Monday, December 27, 2010

Girija Devi – “I am in the service of Goddess Saraswati”

Girija Devi spoke to Deepak Raja on February 24, 2004

When I was five or six years old, my father placed me under the tutelage of Sarju Prasad Mishra. In those days, girls from genteel society did not go to the teacher’s house to learn; they were taught music in their own homes. Sarju Prasad Mishra was a very good singer, but performed as a Sarangi accompanist. For the first three years, I was taught the basics – just the scale and its transpositions and transformations. Then, for a couple of years, I was taught Khayals in the major raga-s: Yaman, Bhairav, Bilawal.

Alongside the Khayal, I was introduced to Tappa-s and Thumree-s. Tappa was a very important part of the training at that stage because it trained my vocal chords for melodic agility. This facility has to be inculcated when we are young, before the vocalization mechanism becomes rigid. Saraju Prasadji taught me by singing, but mostly accompanying me on the Sarangi. In Hindustani music, Sarangi-based training has been a very powerful aid to pitch precision. The most melodious amongst 20th century vocalists – Abdul Kareem Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, and reportedly even Ameer Khan – started life as Sarangi players. I studied with Sarju Prasadji for about eleven years before he expired. I was seventeen then. I got married around that time, had my first child, and took a gap of three years before I resumed training.

My second Guru, Shrichand Mishra was a vocalist, and a master of the Tabla, who also played several other instruments – Sitar and Sarod – as a hobby. He belonged to the Seniya tradition (lineage of Miya Tansen). He had a strong grounding in Dhrupad, which influenced his approach to the modern genres. During his tutelage with Dargahiji, the legendary Guru of Benares, he had also acquired a vast repertoire of other genres, such as Tap-Khayal, Khayal-numa, Kaul, Kalbana, Gul and Naksh. Several of these genres are extinct now. I studied with him for about twenty years. I was almost forty when he expired.

The Benares tradition is of “Chau-mukhi Gayan” (Vocalism with four facets). Our training encompasses the four principal genres – Dhrupad, Khayal, Tappa, and Thumree. Therefore, Khayal and the semi-classical genres do not present themselves to us as alternatives to building a career. When I was growing up, Maharashtra emerged as the home of Khayal vocalism, with its own regional and devotional genres pushing the thumree into a corner. Upto Abdul Kareem Khan and his immediate disciples, the Thumree retained its stature, though it changed its complexion.

In later years, however, the new Khayal establishment appeared to create a climate of opinion in which the Thumree and its allied genres were regarded as either easy to master, or otherwise inferior. This bothered me immensely. So, I decided to match the competence of Khayal vocalists on their “home turf”, and challenge them to match me on mine. I worked very hard on my Khayal, and performed it more widely and consistently than any other Benares vocalist in recent times. I make it a point to perform a Khayal at every concert, and it consumes almost half of the duration of my recital. After that, I perform a few semi-classical pieces. I sing a Tappa as often as I can because it is disappearing, and I want to do my bit to keep it alive.

I do not see any conflict between Thumree and Khayal. They are distinct genres, each with its own character. One can manage both equally well if one has the training and the temperament. In the Khayal, we get to the root of the raga’s melodic personality, and elaborate upon it according to the established presentation format. In the thumree, we get into emotional depth of the poetry, and express it as musically as we can. I was brought up in a family with a very deep involvement with literature, particularly poetry. So, I handle poetry in thumree with sensitivity. In terms of the stance, my temperament keeps me away from extremes at both ends.

My approach to the Khayal is based on the “Shanta” rasa (the tranquil sentiment). My thumree renditions interpret “Shringar” rasa (the romantic sentiment) in an Indian way, without explicit eroticism. To me, Shringara is like dressing up an Indian village belle for her union with the man in her life. The way I dress her up has to be dignified, and yet alluring. It cannot be the way a woman of the streets dresses up to attract customers for the night. I sing only what I can relate to. I do not, for instance, perform Thumree-s in raga-s like Maand, which are from other regions of India. I stick to raga-s like Desh, Tilak Kamod, Telang, Bihag, Khamaj, Kafi, Bhairavi etc. in which the Benares Thumree has been traditionally performed.

I get invitations to perform with “fusion” groups. The idea seems outrageous to me. Can you imagine singing a Chaiti with lyrics like “Chaitra maase bolere koyalia ho Rama, hamare anganva” (translation: In the Chaitra/ spring month, the cuckoo sings in my courtyard) to the accompaniment of Western drums, a guitar and a saxophone? How can I communicate the delicate imagery of spring amidst the infernal noise my accompanists will create? If I try doing this, the gentle cuckoo will abandon my courtyard forever. Spring will cease to be the spring I know. If titillation is what people want, there are enough musicians dishing it out. I can do without the money I would make by joining such bands. If I had been destined to enjoy immense wealth, I would have been born in a millionaire’s household rather than to my parents.

Beyond this, it is all about the sanctity of the relationship with art. As a musician, I must see myself as being in the service of Goddess Saraswati, (the Goddess learning and the fine arts). Every concert is an opportunity to shape my personality to become worthy of this status. I have to achieve, within myself, a serenity which comes from a balanced approach, not merely to every aspect of music, but to every facet of life. I have to be the same person in all my roles – musician, wife, householder, mother – without over-reaching myself in any role, and performing them equally efficiently.

I admit that a significant thumree singer has not emerged for a long time. But, I don’t believe the art is dying. There are several competent Thumree singers around, though some of them are not performing. I have trained some promising vocalists, and I have to believe that a few of them will make the grade in a decade or so. Khayal singers – male as well as female – are showing considerable enthusiasm. Several of them have sought my guidance. There is no dearth of talent or interest amongst the younger musicians. But, if you want me to certify a potential great, I cannot identify anyone. A Thumree rendition has to induce a state of sustained inebriation. For this, the singer has to sacrifice the gratification of intermittent applause. In the present environment, this is the question mark that hangs over the future of the genre.

© Deepak S. Raja 2004
The finest recordings of Giriga Devi have been produced by India Archive Music Ltd. New York.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tejendra Majumdar -- “Where we get the most money, we risk indifferent audiences”

Tejendra Majumdar spoke to Deepak Raja on December 21, 2003

I was 9 years old when I was taken to Bahadur Khan Saheb for training. My uncle had been his disciple; so he knew the family. Until then, I had been playing the mandolin. He kept me on tenterhooks for six months before he agreed to teach me. My parents were relieved when he said yes. But, for a nine-year old mandolin player, the transition to the Sarod was not easy. The instrument was heavy, my plectrum strokes were too light to produce the required impact, and my Ustad had a fowl temper.

My training started with raga Yaman. Actually, he taught me Yaman three times – from A to Z each time – during his life. The last was a few months before his demise in 1989. I used to go to him four to five times a week. Twice or thrice during the week after school, and full days over weekends. In those days (1969-70), his fees were Rs. 75 per month. My middle class family could not afford them. So, he agreed to teach me for Rs. 30 a month. After a few years, he stopped accepting even this amount.

He generally took eight to nine months to teach a raga. At other times, he would take one family of raga-s, and take me through all the variants of it within a day. The first time he did this, it was Malhar. He started with Miya-ki Malhar, then Gaud Malhar, then Nat Malhar, then Charju-ki Malhar, then Ramdasi Malhar, and went on until all Malhar variants had been exhausted. By the end of the day, my head was swirling, and I could not sleep that night. The next morning, he asked me how good the learning had been. I had to say it was fine out of fear of upsetting him. But, having said that, I dared not mix up the raga-s ever again. On other occasions, he took up Shuddha Kalyan, followed immediately by allied ragas – Bhoop and Deshkar. Similarly, he taught me Shyam Kalyan along with its near-identical twin, Shuddha Sarang. In 20 years of training with him, I had been taken through the paces with more than 50 ragas.

His method of teaching a raga was to take me through the alap, along with bandish-es of every variety, and their treatment. In each raga, he would teach me vilambit gats, along with the improvisatory movements, then Sitarkhani (medium tempo) gats with their improvisatory movements, then drut (fast tempo) gats with their improvisatory movements. Some ragas were taught with Dhrupad bandish-es, along with the improvisatory movements for Dhrupad. Each category of bandish had a different approach to improvisatory movements.

Over a period, I developed a very intimate relationship with him. He would take me with him whenever he traveled for concerts. In those trips, a got to know many of the greatest maestros of the times, and learnt a lot not only about music, but the etiquette and decorum of the music world. I had been with him for seven years when he decided to hold my “Ganda-bandhan” (ceremonial initiation). Ganda-bandhan signifies the Guru accepting total responsibility for the progress of the disciple. After that ceremony, Bahadur Khansaheb devoted himself even more wholeheartedly to my growth.

My Ustad's three-octave tan-s drove me up the wall
The training I got from Bahadur Khansaheb laid a strong foundation of raga knowledge and the presentation of bandish-es. He was a master of the left hand as well as right hand technique. His alap-s achieved a depth of raga exploration that I have not heard from anyone else. The three-octave tan-s he made me practice in Bihag drove me up the wall for several weeks. The spring in his right hand was incredible – he could make the direction reversal on any string with any combination of power between outward and inward strokes. His inventory of jhala techniques was more sophisticated than the most sophisticated jhala ever played on the Been. He taught me all of them, though I have mastered and normally perform only a small fraction of what I have been taught. While his right hand executed these incredible stroke combinations on the melodic and chikari strings, the left hand used to play the alap.

At that stage in my life, I do not believe I could have received better training on the Sarod than I got from Bahadur Khansaheb. It is unfortunate that he died so young (Age: 60). He was also an unlucky musician for not having got the recognition that he deserved as a Sarod soloist. I feel good, though embarrassed, that my success is reviving public interest in my Ustad’s music.

When he died, I had a real problem. By then, I was already a performing musician; but the learning had to continue. After this quality of training, where could I go? For a while, I studied with Ajoy Sinha Roy, a senior of the Maihar gharana, but more of a scholar than a performing musician. He guided me with great affection, but kept pleading with me to go to Ali Akbar Khansaheb. I was diffident considering that Ali Akbar Khan was so busy and lived abroad. I then went to Annapoorna Devi, the sister of Ali Akbar Khansaheb in the hope of learning from her. She too directed me to her brother, with a letter recommending that he accept me as a disciple.

Know a raga as intimately as your wife
In 1992, when I was on a concert tour of the US, I met Ali Akbar Khansaheb with a letter of introduction from Annapoorna Devi, and he started guiding me. Training with him is sporadic – either when I am in the US or when he is in India. His approach to training is similar to Bahadur Khansaheb’s. Entirely oral transmission. No writing down. He insists that I internalize the guidance like a computer program. At this stage, we are not looking at technique, but the approach to handling a raga, and understanding all its facets. Currently, I am learning Maluha Kedar. It is a small raga. But, with his guidance, I should be able to play it for an hour without repeating a single phrase. He believes that one should get to know a raga as intimately as one knows one’s wife. Just as I can recognize my wife by just a glimpse at her toe-nails, or her finger, a raga should become recognizable by the delivery of just a single swara. When you receive this kind of guidance from a Guru, there is little chance that you can turn out to be a clumsy musician.

It is really tragic that my generation of musicians is not taking raga knowledge seriously. If you don’t care for the infinite melodic potential of a raga, why do you perform classical music? You can perform something else and do equally well, or perhaps even better!

I cannot imagine settling abroad
Over the last three years, I have been doing an average of 40 to 50 concerts a year. Three years ago, I balance was in favour of the US and Europe. Gradually, over the last two years, it has moved towards half abroad and half in India. Although I have performed in most important cities of India, I have yet to perform in a few important Indian centers like Pune. This too is about to happen. My experience tells me that audiences in the US and Europe are, on an average, open minded and serious, while in India the picture is patchy. Where we get the most money in India, we often get indifferent audiences. In the west, the money and audience quality are both more consistent.

I now spend five to six months a year abroad. From every angle, the western market is important for a musician. But, I cannot imagine settling abroad. I feel sorry for those musicians who had the opportunity of settling abroad, did it, and lost touch with India. Yes, they might have survived. But, within a few years, they stopped growing as musicians and also lost their credibility. Unless we interact in a sustained and a serious manner with the Indian music world, we stagnate, and the western audiences will not give us respect unless we also command respect at home.

© Deepak S. Raja, 2003
The finest recordings of Tejendra Majumdar have been produced by India Archive Music , New York.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bhairavi III: An Ustad’s Obsession

I translate below, as faithfully as possible, an extract from a recorded interview I did with Ustad Vilayat Khan on January 3, 1997. The explicit agenda was to discuss a recording he had done, of Raga Khamaj, for India Archive Music Ltd. The conversation drifted towards the ragas by which each generation of his family is likely to be remembered.

Question: Ustad Enayet Khan was known for his mastery over Khamaj. But, had Imdad Khan, before him, also worked on Khamaj ?

Answer: Imdad Khan was best known for his Puriya, Yaman and Kafi. According to legend, once he played a Hori (raga Kafi, associated with the festival of holi, the festival of colours) so brilliantly in Nepal, that there was virtually a shower of saffron coloured powder from the heavens.

 Question: Which ragas will people remember Ustad Enayet Khan by ? 

Answer: Bhairav, Bageshri, Piloo, Khamaj, Kafi, Tilak Kamod, Bihari, Yaman, Puriya -- well, Puriya and Yaman happen to be steady pillars of our gharana's music.

Question: What are your views on your own forte' ? Which are the ragas which, you feel, you have charged with the entire power of your soul ?

Answer: I don't yet have the confidence to think on these lines because whatever I play is borrowed from the music of the giants I have heard. Maybe, I have built some kind of edifice by assembling bricks made by others. But, what is the real worth of this achievement ?

I try to give each raga the same quality of effort, spending at least two weeks preparing every raga for a concert. By the third or fourth day, the raga starts revealing its deepest secrets to me. By the time I am ready to go on stage, I feel the same degree of intimacy with any raga.

Question: Some of your ragas have a very special appeal for us. But, we might fail to notice when, and in which ragas, you approach a state of ecstatic involvement.

Answer: If you wish to look at it this way, I am born on Janmashtami (the birth-date of Lord Krishna, one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu, the Preserver of the universe). Therefore, judging from the constellation under which I was born, I ought to possess the characteristics of Lord Krishna (a divine cassanova, an astute politician, and a worldly philosopher).

As a supplicant before a deity, I am immensely attracted to Bhairav (Lord Shiva, the destroyer of the universe, the eternal ascetic who presides over the occult sciences, music and dance). And, as a lover, I am obsessed with Bhairavi (Godess Parvati, Lord Shiva's divine consort, High Priestess of the Shakti cult). How ironical this is (considering the contrasting images of Krishna on the one hand and Shiva and Parvati on the other)!

Question: Bhairav and Bhairavi, as Shiva (Male power) and Shakti (Female Power) are two facets of the same spiritual entity, are'nt they ?

Answer: Yes, but Bhairav is awesome; Bhairavi is compelling. The average Hindu is conditioned by the caricature of Bhairav (Lord Shiva, as portrayed in the temples and in popular art). I wish I, a devout Moslem, could describe to him my vision of Bahirav's infinite form and awesome power! I would say the same for Bhairavi (Parvati). How many different facets of her persona I have experienced !

Oh Allah ! By how many different names, and in how many different forms, you manifest yourself to the seeker! It is we who give You different names, according to our (limited) capacity to understand You. All of them are names in praise of Your Glory. You are masculine; You are also feminine. You are the Lover; You are also the Beloved. You are the Ascetic; and you are also the Emperor.

Sitting in this room, you and I talk glibly about my recording of one raga, or another recording of another raga, as landmarks. But, all this reflects our limited understanding. Nothing limits Him (the Almighty) who inspires all this. Who, amongst mortals, has yet measured the heights to which He can elevate man's endeavours ?

It is interesting that, when Vilayat Khan talks about the excellence achieved by his ancestors, ragas are merely ragas. But, the moment he starts talking about his own music, the conversation isn't about music at all. It is about the mythical entities, Bhairav and Bhairavi, who inhabit a world beyond music.

In these comments, the Ustad demonstrates the powerful hold of the Hindu cult of Shakti (Female Divinity) over the mind of Bengal (Bengal includes the Indian state of West Bengal and present-day Bangla Desh) transcending the barriers of religion.

The Ustad handles the apparent incongruity of himself, a Moslem, obsessed by a Hindu deity with total innocence. He is responding to an archetype pregnant with immense appeal within the culture. In explaining this vision verbally, he swings effortlessly between Hindu and Islamic ideas, emphasising the irrelevance of religion to man's artistic and spiritual life.

The melodic exploration of Bhairavi has, indeed, been a very significant facet of his life's work. Any avid follower of the Ustad's career, or collector of his recordings, will confirm that Vilayat Khan has performed Bhairavi more frequently, and in more varied treatments, than any other raga. If you have heard a lot of Vilayat Khan, you have certainly heard enough of Bhairavi to know every one of his phrases. Yet, audiences never seem to tire of Vilayat Khan's Bhairavi. This is because he never seemed to run out of fresh ideas for courting his mythical beloved.

(c) India Archive Music Ltd. New York. The finest recordings of Ustad Vilayat Khan's Bhairavi have been produced by India Archive Music.

Bhairavi II: The Archetype

As in the case of other ragas named after Hindu deities (Shree, Durga, Saraswati etc.), the genesis of the association between Bhairavi, as a melodic entity and its mythological correlates, is untraceable. However, Raga-Dhyana texts (contemplation of a raga) for many ragas are available in musicological literature. When backed by the power of mythology, these visualizations have a very obvious influence on their melodic interpretations, and their role in the musical culture.

Bhairavi's mythological persona is simple; but her archetypal symbolism is highly complex.

Parvati (Bhairavi), the daughter of the mountain-king Himawat, is an ambiguous semi-divinity. Although poetic metaphors accord her divine status, she is the quintessence of the lowly mortal woman worshipping the lofty male god. She literally worships the phallus (the predominant iconographic representation of Lord Shiva). She undertakes rigorous penance in order to purify herself, and to make herself worthy of marriage to her Lord. (O'Flaherty. The Divine Consort. Ed: Hawley & Wulff.Beacon Press.1986. Pg. 129-143)

At the same time, she is also the High Priestess of the cult of Shakti (the worship of the female divinity), which emerged as a corollary to the Bhakti cult. Bhakti involved the passionate worship of a male God by the devotee imagining himself/herself to be a woman in an erotic relationship with the divine. Homosexuality being taboo, the Shakti cult invented a female divinity, and made it convenient for male worshippers to imagine such an intimacy. (O'Flaherty. The Divine Consort. Ed: Hawley & Wulff.Beacon Press.1986. Pg. 129-143).

Parvati's ambiguous mortal/immortal status is the focal point of the transition from male-dominated to female-dominated hierogamies. She functions simultaneously at three levels. Below the mythological Parvati is the mere mortal worshipping her divinity. Above her, and infusing her with power, is Devi Mahamaya (The Eternal Feminine, on par with Bramha, the Creator), of whom there are several manifestations, ranging from the most ferocious, to the most benign. (O'Flaherty. The Divine Consort. Ed: Hawley & Wulff. Beacon Press. 1986.Pg. 129-143).

The cult of Shakti regards the female principle as the active principle, and the male principle as the passive one. "Shiva, when united with Shakti, is able to create; otherwise, he is unable even to move" (Quoted from Saundaryalahari. Radhakrishnan. Indian Philosophy. Vol. II Blackie & Sons. 10th Impression, 1977 Pg. 784-785).

Arising from this, and equally important to the world of art is the notion of sexual union in the Shakti cult. In iconographic representations of sexual union, Parvati/ Uma/ Bhairavi/ Shakti is represented astride Shiva rather than the other way around. In the ritualistic aspects of Shakti worship, the man must not spill his semen. Instead, he ingests the female sexual fluid called rajas (lit: the elixir of vitality), which is not menstrual blood. The union thus qualifies for the description of inverse sexual intercourse. (Marglin. The Divine Consort. Ed: Hawley & Wulff. Beacon Press. 1986. Pg. 298-315).

In this configuration of images, we are looking at a very powerful stimulus for art as a sublimation of man's sexuality. As the fountainhead of a mulitude of female divinities, she lends herself to numerous manifestations, while retaining her Bhairavi-ness. As a mythological persona, she straddles, simultaneously, the human/ accessible as well as the divine/ inaccessible worlds. She is Shiva's literal appendage, and also his spiritual superior. In the act of sexual union, she is Shiva's dominant partner; but her mythological persona is the epitome of female servility.

(c) India Archive Music Ltd. New York.  The finest recordings of Raga Bhairavi have been produced by India Archive Music Ltd. New York.

Bhairavi I: The melodic form

Bhairavi is one of the most popular ragas in the Hindustani melodic pantheon. In its pure form, its scale represents one of the ten parent scales under which other ragas are classified. But, its concert manifestation is highly malleable, and accommodates a variety of tonal deviations, without losing its essential Bhairavi-ness.

The shuddha (pure) Bhairavi is heard only rarely. On the concert platform, one encounters melodic patterns derived from one or more of the Bhairavi variants. These variants were probably influenced by folk melodies, as suggested by their names referring to the different regions: Sindh (now in Pakistan), Punjab (in northern India, and partly in Pakistan), Purab (Eastern part of the Northern Provinces), and Delhi.

These variants are not very much more than shades or flavors added, in varying degrees, to the distinctive base of the near-pure Bhairavi. As a result, a contemporary Bhairavi rendition is generally an amalgam of melodic features drawn from two or more of the principal variants.

Bhairavi, which started two centuries ago as a heptatonic raga, is today often performed using 11 or even 12 tones in the Hindustani scale. It is no longer necessary for a musician to announce which variant of Bhairavi he is presenting. It is assumed that, unless announced otherwise, he will present his own version of a mishra (mixed) Bhairavi. In fact, he occasionally exercises the freedom, within a concert, to take short melodic detours into other identifiable ragas, not necessarily of the Bhairavi parent scale, thus permitting Bhairavi to become the nucleus of a Raga-mala.

The immense tenacity of this raga has also shaped its role on the concert platform.

In accordance with the time-theory of raga-s, Bhairavi is classified as an early-morning, post-sunrise, raga. In the days when concerts normally commenced late in the night and went on till the early hours of the morning, Bhairavi became popular as the tail-piece raga. Aided by the progressive relaxation of its melodic grammar, Bhairavi established itself as a tail-piece raga, independent of the time consideration. Interestingly, nothing of this sort has happened to other ragas, such as Jogia, prescribed for performance around dawn.

In the 1940's, Bhatkhande observed (Bhatkhande Sangeet Shastra, Vol. IV, Ed. LN Garg. Sangeet Karyalaya, 2nd edition, 1970 Pg. 610), that Bhairavi possesses insufficient profundity to support the more formal formats of raga presentation. As evidence, he cites the fact that, although compositions of Bhairavi are found in all other genres of Hindustani music, it is difficult to find slow-tempo khayals in this raga.

This observation is perhaps more valid today because Bhairavi has, by now, become a light raga comparable to Piloo or Khamaj, especially in vocal music. In instrumental music, however, the raga still delivers a richer diversity in raga interpretations and presentation formats, than Bhatkhande probably encountered.

The Melodic Form

In its pure form, rarely heard now, Bhairavi is a heptatonic raga using flat tones for Re, Ga, Dh and Ni. It corresponds to the Hanumatodi Mela in the Carnatic (South Indian) tradition.

Bhairavi is one of the several names of Parvati, the divine consort of Bhairav (Lord Shiva), the destroyer of the universe. The mythological associations of Bhairav and Bhairavi are inseparably linked. Likewise, in musicological literature, Bhairavi is described as a ragini (female counterpart) of raga Bhairav (Bhatkhande Sangeet Shastra, Vol. IV, Ed.LN Garg. Sangeet Karyalaya, Hathras, 2nd edition, 1970 Pg. 608).

The gender polarity of the two divinities extends into their respective tonal structures. The contemporary raga Bhairavi comes into being by the replacement of the shuddha (natural) Ga and Ni tones of Bhairav, by their respective komal (flat) manifestations. The masculine profundity of raga Bhairav finds a compatible feminine expression in the seductive grace of raga Bhairavi.

The present tonal structure of Bhairavi is about two centuries old. At the time of Damodara (ca. 1625), the Bhairavi nomenclature corresponded to the contemporary Kafi parent scale (S R g M P D n). Apparently, the shuddha (natural) Dh was replaced by the komal (flat) Dh during the second half of the 17th century, and the komal (flat) Re replaced the shuddha (natural) Re a century later.

Bhairavi shares its tone material, and even some admissible phrases, with Shuddha Todi (Miya-ki-Todi), Bilaskhani Todi, and Asavari. But, unlike Bhairavi, none of these ragas gives the musician the freedom to introduce alien tone material or phraseologies.

The basic deviation the contemporary Bhairavi makes from the pure Bhairavi is the addition of the shuddha (natural) Re tone to the native komal (flat) Re of the raga. The natural Re is used primarily in the ascent, and the flat Re in the descent. This near-pure melodic form is currently heard in Dhrupad-Dhamar renditions (Example: Nasir Ameenuddin and Nasir Moinuddin Dagar. UNESCO. Anthology of the Orient Vol II, 1964).

At the other end of the vocal music spectrum, thumree renditions in Bhairavi, unfettered by raga grammar, might also add the natural Dh, the natural Ni, and the sharp Ma tones. The Bhairavi performed on instruments goes further, and frequently uses all the 12 tones of the Hindustani scale. However, the shuddha (natural) Ga, when used at all, is used very sparingly.

The distinctive melodic identities of the different Bhairavi variants have, by now, been blurred by generations of liberal blending. For the establishment of the identity of Bhairavi, what remains is a central core of phraseology.

Skeletal phraseology:
n. S n. r S
d. n. S R g
g M P d P
g M d n S'
n r' S' d P
d P M P g M r S or g M P M g M r S

 This phraseology belongs to the near-pure Bhairavi with twin-Re usage. These phrases remain the identifying phraseology of Bhairavi. Beyond this, there are conventions for taking liberties, which sustain the Bhairavi-ness of the raga.

The shuddha (natural) Dh tone, when used, is in first-fifth correspondnce to the shuddha Re. Therefore, its treatment is identical to the shuddha Re treatment -- only in the ascent, and never in the descent.(g-M-P-D-n-d-P corresponding to d-n-S-R-g-r-S).

The tivra (sharp) Ma, when used, is always deployed in the descent, and in conjunction with the shuddha (natural) Ma tone. In such treatment, it either replaces the Pa tone, or is used in conjunction with the Pa tone (n-d-P-M^-M-g-M-r-S or S-g-M-M^-M-g-M-r-S).

There is also a special use of the tivra Ma, in the ascent, as a flourish below the Pa (n-D-n-d-P-d-M^-P), which corresponds to (g-R-g-r-S-r-n-S) a similar special use of the natutal Ni tone. In this formation, the two Re tones, and the two Ni tones are used to embellish the Sa and Pa tones respectively.

The more prominent use of the shuddha Ni tone is seen in the Sindh Bhairavi, which explicitly ascends like raga Chandrakauns (S-g-M-d-N-S'). A little less prominent use is also made, as a variation of the Bhairavi ascent (P-d-N-S' instead of the regular g-M-d-n-S').

The last remaining tone of the scale, the shuddha Ga, is used very sparingly, because it is too strongly suggestive of the profound Bhairav. It is generally used in the ascent, mostly in the middle octave, and turned around very quickly (r-G-M-g-R-g-S-r-S) so as not to disturb the essential feminity of Bhairavi.

Rarely, and only for the element of surprise, you do find musicians running through all the 12 notes in the octave is a flat-out motion (S-N-n-D-d-P-M^-M-G-g-R-r-S). In all the Bhairavi I have heard from Vilayat Khan, he has done this only once, as the finale of a private concert in February 1998.

Due to its melodic versatility, Bhairavi can deliver a wide variety of emotional statements. The near-pure form performed by the Dagars is intensely devotional. Once we leave the devotional territory, we encounter varying combinations of pathos and romance inherent in the melodic character of the raga -- the pain of separation.

(c) India Archive Music Ltd., New York. The finest recordings of Raga Bahiravi have been published by India Archive Music Ltd. New York.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nayan Ghosh – “The market for the Tabla solo is disappearing”

Nayan spoke to Deepak Raja on January 28, 2000

My father, Pandit Nikhil Ghosh -- we called him Baba -- was my Guru in all departments of music. He is remembered as a tabla maestro. This, indeed, he was. He was trained by three phenomenal percussionists: Jnana Prokash Ghosh, Ahmedjan Thirakwa, and Ameer Hussein Khan. But, few people know that, until 1944, Baba was a professional vocalist. He sang regularly on radio as well as at music conferences. The greatest amongst his contemporaries, including Ustad Ameer Khan, recognized him as an accomplished vocalist.

Baba was persuaded to switch over to the tabla by Jnana Prokash Ghosh. Jnana Babu argued that the tabla needed to be emancipated from the grip of hereditary musicianship, and only a musician with a formal education could do this. In a sense, Baba committed himself to the tabla as a missionary calling.

My grandfather, though only a competent amateur, was a sitarist. He had received training from Bhagwan Chandra Das, a renowned musician of the Seniya Rudra Veena and Rabab tradition. As children, Baba, and his elder brother, the flautist Pannalal Ghosh, absorbed sitar music more than any other form. After my grandfather's demise, Panna Babu (Pannalal Ghosh) continued training Baba on the sitar.

My claim to having learnt the sitar from Baba is often doubted. Ustad Vilayat Khan can vouch for my father's knowledge of the sitar, and also testify that Baba would qualify as a teacher. Vilayat Khan Saheb and Baba were friends from their early years in the profession, and had toured Europe together in 1958.

When my training began, I was facing a Guru who was highly proficient as a vocalist, percussionist, and sitarist. I was probably three years old when my training started. Vocal and tabla training started simultaneously. At the age of four, I did my first radio broadcast with a tabla solo in a children's programme. From the age of thirteen, I competed regularly in inter-school and inter-collegiate music competitions in the vocal music as well as tabla segments, and collected numerous trophies and prizes.

Although my entire training was with Baba, Ustad Ahmedjan Thirakwa played a very important role in my life. He lived with us for almost a decade during my teens -- the most formative years of my life -- and supervised my training. He was over ninety then, but had an amazing zest for his own daily practice, and for the sessions he took with me during the day, and with Baba at night.

I started playing the sitar when I was about twelve. It started rather casually. Seeing my interest, Baba made sure that my basic technique was sound. Being a tabla player, he was specially attentive to the technique of sound production (stroke-craft). For melodic content, he would guide mostly by singing, and I would follow.

My performing career started as a tabla player, when I was sixteen, with opportunities for solo concerts before learned gatherings, and invitations to accompany senior musicians. Life, however, got complicated when I was eighteen, and sitar performances began.

In 1974, Baba was due to tour Europe with Radhu Babu (the sarodist, Radhika Mohan Maitra). A few days before their departure, Radhu Babu developed a coronary condition, and had to back out. Baba desperately tried booking a replacement of comparable stature, but failed. Baba was persuaded -- against his own better judgment -- to take me and my brother, Dhruva, on the tour. This is how the group, "Traya" (Trio), came into being.

During that tour, I received the most intensive sitar training of my life. Much of the guidance was given on the stage itself, while I played, and Baba accompanied on the tabla. With that tour, Baba and I both got more involved in my competence as a sitarist, and began agonizing over the inevitable choice between the tabla and the sitar.

To help us decide, we invited Baba's first Guru, Jnana Prakash Ghosh to Bombay. Thirty years ago, he had helped my father choose between vocal music and the tabla. We thought he could do something like that again, for me. Jnana Babu stayed with us for two weeks and tested me, alternately and thoroughly, on the sitar and the tabla. At the end of the ordeal, he advised me to continue with both until the choice became easier. Thereafter, Prof. DT Joshi, another elder statesman of the music world, and Radhu Babu, both undertook the same exercise, with identical results.

So, I carried on with both. For over fifteen years now, I have been an A-grade artist on All India Radio in the sitar as well as tabla categories. But, I know that, in the real world, this status and parity on the radio have no meaning, and cannot be sustained.

The market has its own mind, and is tilting the scales in a subtle manner. The pattern of demand is still unclear, as I seem to go through alternating phases of being in demand as a tabla player, and as a sitarist. But, certain realities of the profession are giving me a direction.

I relate to the tabla solo with a certain sense of ownership, and authority. This is natural considering the intimate relationship with Thirakwa Khansaheb, and the legacy of the finest soloists of the century. But, the market for the solo is disappearing. Accompanists have a different problem. They need to manage two intermediaries -- the concert host, as well as the principal musician. This is a difficult scenario, unless I am willing to flow with the current tide of populism.

The sitar scene is less depressing. There is no shortage of outstanding sitarists; but, audiences are still receptive to original music. The pressure of populism, too, is less severe. I regard Ustad Vilayat Khan's music as my model; and this is the dominant style on the concert platform today. Within that style, I can remain original because of my vocal training and percussion orientation. Professional relationships are also more manageable for a sitarist. With only one intermediary to handle, a rewarding rapport with audiences can be established and sustained more easily.

My father had anticipated such a drift in the market -- and in my perceptions of it. During his last days, he predicted that, ultimately, I would need to commit myself to the sitar. He asked me to prepare myself for the painful choice. He knew of my love for the tabla. He also knew about such pain; he had suffered it when, in 1944, he bid farewell to performing as a vocalist.

At an emotional level, I may not yet have accepted the severance from tabla. But, I have come to terms with my future as a sitarist.

© Deepak S. Raja 2000
The finest recordings of Nayan Ghosh have been produced by
India Archive Music Ltd., New York.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Prof. Kalyan Mukherjea – A maestro rediscovered

Introduction: Prof. Kalyan Mukherjea (1943-2010) was an outstanding sarod player, trained by two eminent Gurus of Bengal -- Radhika Mohan Maitra and Prof. DT Joshi. Prof. Mukherjea also happened to be an eminent Professor of mathematics. He allowed the musician in him to be rediscovered after a chance encounter with Lyle Wachovsky of India Archive Music, New York.

Mukherjea's took his basic degree in Mathematics at Cambridge in England, and a Ph.D. from Cornell (Ithaca, NY.USA). He served on the Mathematics Faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) for eight years. In his last years, he was associated with the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta.

In his e-mail to Deepak Raja (June 25,1999), Kalyan Mukherjea said: "I was a radio artist in India for six years; but I never had a musical career. I have played if and when asked to. Even in Bombay, I have performed only twice or thrice. I am not sure Bombay audiences should feel specially deprived, because in totality, between 1989 and 1995, I have done only two concerts. After my stroke in May, 1995, I am a hemiplegic, and now, only an ex-sarod player."

Prof. Kalyan Mukherjea writes about his evolution as a musician.

Bernard Shaw is reported to have remarked that his education had continued unabated throughout his life, except for a brief interruption when he was sent to school. I hope I do not give a similar impression in what follows, since I attach a considerable degree of significance to my development when I was not under the tutelage of a Guru.

I started learning the sarod at the age of twelve from the late Pandit Radhika Mohan Maitra. Besides being much admired as a musician with an impeccably pure and orthodox style, he was - already at the age of forty - a teacher of great repute. This reputation, of course, attained legendary proportions by the time of his untimely death in 1981.

As with all beginners amongst his students, he started me off with a year or so of rote learning. I would visit him once a week, and copy out the set pieces. The following week, I would play what I had taken down the previous week, and satisfy him that I had, indeed, mastered the material. These pieces, in twelve elementary ragas, had been written down in voluminous ledgers by one of his earlier students during the early stages of tutelage.

It was a somewhat tedious affair. Now I realise that what he was trying to achieve was not just getting our hands working properly. He was also inculcating in us good musical taste, correct grammar, and diction. His pupils can easily be recognised by the way they blend intricate right hand plucking (bols) with the melodic line and this, I feel, is a consequence of this early rote drill that we went through.

Once Radhika Mohan decided that the basic skills had been transferred, he proceeded to teach me to improvise. The first session, as with all students, was alap in Malkauns. He would sing and I would try to play the phrases back to him. The week following, I would have to improvise along the lines he had indicated the previous week and he would correct what he perceived to be errors and faults. After my skills on the instrument had outstripped his somewhat limited prowess as a vocalist, he started to play his sarod while teaching me, and I would follow him, repeating his phrases. This is how I received all my lessons after the third year on. I recall, I learnt only three ragas (Malkauns, Bageshri, and Poorvi) in the first two years of improvisation.

What might surprise some is that he never asked me to play a phrase for the reason that it would make my recitals attractive. If he commended a phrase, he would prefix it with some comment like "this is where the raga lives" or "without this, you cannot make the raga's character clear". His philosophy was that the student should improvise according to what seemed attractive to his own, rather than Radhika Mohan's, musical thinking. There was no point, according to him, in teaching a horde of people to play according to the taste of Radhika Mohan.

This has had the peculiar consequence that his better students play completely different styles, although they are instantly recognisable as Radhika Mohan's students. Moreover, they disagree quite openly about what constituted the essential ingrediants of Radhika Mohan's style and what is the musical legacy they ought to preserve for future generations.

During the years of 1960-61, there was a break of sorts in my tutelage under Radhika Mohan. At that time, his friend, Prof.DT Joshi, was spending some time in Calcutta. I had just finished my Intermediate Degree exam and found it easy to spend the whole morning and evening learning from Joshi. In the afternoons I would go to Radhu Babu. When college resumed for my final year of Degree studies, Radhu Babu stopped teaching me. Instead, he instructed me to devote my limited time to music studies with Prof.DT Joshi.

In fact, this did not matter very much; both Radhu Babu and Joshi-ji came around every evening to chat with my father, and after they had settled down with their refreshments, I would be summoned and would have to satisfy both the Gurus that I was not getting corrupted by the other one's tutelage. So, I ended up having more 'taleem' than ever before.

Those who are not aware of how jealously Hindustani musicians guard their pupils from being influenced by other musicians, will not realise what extraordinary breadth of mind and heart Radhika Mohan showed by this gesture. I cannot imagine any other guru showing this kind of generosity and such a confident ego.

Between 1962 and 1976 I lived largely outside India, first studying at Cambridge (England) and Cornell (Ithaca, NY) and finally teaching for eight years at UCLA. Although I would resume my lessons with Radhika Mohan whenever I was back home on vacation, my musical attitudes changed rather dramatically over these years abroad.

This was the first time I was being exposed to different traditions in music. I do not think that Western classical music and Jazz, the only two musics I learned to enjoy, had any direct effect on my music. However, this exposure broadened my musical horizons enormously.

For example, I became aware that the sarod was, relatively speaking, a rather undeveloped instrument. Nothing about the sarod is standard - not the wood it is made of, not the number of strings, not the fingering, not the material out of which the bridge is made. All these are variable and attributed to differences of opinion between exponents of different gharanas. When one compares this with the situation obtaining in the violin or the piano, one realises that what is involved is not merely a matter of different musical schools playing different styles using slightly different techniques. It could be that a single basic entity is still undergoing a process of evolution along different lines. Certainly I feel this is so, and hence have had no compunction whatever about experimenting with the technical aspects of sarod playing.

I have tried out different fingering techniques, different materials (such as Teflon and ebony) for the plectrum and even an abortive attempt at using Kevlar for covering the drum of the sarod !

Of other interesting and ultimately rewarding experiences, I ought to mention is my participating in the graduate seminars on Hindustani music conducted at UCLA by Prof. Nazirali Jairazbhoy. It is in these seminars that I first saw how an undogmatic and analytical approach to our music can help demystify and clarify a lot of do's and don'ts that pervade the teaching of every gharana.

When I returned to India in 1976, I resumed learning from Radhika Mohan. But, this was quite different from my earlier training. He had formally retired from playing in public and was, as a result, often not in the best of shape in terms of technical virtuosity. However, he was now more willing to talk about the esthetic aspects of presenting a piece of music to an audience. He was also more mellow in his approach to the raga. He even conceded that it might be permissible to violate the law as long as the spirit of the raga was enhanced by this license. I certainly found this new (really older!) Radhika Mohan an extraordinarily sensitive teacher, ideally suited for advanced students who had already developed a musical personality of their own.

Every musician learns from other musicians, especially those who are his friends. I have had many such friends to whom I owe a debt. In have particularly rewarding memories of the two summers I spent in Bombay, visiting the Mathematics Department of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. On those sojourns, I stayed with my friends, Parveen Sultana and Dilshad Khan. This was the only time I have actually lived with professional musicians and seen how they go about the business of keeping their musical skills in fine fettle. Dilshad would, in particular, goad me into practicing harder. This was a delightful experience and I am sure my music gained from it.

I must finally add that I find the process of teaching - even complete beginners - an interesting and rewarding experience. I have been fortunate in having had very interesting students, including those who wouldn't be welcomed by most sarod players. Trying to help a gentleman who is starting on the sarod at the age of sixty with the only ambition of playing ten, or fifteen minutes of alap in Malkauns, or trying to explain to a young American with very fast hands how to settle down and play a raga correctly and methodically, is certainly challenging. But, in doing so, the teacher ends up with a clearer conception of what is essential to the music he plays.

So, I find that my musical education has continued unabated throughout my life . . . .

© India Archive Music, Ltd. New York. Producers of the finest recordings of Kalyan Mukherjea.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Raga Basant Mukhari – A Carnatic raga seeking a Hindustani identity

This essay is now published in my fourth book:

Removing it from this blog was proper, though not contractually obligatory, in order to protect my publisher's investment in my book.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ustad Asad Ali Khan – “The university is no place for shaping performing careers”

The Rudra Veena maestro spoke to Deepak Raja on January 11, 2000.

I belong to the Jaipur Beenkar gharana, founded by the 18th century beenkar, Shahaji Saheb. Rajasthan has been our home for several centuries even before Shahaji Saheb; but my ancestors had a long sojourn in Golconda-Bijapur in South India, after which we returned to Rajasthan. My father, Sadiq Ali Khan, was a musician at the Alwar and Rampur courts. He had studied with my grandfather, Musharraf Khan, who was trained by my great-grandfather, the legendary Rajab Ali Khan.

At Alwar, my father’s colleagues were people like Allah Bande Khan (the grandfather of Nasir Aminuddin and Nasir Moinuddin Dagar), and Sageer Khan (the son of Wazir Khan of Rampur). After retirement from the service of the Court, my father settled down at Rampur, where I was born in 1934. In 1962, my father agreed to join the faculty of the Bhatkhande College of Music at Lucknow. He died there in 1964. Until my father’s end, I lived and studied with him, traveling whenever necessary for concerts.

A sense of futility
In 1965, after my father’s demise, I took up an assignment at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra in Delhi, whose founder, Sumitra Charat Ram, was keen on preserving the Been art. Despite her efforts and mine, we could find only two students for the Been – neither of them has pursued the art -- while the Sarod, Sitar and Khayal music got an encouraging response. I spent a futile three years there, and quit.

In 1971, the Delhi University invited me to join its music faculty with similar hopes, and similar results. I served there for 14 years, teaching music theory and the Been style of the sitar, which nobody plays any longer. But, I could not get a single student to learn the Been. By the early 1980’s I was traveling frequently for concerts, and unable to manage my teaching responsibilities. So, without waiting to reach the age of mandatory retirement, I quit in 1985 to devote myself to performing.

The futility of our efforts to enlarge the Been’s following, in the 1970’s does not surprise me. But, we had to try. The university classroom is, in any case, not the ideal place for shaping performing careers. Those who seek a degree in music, do so to qualify for jobs as music teachers or as producers with radio or TV. Many ladies study music at university while they wait for Mr. Right to turn up. The Dhrupad revival was, at that time, nowhere on the horizon; the international market for the Been was just about opening up. For propagating the Been art, that was not a promising context. Even if the limitations of the university framework did not exist, it would have been near impossible to find students who would submit themselves to the grooming of a beenkar, as my gharana views it.

The making of a beenkar
In our gharana, we take the students through a three-stage training. The Been is an instrument of the Dhrupad genre and the gayaki ang (the vocalized idiom). Therefore, a musician is first trained as a vocalist, starting with the science of breath control and intonation, going on to the knowledge of a sufficient number of ragas, and several Dhrupad compositions in each raga. At the second stage, he is trained to apply his knowledge of Dhrupad vocalism to the sitar, which is an easier instrument to handle than the Been. At this stage, he also acquires knowledge of the rhythmic intricacies and improvisatory movements of the Dhrupad genre.

Once he acquires sufficient command over the sitar, he is allowed to graduate to the Been. We make sure that by this time, the student can sit for hours in the posture of Vajrasana. He has to start with Vajrasana from the first day, long before he holds the sitar. The transition from the sitar to the Been is a major one, as the most important aspects of playing – the mizrab angle, the placement of strings -- are different. Gradually, the transition is achieved and the craft is transferred to the Been. Beyond this, the instrument teaches the musician its own art. An exceptionally talented and dedicated student can take upto ten years to go through these three stages of grooming. Most will take fifteen years to become respectable performers, if they have it in them.

The tenacity required to go through this process is rare in present times. The days of hereditary musicianship are over; so are the days of princely patronage, which supported it. Given the many options today, who would want to make a choice that may, or may not, pay off after ten or fifteen years? Music is no more a way of life. It is a profession. Musicians want recognition and money fast, and they will learn what gives them a quick take-off. Moreover, today people want to learn music – whether Been or something else – with different objectives. It may have nothing to do with wanting to perform.

Today, the Dhrupad revival is a reality. The Been has a good international audience. There exists sufficient motivation for promising talent. But, the journey is long and arduous. By the grace of God, I have five disciples today – four foreign, and one Indian. I would be very happy if even one of them emerges as a competent performer.

Performance format
In my gharana, we present the raga in complete Dhrupad format – alap, jod, jhala, Dhrupad, followed by tar-paran. Beenkars who perform a partial or abbreviated protocol betray their poor training – it doesn’t matter how they justify it. Our training has equipped us in all the departments of the art. We don’t compromise with this format for any audience, Indian or foreign. Also, we make very sparing use of the tihai, which has become so popular today. A tihai has to be a spontaneous and effortless improvisation. The pre-composed tihai belongs to the territory of dance and solo percussion. In our gharana, we consider the tihai a childish gimmick.

In the choice of Dhrupad compositions, we have been taught that the compositions with four stanzas are meant for vocal rendition, while the twin-stanza compositions are suitable for the Been. After rendering the two stanzas – the sthayi and the antara – we begin the tar-paran improvisations. The tar-paran belongs to the jod-ang (the jod facet) of the improvisations with percussion accompaniment. A competent Beenkar knows hundreds of parans composed for the Pakhawaj, while his percussionist knows hundreds of stroke-patterns on the Been. They anticipate each other’s improvisations, and co-operate to create the most effective rhythmic impact. And, the advanced stage of the tar-parans, played with chikari punctuation, is the jhala ang (jhala facet/ movement).

Almost 50% of the success of our concert depends on the quality of the Pakhawaj accompaniment. The required rapport with the Pakhawaj player is best achieved through a stable partnership with one percussionist. For years, I have played with Gopaldasji, who once also accompanied my father. He is getting on in years now. I am developing a younger Pakhawaj player from Mathura. There are many soloists in India, but very few good accompanists. An accompanist has to be virtually groomed for that role by senior vocalists or beenkars.

I have done what I could for the Been. Its future is in the hands of God and the future generations.

© Deepak S. Raja 2000
The finest Rudra Veena (Been) recordings have been produced by India Archive Music Ltd. New York.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Book Review: by Abhik Majumdar

The Book Review Monthly, New Delhi
Volume XXXI, Number 7, July 2007

Hindustani music: a tradition in transition
By: Deepak Raja
DK Printworld, Delhi, 2006. Pp.432 + xxii.
Rs. 490.00

Connoisseur activism?

Reviewing an interesting, somewhat idiosyncratic compilation of articles, poses a challenge, as it escapes the usual taxonomic classification for writings on a subject. It is clearly not a scholarly work in the formal sense. As is the case with most such compilations, the various topics it encompasses form too broad a spectrum and though some footnotes and other references have been provided, they are sparse and infrequent.

On the other hand, characterizing it as a compilation of journalistic essays will be inaccurate. It bears a depth of perception and analysis seldom found in such works, or indeed anywhere else. The book seems to have been compiled with a definite, clear-cut objective in mind.

Indeed, so intriguing is Raja’s perspective that it makes sense to focus on this. The author makes use of the rather provocative phrase “connoisseur activism” to describe his agenda, which is very apt. Another approach is to treat the book as a response, a quintessentially Indian response, to certain (shall I say, western-inspired?) scholarly practices.

The discipline of ethnomusicology is traditionally anchored to a “cultural outsider” approach. Its discourses begin with the assumption that the author has no specialist knowledge as such, and conducts his research using objectively verifiable methods and processes accessible to everyone.

Raja’s methods are also an inversion of this. In the introduction, he sets out his conceptions of the writer’s role. “A writer is, after all, nothing but a connoisseur who has decided to share his understanding with other connoisseurs. And, as such, he is a part of the watchdog mechanism, which keeps art faithful to its elevating (sic) ideals.

Thus, he locates the author firmly within the cultural tradition on which the book bases itself. He assumes both author and audience to be “insiders” to the tradition. Often, his pronouncements seem to be bare assertions unverified and unsubstantiated by external corroboration. Such an appraisal is misleading. His view are intended to make sense to only those who possess a familiarity with the subject-matter, and often it happens that this “making sense” constitutes substantiation enough for “insider” audiences, a fact that those unfamiliar with the milieu may fail to appreciate.

An example may bear this out. In the essay entitled “Archival music and the cultural process”, he discusses the impact of sound recording on our musical tradition. In course of this, he makes the startling pronouncement – “The Guru-Shishya Parampara was not very different from a reliance on pre-recorded music in its explicit intent”. He goes on to point out that this pedagogical tradition invested considerable time and effort to ensure that the disciple emerged as a faithful clone of the mentor.

Fortunately, three human failings prevented this from being successful – imperfect perception, imperfect retention, and imperfect reproduction. As a result of these three, gaps in the disciple’s learning emerged over time ... gaps which he was obliged to fill by interpolating his own ideas within the framework of the mentor’s tutelage. And, in this manner, a modicum of originality was infused into the tradition. As Raja himself puts it, “Because of these imperfections, the traditional system became an effective instrument of continuity within change”.

I cannot imagine how such an insight can be empirically verified. Indeed, seeking to objectively substantiate it approximates and exercise in futility. And, yet, the history of our music is filled with instances of talented musicians being denied recognition as artists of the first rank, simply because they sounded too close to a Gharana forbear. Hence, to those familiar with his background, Raja’s assertions make perfect sense.

The book is divided into five parts: viz: Culture, Technology and Economics; Form, Idiom and Format; The World of Ragas; The Major Genres; and the Major Instruments. While all the parts conform to a uniformly high standard of exposition, to me the first chapter is of special value. Here, the author deals with how our music relates to various social, economic and technological developments. In the chapter entitled “If peanuts is what you pay…”, he even uses his background in finance to analyze how market forces have actually promoted a deterioration in music quality.

The sums add up because of the role of the two dominant intermediaries in the music market: the recording companies, and concert sponsors. They are both playing a progressively larger financial role in the music market – without having either the need or the desire to promote quality music.

The third part is also very interesting. Here, Raja examines certain aspects of the concept of the Raga. In “Raga Chemistry and Beyond”, he draws parallels between ragas and concepts of chemistry. Surely, an original approach, though how far the parallels are borne out is a pertinent question. On the other hand “Kedara at sunrise”, where he debunks many commonly held myths about the time theory of ragas, is unquestionably a piece of analysis of the highest order.

The last two parts are keyed to more functional objectives. The inside flap describes them as respectively, presenting comprehensive backgrounders on the four major genres of vocal music, and featuring detailed fact-sheets on eight major melodic instruments of the Hindustani tradition.

Here, more than his analytical insights, it is his familiarity with the nuances of the subject-matter that is manifest. In the chapter on the Rudra Veena, for example, he touches upon an astonishing range of topics, including mythical lore; historical antecedents; organology; instrument design; ergonomics; acoustics; and recent performers. These chapters constitute valuable resource material, notwithstanding the paucity of external references.

Another thing that stands out is his integrity. For example, he himself belongs to the school of Vilayat Khan, the Sitar maestro. However, when discussing the origins of the Surbahar, whose creation is variously ascribed to Sahebdad Khan (the maestro’s great grand-father), and Ghulam Muhammad of Lucknow, he freely admits – “The latest research favors the latter attribution”.

All in all, it cannot be denied that the book marks an exciting new approach to writing on Hindustani music. To be honest, it is not without its drawbacks. At certain times, the forcefulness and candor of Raja’s expression might give the impression of being opinionated. But, when one attempts such a strongly individualistic work, I suppose this is only inevitable. In any case, it does not mar the overall excellence of the book.

However, I feel compelled to end with a caveat. A significant part of the book, especially the earlier chapters, presumes a prior familiarity with the subject matter on the part of the audience. For this reason, despite the author’s easy writing style, some parts of the work may not be accessible to lay persons.

The book can be ordered online from the publisher's website, or by email.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sugata Marjit -- “I don't want to know how many greats were born before me”

Introduction : Sugata Marjit [born: 1959] is an unusual musician. He is an eminent economist, and Director of a research institute in Calcutta. He combines academic activities with a growing presence on the music circuit. His Khayals are a lot like the films of Goddard -- they have a beginning, a middle, and an end; but not in that order. His brand of music qualifies him as the messiah of postmodernism in Hindustani music. Sugata also composes music for the theatre and television. In 1995, his work in the theatre earned him the West Bengal State Academy Award for the best musical score.

In 2003, Sugata Marjit wrote to Deepak Raja about economics and music

Within economics, I specialise in international economics, development, and economics of corruption and governance. I am writing a book on trade, labour, and inequality – whether globalisation leads to increasing inequality etc. I think I am a soft-hearted human being, who feels for the poor, in spite of being an ardent supporter of market-based incentives. I am not a Marxist; I believe in God; I have taken my Deeksha [initiation] at the Ramakrishna Mission. The emotional part of me gets reflected in economics as well as music. My research is to make my points through simple, but elegant, mathematical models. I am a theorist. I believe in simplicity, and the simple is beautiful. This is the approach I take in my research and in my music.

My father had a good voice and was my inspiration. He was a Judge. We lived in several towns in West Bengal, before we finally moved to Calcutta in 1973. He used to find trainers for me [wherever we lived]. He died in 1994. I miss him a lot. He told me that anyone can be a good student academically; but to be a good vocalist is something else, and that one day, I would realise that it is a blessing to be able to sing. My uncle learnt the sitar with Balram Pathak and Imrat Khan. He was a good sitar player, but gave it up, and now runs a vocal music college in a town in West Bengal. A great talent, and inspiration for me.

I learnt with many Gurus, for a few months here and there, until I came to Calcutta. They were people who had been trained by noted Bengali musicians. One of them had, however, been trained by Vinayakrao Patwardhan [Gwalior gharana]. They had taught me basic Riyaz [Self-improvement exercises] to train my voice, and good compositions. The major taleem [training] I had was with Krishnachandra Bannerjee, for 17 years, starting from 1973. With him, I learnt singing in its totality, the intricacies of Ragadari [treatment of ragas], and the finer techniques of vocal music.

Bannerjee was a disciple of Bhishmadev Chatterjee, a household name in Bengal, who had studied with Badal Khan. That is my Rangeela gharana lineage. He [Krishnachandra Bannerjee] did not have a good voice; but he was a great trainer. I could go to him every day. He had heard top vocalists all over India, and could give me the traits of many gharanas – Kirana, Gwalior etc. Bannerjee died in 1990. I performed his funeral rites. Then, I went to TD Janorikar of the Bhendi Bazar gharana, learnt with him for a few years until he left Calcutta for Nagpur.

I am an off-beat person. I like to create all the time. I don’t want to know how many greats were born before me and, frankly speaking, be it economics or music, I get tired of knowing what has been done already, and repenting and repeating it because I am not as talented as others. I listen and try to pick up whatever sounds interesting and has the potential for my voice. I love Bhimsen Ji [Joshi] and Ameer Khan. I like possibly each and every vocalist to the extent that I can draw from them and make people dance with layakari, bol-tans, and little pieces of vistaar. I am a restless kind of guy; and so is my music, and I don’t regret it, because that’s me. I don’t like too much of structure. I like to think more about my music than physically practice it.

I like popular Bengali songs of the 1970s, and Baul [a regional folk genre of Bengal]. I often use nuances of these in my music. Often, I also use phrases of a particular raga picked up from advertising music, radio jingles etc., so long as they fit in properly. ]. I am a performer. My lectures are much better than my writing. My music is much better than my knowledge of it.

I hear all kinds of music, but don’t often get much time. Hindi music, the “old gold” type – I like a lot. Beside Ameer Khan and Bhimsen, I listen to Kishori, Paluskar, Omkarnath, Kesarbai, Kumar Gandharva [I love him!], and Rashid Khan. In instrumental music, Vilayat Khan, Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar, Nikhil Bannerjee, Bismillah Khan, and Hariprasad Chaurasia are my favourites. Unfortunately, over the last few years, I have got so busy, that listening time is too short. I have to get back to it.

If I don’t do music with a bang now, I will fall behind in my Riyaz, my commitment. I had never guessed that I would be so successful in academics that it will tend to take away all my time. I have earned a bit, and can retire now if I wish. But, what militates against my taking up music as a profession is [the community of] musicians. There is too much of networking, hitting below the belt, and an un-intellectual ambience. I cannot accept this. I cannot go down on my knees to get a good concert. I can’t lead a musician’s life. That’s the problem. Intellectually, I am happier now. But, I am sure there is a golden mean, and I have to find it.

I have to be more consistent in my Riyaz, and start my training again, learn more and practice more. I can maintain my job in economics by doing a bit of research; but [from now on] that should be all. I have also to be in India. I have travelled far too much, and now is the time [to stay at home].

(c) India Archive Music Ltd., New York. 2003
Read a detailed profile of the artist in: "Khayal Vocalism: Continuity within Change"
The finest recordings of Sugata Marjit have been produced by India Archive Music.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The evolution of Khayal vocalism

March 30, 2010

KHAYAL VOCALISM - Continuity Within Change:
Deepak Raja
DK Printworld (P) Ltd.,F-52 Bali Nagar, New Delhi-110015. Rs. 460.

It is invaluable as a written document and as a book of reference and study for students and others interested in khayal

One does not often come across a book on Hindustani music that treats the art with the precision of a science. But then, this study by Deepak Raja of the evolution of Khayal vocalism through the system of gharanas would probably not have stood scrutiny had he not adopted such an approach. One reason is that music, like all art, is as technical as it is subjective. Therefore, it becomes necessary to establish thebasis on which the techniques of various artistes can be evaluated. The other reason relates to the nature of music as an aural art, and the difficulties of discussing it in writing. Such writing necessarily bristles with technical terms.

As the author describes, compares and contrasts thedifferent styles and draws a technical-historical sketch of thegenre over the past century, bringing the discussion into thepresent day, there are portions that probably only a practising musician would understand. It makes one wish thebook had an aural complement.

Yet the work is invaluable as a written document and as a book of reference and study for students and others interested in Khayal. In contemporary times, when students are given to asking questions instead of learning by rote, it could well form the basis of combined study and discussion between gurus and their disciples.

For his analysis, Deepak Raja divides gharanas into theAgra, Gwalior-Agra, Jaipur-Atrauli, Kairana, and Patiala legacies. Before taking them up for discussion, he provides a detailed introduction.

Taking an analogy from the plastic arts, he differentiates thethree major genres of Hindustani vocal music — Dhrupad, Khayal, and Thumri — by their relative stress on architecture, sculpture, and ornamentation and these in turn, he explains, signify respectively the structure, the contours and the way music seeks to please.

In a rather painstaking effort, Raja spells out his methodology — the number of recordings he listened to, their contents, and the factors that weighed against drawing definitive conclusions about, say, the individual's style or theinfluences that contributed to the music. These ‘x' factors, if one may so term them, are so many — it could be non-availability or poor quality of recordings, lack of information on deceased artistes, or the sheer unpredictability of human nature — that at times one is tempted to ask why was it necessary to put a subjective art through such a precision-controlled apparatus. However, to quote from Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar's foreword, “…we should value literature which helps musicians understand their struggles, makes audiences sensitive to the struggles of musicians, and holds both parties responsible for preserving and strengthening thetradition.”

The foreword provides an overview beyond the technical. Kashalkar speaks of the importance of “understanding the personality of the raga, and the range of emotional statements it can make.” He goes on to point out the important role the gharanas of Khayal played “in evolving different approaches to communicating the raga experience.” He describes a gharana as “the accumulation of musical wisdom, rather than a xeroxing machine.”

This book is also valuable for non-technical readers. Besidesthe annexure, “An introduction to Khayal,” and the glossary,the short biographies of artistes and the interviews of current performers are sure to invite their interest.

© Copyright 2000 - 2009 The Hindu

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kshem Kalyan (Khem): The "precious" Kalyan

When I first heard Kshem Kalyan, I was totally charmed. I looked for authoritative documentation; but I found none. I acquired the few available recordings of the raga from the market and from collectors for a clearer view of its melodic personality. This, too, was not satisfying. I consulted Purnima Sen, the only living vocalist, whose recording I had. Then, I worked on the raga with my Sitar for a whole week. At the end of this effort, I could not manage more than 5 minutes of alap without repetition. I figured then that this was no ordinary raga. It was not even just another rare raga. It was a special raga, perhaps beyond reach without a Guru. But, I can share with you what I discovered.

Kshem Kalyan (or Khem Kalyan, or simply, Khem) is a post-sunset raga of undocumented history and grammar, whose commercial recordings are also hard to find. Having to retain a distinctive identity within the overcrowded Kalyan family also makes it a raga of limited improvisational potential. This challenge is probably sufficient to explain its rarity. The raga remains in circulation – even if only barely – because some musicians and some audiences value the distinctive musical statement it makes.

Kshem Kalyan is, in my view, Yaman Kalyan with a vivacious twist. Admittedly, there are other Kalyan family ragas, which would also answer to this description. Kshem Kalyan is, then, Yaman Kalyan with a distinctive vivacious twist. A majority of gharanas might dismiss such ragas as “thumree material”, worthy only of 15-minute rendition. But, vocalists in some gharanas treat the raga with a lot of respect, and present them, with aplomb, in Khayal style, over a full 45-minute duration.

For instance, Purnima Sen, the senior Agra gharana vocalist, told me that Kshem Kalyan was one of the favourite ragas of her principal Guru, Ata Hussain Khan (Agra-Atrauli gharana), from whom she learnt it. He used to sing this raga for over an hour without any repetition. Ata Hussain also described Kshem Kalyan as a “precious” raga – akin to an heirloom piece of jewelry, and advised her to perform it selectively, only for knowledgeable audiences.

There is no mention, in the authoritative texts I consulted, of either Kshem Kalyan or even of raga Kshem, thus also ruling out the possibility of Kshem Kalyan being a compound raga. The raga, therefore appears to be an independent melodic entity, conceived probably as a variant of Yaman Kalyan. To the best of my knowledge, the raga has been performed primarily by vocalists of the Agra-Atrauli gharana. To a lesser extent, it gained currency in the Rampur-Sahaswan gharana. In recent years, it has been performed very competently by Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande, a mature vocalist of the Kishori Amonkar lineage. The raga is virtually unknown in instrumental music.

I could access only three recordings of this raga – an unpublished concert recording by Sharafat Hussain Khan, a recent recording by Purnima Sen -- both of the Agra-Atrauli tradition -- and a published recording by Nissar Hussain Khan (EMI/ HMV:STC-04B:7407) of the Rampur-Sahaswan gharana. On his concert recording, Sharafat Hussain can be heard challenging the audience to identify the raga. The Nissar Hussain recording, interestingly, does not identify the raga at all, but calls it “Kalyan Ka Prakar” (A Kalyan variant). The rarity of the raga can also be judged from the fact that the three available recordings feature the same vilambit and drut Khayal bandish-es in the raga. Interestingly, the vilambit and drut bandish-es also have identical melodic contours, differing from each other only in lyrics and the tempo of rendition. This suggests that the raga is acknowledged to be of limited melodic potential.

Melodic personality
Predictably for a rare raga, available recordings vary in their treatment of it, without necessarily differing substantially on the identifying features of the raga. With the help of available, recordings, I have attempted to codify its melodic distinctiveness.

Available recordings suggest the following salient features in its melodic personality. The raga has the highest risk of confusion with Yaman Kalyan, because it uses the same tone-material (S-R-G-M-M^-P-D-N). This risk is highest in the madhyanga (mid-octave region) of the middle octave, where Yaman Kalyan exhibits its distinctive personality with the unique pattern of twin-Ma usage. Secondly, Kshem Kalyan is virtually identified by its melodic action in the uttaranga (upper tetrachord) of the lower octave. In the descending motion, if ineptly handled, the melody risks confusion with raga Maluha Kalyan and Hansadhwani. In the ascending motion, it risks confusion with Hansadhwani again, and Hem Kalyan. The raga is therefore codified in a manner that avoids these risks, along with the risks it accepts in the process of so doing.

The raga has a quadratonic ascent of stark tonal geometry (S G P N ), with each swara having equal weightage. The descent is hyper-heptatonic, (S’ N D P M^ M G R), with (tivra/ sharp) Ma^ being deployed subliminally as in raga Shuddha Kalyan, and (shuddha/ natural) Dh deployed subliminally as in raga Bihag. The zigzag phrasing of the raga is so essential to differentiating it from Yaman Kalyan, that it seems unreasonable to classify the raga as either araoha-pradhan (ascent dominant) or avaroha-pradhan (descent dominant). The raga is almost totally resident in the lower half of the melodic canvas, and hence classified as purvanga-pradhan. The raga appears to revolve largely around the middle-octave Re, suggesting it as the vadi swara (Primary dominant). This vadi is also sound as a means of distinguishing the raga from Yaman Kalyan with its vadi at Ga. The signatory phrases of the raga suggest Pa in the lower octave as the probable samvadi (Secondary dominant) of the raga. This would distinguish the raga from Maluha Kalyan with its strong Dh in the lower octave.

(Swaras in parenthesis indicate subliminal usage)

S R S P. / P. N. R S/ N. S G M R G R or N. S G R/ S G P / P S’ S’ or P N S’ or P N (D) N S’/ N S’ G’ M’ R’ S/ R’ N (D) P/ N (D) N (D)P / P (M^) G/ M G R G R or P (M^) R/ N. R S P./ N. S

The pakad (catch phrases) of the raga: S N. R S P/ N S G R

The phraseology outlined above is, admittedly, an inference of the composer’s intent from available recordings, and therefore, a theoretical construct. Even within the small sample of recordings available, there exist deviations which either interpret the zigzag phraseology of the raga liberally, or allow the raga to drift closer to Yaman Kalyan. Both these are “predictable” tendencies in this raga because, as conceived, the raga is a melodic entity of limited improvisational potential, and a tilt towards Yaman Kalyan, its probable inspiration, would be the most “logical” and defensible. An alternative phraseology, incorporating these tendencies, and accepting a less distinctive raga-ness, may be documented thus:

S R S P. or R N. P or R N. D. P / P. N. R S or D. N. R S / N. S G M R G R or N. S G R or D. N. R G R / S G P / P S’ S’ or P N S’ or P N (D) N S’/ N S’ G’ M’ R’ S or D N R’ G’ R’ N R’ S/ R’ N (D) P/ N (D) N (D)P / P (M^) G/ M G R G R or P (M^) R or M^ G M G R/ G ( R ) S / N. R S P./ N. S

Purnima Sen provided her own documentation of the chalan of the raga as it was taught to her by Ata Hussain Khan.

S G M G R/ G S R N. P./ N. S./ S G P M^ G M G R/ G S/ R N. S/ S G P/ (N) DD P D N D P/ M^ G M G R/ S N. R N. P./ N. S/ S G G P/ N D P M^ G M G R/ S G P M^ R S/ P N (D) N S’ or P N S’/ N R’ G’ R’ S’ N D P/ S GG P P (N) DD P D N D P/ M^ G M G R S N/ S G R G S R N. S

Her notes also provided additional insights into the intonation rules. Tivra (sharp) Ma is used subliminally most of the time; but it has a longer duration when the phrase M^-R-S is sung. Likewise, Dh is subliminally deployed most of the time; but is more pronounced in the phrases P (N) DD/PDNDP.

Even a mature musician cannot acquire a good grip on this raga from this documentation, and the study of a the few available recordings. Kshem Kalyan needs to be learnt from a Guru qualified to teach it.

(c) India Archive Music Ltd. New York.

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