Saturday, May 28, 2011

Raga Enayet Khani Kanada: Vilayat Khan’s tribute to his father

Enayet Khani Kanada is Ustad Vilayat Khan's tribute to his legendary father, Ustad Enayet Khan. It is not known whether Ustad Eanyet Khan had anything to do with the creation of this melodic entity. The possibility of this is remote considering that, sometime on 1989-90, this Raga, then called Vilayat Khani Kanada, was described by Ustad Vilayat Khan, to his sitarist son, Shujaat Khan. The concept he described was Darbari with the addition of two alien swaras in the ascent – Shuddha [natural] Ga, and shuddha Ni. The raga retains its Darbari Kanada descent [N P g M R S].

The Kanada family consists of over 35 ragas, which bear a family rsemblance to Darbari Kanada, the original Kanada, probably adopted from Carnatic [South Indian] music. A majority of the Kanadas define themselves by attaching the ascent of a different raga to the Darbari Kanada descent [n P g M R S].

Although a Kanada by its tonal structure and phraseological structure, Enayet Khani Kanada is a little different from most others. It does not substitute the ascent of an alien raga for the Darbari ascent, but gives to Darbari two parallel ascents, one being the original Darbari ascent, and another, which substitutes the flat [komal] Ga and Ni swaras of Darbari with natural [shuddha] Ga and Ni swaras. Both the ascents are used alternately in characteristic Darbari phraseology, but without the characteristic oscillation at Ga, when the shuddha Ga is used.  To this extent, Enayet Khani Kanada is an enhanced Darbari Kanada rather than a typical Kanada family offspring of Darbari Kanada.

Darbari Kanada
Ascent: S R g M P d n S’
Descent: n P M P g M R S

Enayet Khani Kanada
S R g M P d n S’ [or] S R G M P d N S’
n P M P g M R S

The parallel ascents are handled in such a manner that the Darbari dominance of the melodic entity is never out of focus. Phrases with the alien swaras are always sandwitched between typical Darbari phrases, and blend almost imperceptibly into the new melodic entity with a distinctive emotional flavour.  The solemn Darbari character of the new melodic entity is preserved also by keeping the raga firmly anchored in the lower half of the melodic canvas, with very sparing melodic development in the upper tetrachord or the higher octave.

The shuddha Ga in the lower tetrrachord brings in a hint of Malgunji [R n S R G] into this raga, and therefore of Gunji Kanada [Malgunji + Darbari]. This danger is averted by avoiding the pause on Ma [R n S R G M] typical of Malgunji, and turning the phrase around quickly in Darbari mode [M g M R S]. The addition of shuddha Ni in the upper tetrachord risks a suggestion of Chandramukhi Kanada [Chandrakauns + Darbari] with the possibility of phrases like N S d N S. Such possibilities are avoided by using the shuddha Ni primarily in phrases ascending from the mid-octave region, such as M P d N S.

This raga was recorded by Ustad Vilayat Khan, first as Vilayat Khani Kanada [HMV:STCS: 048:7437], and later as Enayet Khani Kanada [India Archive Music, New York, CD-1045].

Ustad Vilayat Khan has so far been the first, and perhaps the last, performer of this raga. This is understandable because only a musician of his caliber can save this raga from even a momentary illusion of Gunji Kanada or Chandramukhi Kanada.

Critics often question the value of creating such raga-s, which are no more than minor variants of the major raga-s, and which are not likely to acquire a following. We need to look at this from the artists’ point of view. In reality, they may not be intending to create new raga-s at all. They build their careers performing the same set of 15-20 raga-s, which their audiences also want them to perform. A sort of unstated agenda gets established between artists and their audiences. Even if audiences do not get bored with same mature raga being performed repeatedly in the same manner by the same artist time after time, the artists themselves can indeed get bored.

In their desire to create a slightly unfamiliar experience with familiar raga-s, artists introduce minor variations . Once in a while something of lasting value comes out of these experiments. But, that is an accident of history. Most of the time, the variant is intended  to be relished merely for its transient novelty and charm – by those are comfortable with it – and forgotten.

Enayet Khani Kanada probably started in this spirit. The Ustad developed some fondness for it, and performed it several times over the years. A similar creation of his was Sanjh Saravali, a variant of Yaman Kalyan, with a touch of Bihag. For some reason, Sanjh Saravali sustained the Ustad’s interest much longer, and gained some acceptance even with musicians outside the Ustad’s gharana, while Enayet Khani Kanada did not.

Deepak Raja
© India Archive Music Ltd., New York 

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