Monday, June 15, 2020

The Ragascape of Hindustani Music: III

A contextual perspective on ratings

Musicians select their repertoire for concerts based on certain contextual considerations.  It therefore makes sense to view the results of this study in that perspective. The classification attempts to follow contemporary practice (more than any theoretical construct), and is admittedly debatable.

The rating scores reported here are aggregates for each of the groups. The classified ratings of the 97 Raga-s are reported in Table 3.

The early morning group shows a substantially lower instrumental music score than the vocal music score. This is interesting, as early morning Raga-s are mostly associated with the devotional sentiment. The human voice may understandably be perceived in the culture as a more appropriate expression of this sentiment than an acoustic machine.

The instrumental/vocal music ratio rises steadily after the early morning segment to reach its peak with the late night group of Raga-s. The pattern is interesting, though not sufficiently strong to be considered a phenomenon.

The Thumree group, shown to lead this table, is so called because the Raga-s in that group are encountered largely, though not exclusively, in the romanticist genres – Thumree, Dadra, Hori, Tappa etc. Membership of this group includes Raga-s like Bhairavi, Khamaj, Kafi, Gara, Piloo, Pahadi. These Raga-s are versatile because of their malleable grammar and melodic lyricism. This group is rated generously because it covers three components – actual Thumrees performed by vocalists, instrumental renditions of Thumrees and allied genres, and classicist presentation of “Thumree” Raga-s by vocalists and instrumentalists.  The emergence of this group at the top may suggest, that the present-day musical culture relates more readily to the vivacious flavors of Hindustani music than to its other moods.

Raga groups at the bottom of the ranking – Early morning and Sunset Raga-s – appear to be telling the same story, though in a different way. Early morning Raga-s are mainly of the Bhairav and Todi families, while the Sunset Raga-s are mainly of the Puriya/ Purvi group. Both periods are earmarked by tradition for religious/ devotional activity, and the prescribed Raga-s possess melodic features suggestive of piety. Our study pushes them to the bottom to suggest that the present-day musical culture has little interest in solemnity.

The moderate-to-high rating in the late evening and night groups are as expected. A vast majority of concerts are held during these periods, thus making for a wider spectrum of familiarity amongst audiences. The choice of Raga-s for performance during these periods is also vast, thus creating an equitable distribution of audience involvement within the category.

Predictably, the comfort level with Carnatic Raga-s in their Hindustani manifestations is uneven. The classification of Raga-s within this group relied on the authority of Raga Nidhi (B. Subbarao, Music Academy, Madras). Hansadhwani (1782 rating points), Keerwani (874 rating points) and Charukeshi (448 rating points) appear to have, by now, evolved a convincing interpretation in Hindustani music. Others, imported more recently, may either take longer to achieve this, or fade away.  

... Continued in Part IV