D n P/ M P S’ or M P n S or M P N S’ N S’/ R’ S’ D n P/ n M P g/ M R S

Though different musicians and gharanas emphasise different facets of Shahana, the raga has stabilised with the use of a single Ni (komal), and come to be identified by a few catch-phrases in the uttaranga (g-M-D/D-n-P/ M-P-S’/ D-n-P) along with the generic Kanada descent (n-P-g-M-R-S). Another significant tendency evident in the raga is the omission of the explicit Malhar suggestion (S-n-D-n-P), documented by significant authorities of the 19th and early 20th century. Such tendencies towards the standardisation of the melodic personality normally accompany a raga’s growing popularity in response, perhaps, to the need for its categorical differentiation from allied ragas.

(c) India Archive Music Ltd. New York

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