Monday, February 14, 2011

Raga Nat Kamod : sustained by a single bandish

Nat Kamod belongs to an important segment of the Jaipur-Atrauli repertoire of compound ragas, in which Nat (sometimes called Shuddha Nat) is blended with other ragas. According to Dhondutai Kulkarni, the seniormost Jaipur-Atrauli vocalist, the gharana performs as many as 50 different compounds of Nat. The most frequently heard amongst these have been Savani-Nat, Bhoop-Nat, Nat-Bilawal, Nat Malhar, and of course, Nat Kamod. All these compounds are derived by blending selected phrases from the gharana’s primary Nat bandish “Bairan nanadiya” with phraseologies of other ragas. Each Nat compound has a different set of Nat phrases incorporated in it, thus avoiding the cliché’ ridden Nat identification more commonly heard in Nat compounds of other gharanas.

Nat Kamod is a rare raga, derived as a compound of Nat of the Bilawal parent scale, and Kamod of the Kalyan parent scale of Hindustani music. Its rarity is also reflected in the rarity of its documentation.

Nat:  Ascent: SRGMPDNS’: Descent: S D P M R S
KamodAscent: SR/PM^P/NDS’: Descent: S’NDP/M^PDP/ GMPGMRS
(Scale documentation: Subbarao B, Raga Nidhi, 4th impression, 1996, Music Academy, Madras.)

Manikbuwa Thakurdas, a scholar-musician of the Gwalior gharana, is the only authority to have offered a discussion on the melodic personality of the raga. He argues that the popular Kamod, as documented above, is not pure, as it has a fragment of Nat (GMPGMRS) embedded in it. As the pure Nat went out of circulation, the residual phrase of Nat in Kamod got wrongly associated with Kamod. (Raga Darshan, Vol. IV. 1st Edition. Laxminath Charitable Trust, Rajpipla, Gujarat).

Thakurdas, however, concedes that in compound ragas, the parameters of raga grammar, such as the aroh-avaroh (ascending and descending scale), vadi-samvadi (dominant and sub-dominant) swaras, and even chalan (skeletal phraseology) are irrelevant. The musician has considerable freedom in blending the two ragas, the only relevant yardstick for the compound being its distinctiveness, aesthetic appeal and coherence. This perspective is even more valid for a rare raga like Nat Kamod, whose chalan tends to get defined by the bandishes in circulation.

Only four recordings of this raga are available as a reference point. They belong to Dhondutai Kulkarni (India Archive Music, NY), Sharafat Hussain Khan of Agra gharana (unpublished), and Kesarbai Kerkar of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana (one unpublished concert recording, and one 78 RPM compilation: HMV/EMI: EALP:1278). All three musicians have performed the same bandish (Nevar baajo). This bandish has virtually been synonymous with the raga for over half a century, and is perhaps the sole repository of its raga-ness still in circulation.

Based on Kesarbai, Dhondutai, and Sharafat recordings, the chalan of the Nat/ Chhayanat biased treatment of Nat Kamod may be documented as follows:


Interestingly, the bandish performed by the three appears to tilt the raga’s melodic personality towards Nat more than Kamod. However, Sharafat Hussain’s rendition appears to have allowed traces of Chhaya Nat rather than pure Nat into Nat Kamod. That Sharafat has rendered it in ultra-fast tempo, while Kesarbai has rendered it in medium tempo Teental might possibly have influenced the blurred presence of Nat in his rendition.

In itself, however, the confusion of pure Nat with either pure Chhaya or with Chhayanat is not rare considering their proximity, and the difficulty these ragas have in maintaining their independent raga-ness in rendition. This is probably why the pure Nat has gone out of circulation, to be replaced by compounds such as Nat-Bhairav, Nat-Bilawal, Nat-Bihag etc., and pure Chhaya has disappeared leaving its trace primarily in Chhayanat. In conclusion, Nat Kamod appears to belong to a group with fluid grammatical boundaries, with the burden of identification resting substantially on the bandish.

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

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