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.