Sunday, January 30, 2011

Raga Jog: a versatile raga

Jog is an immensely popular and versatile post-sunset raga in contemporary music.. The raga now enjoys considerable popularity also in the semi-classical and light genres. The raga did not merit elaborate discussion in major early 20th century works such as Bhatkhande Sangeet Shastra. It can be assumed, therefore, to have acquired its significance in the latter half of the last century. The raga bears a close resemblance to raga Nat of the Carnatic [South Indian] tradition.

According to Manikbuwa Thakurdas, [Raga Darshan, Vol II, 1st Edition, Krishna Bros. Ajmer, 1988], two variants of the raga are in circulation. The variant with an affinity to raga Dhani utilizes only the komal [flat] Ni, while the variant with a Tilang affinity utilizes both, the komal as well as the shuddha [natural] Ni swaras. The latter version was performed commonly well into the 1960s by even the leading musicians of the pre-independence generation. The problem with the Tilang-biased [twin-Ga and twin-Ni usage] was that the Tilang facet tended to dominate the aesthetic experience, and the resultant raga found it difficult to establish its distinctive melodic personality. In later years, therefore, the preference has stabilized around the Dhani-biased variant with only a single [komal] Ni and twin-Ga usage. This is the raga currently recognized as Jog.

The raga belongs to the Khamaj parent scale of Hindustani music, and is hyper-pentatonic, omitting Re and Dh swaras in the ascent as well as descent. It deploys both Ga swaras -- the shuddha [natural] Ga in the ascent, and the komal [flat] Ga in the descent.

Ascent: S G M P n S’ Descent: S’ n P M g S

According to Subbarao [Subbarao, B. Raga Nidhi, Vol. II, 4th Edition, 1996, Music Academy, Madras], the Vadi and Samvadi swaras [primary and secondary dominants] of the raga are [shuddha] Ga and the higher-octave Sa respectively. According to Manikbuwa Thakurdas [Ibid], the Vadi-Samvadi are Pa and Sa. In contemporary practice, however, the treatment of the raga suggests [shuddha] Ga as the vadi and base-Sa as the samvadi. However, after the release of a Jog recording of the influential vocalist, Ustad Ameer Khan [STCS.04B.7374], Ma has also gained considerable significance in the raga, though not sufficient to replace Ga as the vadi.

In the phrasing pattern of Jog, phrases are permitted to terminate only on S, [shuddha] G, and P, two of the three being the vadi-samvadi pair. However, the contemporary Jog conforms to a general tendency amongst musicians to enlarge the melodic potential of pentatonic ragas by treating all the swaras as permissible terminal points in phrasing. A melodic focus on Ma became acceptable after Ustad Ameer Khan’s rendition of the raga. Musicians of later generations have now added [komal] Ni to the permissible terminal points for phrasing, thus effectively removing all constraints on phrasing, and allowing the tonal geometry of the raga to become the sole repository of its raga-ness.

The chalan [sekeletal phraseology] of the contemporary raga form is fairly straightforward, though biased in favour of exploiting the poignant interplay between the two Ga swaras in the purvanga [lower tetrachord], where the center of gravity of the raga lies.

Chalan: S n. g S/ n. P. n. g S/ n. S G/ S G G M/ G M g S/ S G M P/ M n P/ G M P n/ P n S’/ n P M G/ S G M g S or occasionally G M G g S.

The interplay of the two Ga swaras, along with the purvanga bias of the raga impart a degree of pathos to the raga, which remains the dominant aesthetic feature of the Jog experience at any tempo of rendition. This interplay follows definite rules of phrasing. As a rule, whenever a raga utilizes both the manifestations of a particular swara, the komal and the shuddha, one of them is used in the ascent and the other in the descent. With perhaps the sole exception of Lalit, which uses two Ma swaras, their consecutive deployment in the same direction is discouraged. However, the additional pathos released by such use has frequently tempted musicians to break this rule. As a result, Jog appears now to permit consecutive twin-Ga usage in the descent [M-G-g-S], although such usage is required to be judicious and occasional.

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

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Indrakishore Mishra – “Everyone thought the Bettiah Dhrupad gharana had disappeared”

Mishra spoke to Deepak Raja on December 22, 2002

My gharana traces its origins to two brothers, Jasraj and Yuvraj Mallik, who served the court of the Mughal Emperor, Shahjehan (17th century) as vocalists and Rudra Veena players. When they accepted the patronage of Bettiah rulers, they retained “Mallik”, the title granted to them at the Mughal court. Our family name is Mishra, and family lore claims descent from Miya Tansen, who was Ramtanu Mishra before conversion to Islam. Nobody has proof, and none of it matters anyway. But, it seems that the progeny of his Hindu wife retained the Hindu name and faith, while those of his Moslem wife adopted Islam and Moslem names. A few generations ago, my family dropped “Mallik”, and reverted to “Mishra”.

Our original patrons, Anand Kishore Singh, and his son, Naval Kishore Singh of Bettiah, were prolific poets and cultivated musicians. They wrote odes to Mata Bhavani (The Mother Goddess) with specific tala-s (rhythmic cycles) and raga-s in mind, and then gave them to Jasraj and Yuvraj Mallik to cast into melody for performance at the royal assemblies. This is probably why my family neglected, and lost, the art of the Rudra Veena. After independence, the support of the ruling family vanished. By this time, the world outside had lost interest in Dhrupad, and found it even easier to forget about our orthodox stream of the genre. Despite great hardship, my father and grandfather remained committed to our tradition.

The repertoire of bandish-es (Pada-s/ compositions) in my gharana includes bandish-es by Miya Tansen, his Guru, Swami Haridas, even his Guru, Vyasa Das, and Nayak Baiju, popularly known as Baiju Bawra. My grandfather reportedly knew 25,000 bandish-es. My father knew 2500, and documented them with the verse, tala, and melodic notation. Of these, he taught me about 1500, in about hundred ragas. This is all that remains of our legacy of compositions. Almost all our bandish-es have been preserved with their four original stanzas, and melodic components. Some have even six stanzas. Our repertoire includes many ragas, like Devsakh, Lachhasakh and Jeelaf, which are rare even in Khayal music today. Our bandish-es are in various tala-s basic to the Dhrupad genre – Chautal, Dhamar, Surfakta (Sula Tala), Tivra, Bramha tala, Adi tala, and Sadra (Jhap tala).

Our family has taken great pains to ensure that each generation performs the music exactly as the earlier generations did. Willful deviation is discouraged, and all change is inadvertent. We are committed to the original philosophy of Dhrupad as devotional music. The Pada (the verse/ hymn) is of supreme significance in our gharana. We do not do anything that will damage the integrity of the poetic element, and we do everything to ensure that the communication of emotional content of the poetry is enhanced in the rendition.

We treat the bandish as the core of Dhrupad. This is why the rendition of the bandish consumes a larger part of our performance. Each bandish has a prescribed laya (tempo), and we perform it only in that tempo. We also believe that the composer of the bandish has infused the poetic-melodic-rhythmic entity with all the musical wisdom it was intended to have, and that this wisdom works best when melody and rhythm work in conjunction with the literary value of the poetry. In the Pada rendition, our gharana does not permit any distortion of poetic meaning through rhythmic improvisations. We render the Chautal bandish-es in their pristine form. Our musicianship is displayed in the successful communication of the Rasa (emotional content) of the poetry. In other tala-s, we permit only such rhythmic improvisations as respect the sanctity of the poetic-melodic form.

Our raga grammar also remains rooted in tradition, and often ignores recent changes. There is always evidence -- either textual or traditional -- to support our raga grammar. And yet, our ragas often confuse audiences because they do not know the old forms of these ragas. Actually, the recent changes in ragas are intended to differentiate similar ragas with greater sharpness. But, if a musician’s training is sound, he does not need to re-write grammar to achieve this.

On several occasions, I have discussed our music with Ustad Zia Fareeduddin Dagar. He confirms that my music represents the fundamental ideology of Dhrupad, and is the foundation also of the Dagar tradition. He has advised me firmly not to deviate from our traditional style. Considering his views, it seems possible that, at some stage in the past, Dhrupad performance was fairly uniform. Over the years, probably encouraged by different patrons, other traditions evolved newer modes of rendition, while our lineage remained conservative.

Our family follows a combination of the Gauhar Bani and Khandhar Bani styles of Dhrupad. Our style is now being especially noticed for the Khandhar Bani flavour, expressed in the crisp gamak form, which is now rare in Dhrupad vocalism. In our gharana, the aggressiveness of Khandar Bani is not a generalized approach, as it is in some gharanas. It is used very selectively in the alap, and even more selectively in the rendition of the Pada – only when the poetic and melodic elements demand the creation of menacing aural impressions. Nobody should ever forget that our music has evolved under the supervision and patronage of poets. Every facet of our music is subordinated to the literary content of Dhrupad.

As a child, I picked up a lot of our family’s music by just being there. But, having seen the price the family had to pay for its commitment, I had little interest in studying Dhrupad. My father was convinced that, one day, Dhrupad would return to the mainstream, and persuaded me to study the art. I had studied formally with him for about 15 years, when I got my first opportunity to register the presence of our gharana on the post-independence Dhrupad scene.

I started with a considerable disadvantage. Everyone thought the once famous Bettiah gharana had disappeared. We also have a geographical disadvantage. We are located 200 Kilometres away even from the state capital, Patna, whish itself is no great cultural centre. Even today, roads, railways and communications service our region poorly. My father was not a very enterprising person. So, when the Sangeet Natak Akademi organized a Dhrupad Sammelan in the early 1980s our gharana was not featured. I used every device in the art of persuasion to be heard. My concert was a great success, and that was the beginning of my career and the acceptance of the Bettiah gharana as a living tradition. Since then, Zia Fareeduddin Dagar has helped to bring my talent to the forefront, and I have made headway according to my ability. But, the struggle is not over yet.

I have frequent disagreements with the staff at Patna radio, from where I broadcast since 1994. Sometimes we disagree on raga authenticity; sometimes on the appropriate time for performing a raga, and always on how Dhrupad should be presented. I cannot transport them to the Vaishnava temples of Vrindavan or to the 18th century to prove my point. Neither can I run down rival Dhrupad gharana-s who have chosen a different path. Despite minor skirmishes with the authorities, I get three broadcasts a year. The audience is only local. Even my village receives my broadcasts poorly. Because of these disadvantages, I get very few concert engagements in the major music events, which are staged in the big cities.

I am training my son and daughters in our gharana’s music. I could not enthuse my nephews, as they found Khayal and Ghazal more inviting. A have a handful of students outside the family. I cannot be sure my gharana will survive, because I am no longer young, and my own breakthrough has yet to come. A European recording company has released two CDs of mine, which have been well received. An American company has now recorded me. The foreign market has provided a ray of hope.

© Deepak S. Raja, 2002
The finest recordings of Indrakishore Mishra have been produced by India Archive Music, New York.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Vijaya Jadhav Gatlewar – “I am disheartened by the lukewarm response to rare ragas”

Vijaya spoke to Deepak Raja on December 24, 2001

My father, DB Jadhav worked as a clerk in a Bombay textile mill, and was an empanelled vocalist of All India Radio. He had studied primarily with Natthan Khan [died: 1946], the nephew of Alladiya Khan of the Jaipur gharana. However, he had also studied with senior musicians of Agra, and Gwalior gharanas. Despite his diverse training, he performed in the Jaipur style. Once he came home from work, our home had only music, and nothing else. He had two or three disciples who took training with him every evening from 6 to 9. I overheard this training, and unknown to my father, started singing. It was only when I opted for music as a subject for my high school graduation that he discovered my talent. Thereafter, he took my training seriously. I became a permanent fixture of his evening sessions.

To speed up my progress as a performer, he encouraged me to enter music competitions all over the country. I competed in light as well as classical segments, and brought home a string of trophies. Once I had gained confidence, my father stopped my competitive activity, because he believed art should not be pursued like a competitive sport. But, by then -- I was 18 -- I had decided to pursue music as a profession, and my parents endorsed my decision. In 1977, my father placed me under training with Nivrutti Buwa Sarnaik, whom he greatly admired. At that time, my father was approaching retirement, and feared that he would soon be unable to pay for my tuitions. Dada [Nivrutti Buwa Sarnaik] assured him that he would continue teaching me free of charge if this happened. That very year, I was granted the Kesarbai Kerkar Memorial Scholarship of the National Centre for the Performing Arts, and my Guru was saved from having to make a financial sacrifice on my account.

Within a year of my starting training with him, Dada was invited to become a Resident Guru at the Sangeet Research Academy [SRA] in Calcutta. He wanted me to go with him, and my family readily consented. I trained with Dada at the SRA upto the end of his tenure at the Academy [1978-1993], taking only occasional breaks, after 1988, to be with my husband in Bombay.

In every respect, the SRA is an ideal environment for the serious pursuit of music. It has a beautiful campus in peaceful surroundings, and is equipped with an excellent library of recordings. During my tenure as a scholar, the Academy was also a goldmine of Gurus. Distinguished musicians from outside also visited the Academy frequently and performed.

The training system of the Academy is modelled after the Guru-Shishya Paramapara. Each Guru was assigned a maximum of two or three students. We lived on the same premises as our Guru, and trained under his supervision. Our days began at 4.30 am and ended only after midnight.

The personalised training at the Academy was a priceless experience for me. From the very beginning, Dada considered my early training with my father valuable, and started building upon it. At the Academy, his training became even more fine-tuned to my specific needs. Unlike Bombay, where his monetary compulsions forced him to teach a large class, the Academy allowed him to give personalised attention. He made me work hard on the fundamental refinements of my art, such as intonation, and voice-culture. Having excelled in competitions, initially I found these efforts humiliating. But he insisted on perfection, and had all the time and the freedom to pursue it.

At the Academy, I also got to learn Thumree from Girija Devi. She trained me with great affection. But, I did not become a Ganda-bandh [formally initiated] disciple of hers because it would have been impossible for me to do justice to both the genres.

In addition to giving me the best of my own Guru, the SRA also gave me what no individual Guru could have given me. The general sessions for all students included seminars, guided listening sessions, and group discussions, which helped me to acquire an understanding of different approaches to music, and the different genres. The Academy also promoted my career as a performing musician within India and abroad.

Dada loved the Academy so much that he wanted to die there. But, his health deteriorated dramatically in 1993, and we packed up when he decided he could no longer fulfil his responsibilities.

After entering the profession, I wonder whether spending so many years in training, away from the concert platform, was really worthwhile. I am disheartened often by the lukewarm response I get for presenting the rare ragas of the Jaipur-Atrauli tradition. But, gradually, I am getting a response from audiences who realise the rarity and the value of my art. Although I am not impatient for recognition and success, it would be nice to have it while I am still in the prime of physical health and creative energy.

© Deepak S. Raja 2001
Read a detailed profile of the artist in: "Khayal Vocalism: Continuity within Change".
The finest recordings of Vijaya Jadhav Gatlewar have been produced by India Archive Music Ltd. New York.