Saturday, June 21, 2008

Raga Darbari Kanada – the majestic gait and its tonal geometry

Raga Darbari Kanada has often been described as the Emperor of Ragas and the Raga of Emperors. These descriptions recall the raga’s association with Miya Tansen at Akbar’s court, and the majesty of the Mughal Empire at its zenith. But, such imagery could not have either surfaced, or survived through the centuries, if it had not also been supported by the melodic character of the raga.

The key to the majestic aloofness of the raga lies in the ponderous deliberateness with which it has to be rendered. This “ponderous deliberateness” of musical expression owes itself primarily to the “andolit” (oscillated) treatment of two swaras – komal Ga, and komal Dh – in the ascent as well as the descent. These two oscillations are fundamental to the sculpting of the two phrases which virtually define the melodic personality of Darbari Kanada – [g M R] and [d n P].

These oscillations around (komal) Ga and Dh swaras define a very specific treatment or intonation of these swaras in Darbari. Some authorities even believe that Darbari does not use the common (komal) Ga and Dh pitch-ratios to base-Sa. Instead, it uses their suppressed micro-swaras (shrutis). According to this view, these suppressed micro-swaras are accessible only as suggestions arising from an oscillation between the natural Re and the flat Ga (for komal Ga) and between Pa and the flat Dh (for komal Dh).

In imparting a sensitivity to these nuances of Darbari Kanada to their disciples, traditionally trained Gurus have often used very obscure language and imagery. The logic of these oscillations is, however, easily understood through acoustic principles -- essentially, the tonal geometry of the two pivotal phrases of the raga: g-M-R and d-n-P.

The first and last swaras in these phrases, Re-Pa and Ma-Ni, are in perfect first-fourth correspondence with a ratio of 1.333 between them. But, the linking swaras, (komal) Ga and (komal) Dh are only in near-perfect correspondence with a ratio of 1.367 between them.

To achieve a symmetry between the lower and upper halves of the Darbari Kanada scale, the two pivotal phrases need to be in perfect phraseological congruence. This is not possible until (komal) Ga and (komal) Dh are brought into perfect acoustic correspondence with each other.

The oscillated treatment of (komal) Ga and Dh explores the relevant microtonal regions for the possibility of tonal correspondence and phraseological congruence. The melodic soul of the raga expresses itself in these explorations.

The aesthetic demands of this tonal geometry might explain why great musicians often favour slow tempo renditions in this raga, and avoid the flattening out of the prescribed oscillations in ultra high-density melodic execution.

© Deepak S. Raja

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Book Review : By Partho Datta

Hindustani music: A tradition in transition.
Deepak Raja. DK Printworld, New Delhi. Rs. 490/-

This is a big book of essays and miscellaneous musings on Hindustani classical music, which straddles two worlds, one of pedagogy and the other of criticism. A substantial part of the book is a straightforward introduction to concepts, terms and the performing norm in North Indian classical music as it is practised today.

The modest looking glossary that appears in the contents page is actually more than 50 pages long even though it is tagged at the end of the book. The author presents here a mini dictionary of sorts, taking great care over Hindustani music terms that appear complete with diacritical marks and extensive explanations. While Raja's concern with orthography and phonetics is to be welcomed, Sitar as `Sitara' or Santur as `Santura' does break established conventions and do seem a bit cumbersome. But one gets used to it after a while. Similarly, Amir Khan the famous maestro from Indore becomes `Ameer' Khan, the first is what appears on all his L.P./cassette covers and for a moment this reviewer thought that the author was referring to some other singer. The appearance of the archaic `Moslem' and `Mushtaque' shows that the same rigour for words has not been extended throughout the text. Minor quibbles apart, this glossary is a mine of information, carefully collated from diverse sources and both the casual listener and the advanced enthusiast will certainly benefit from it.

There is also a substantial and separate section introducing Indian instruments. Here too, the author shows great diligence. Every chapter on a single instrument is carefully divided into `organology' (history of the development of the instrument), `acoustics', `ergonomics (the design of the instrument, how it is handled) and `melodic execution'. Raja is particularly enlightening on the Rudra Vina, the Surbahar and the Sarangi, three instruments which have been overshadowed by the popularity of the Sarod and the Sitar. Surprisingly, the chapter on the Sitar is the shortest even though Raja as the biographical details provided at the end of the book tell us, has been a student of long standing of this enigmatic instrument. Another section has detailed introductions to the vocal genres of Dhrupad, Khyal, Thumri and Tappa. These chapters too are systematic accounts premised on the unwritten code of Hindustani music, which places vocal music above and superior to music produced by instruments.

The chapter on Dhrupad is a comprehensive treatment of the subject with detailed notes on the history, style and norms. Dhrupad despite its exalted status is hardly written about and for this reason Raja's careful commentary is very welcome. Raja argues that the celebrated Dhrupad alap is premised on single intervallic transitions and relationships between two notes. The post-Dhrupad genres broke this rule to achieve greater melodic agility. If Dhrupad is less `intellectual' than the later Khyal, then the reason lies in its strict adherence to conventions, which allow only very systematic interplay between the melodic, poetic and rhythmic variables. In the light of this interpretation Raja's assertion later in the book that Khyal is "end-to-end linearity" is puzzling. The linearity of Khyal is a characteristic of the Kirana gharana and subsequently developed by modern instrumentalists. If anything, the founding lineage of modern Khyal singing, the Gwalior gharana is the very opposite as it is full of swoops, glides, cuts and rhythmic swerves that certainly defy characterisation as `linear'.

State of music today
Raja's critical pronouncements that form the other half of the book are subjective and sometimes contentious. Certainly his theory that Carnatic music has abandoned the time theory of ragas because equatorial South India experiences only mild changes of temperature throughout the day is both fanciful and hilarious. More closer to the truth is that the time theory was an interpolation in Hindustani music and as Bonnie Wade has suggested closely tied to the rituals of feudal courts which later became established conventions.

In a metaphor that he borrows from the plastic arts Raja argues that music too has `architectural', `sculptural' and `ornamental' properties. Such characterisations help Raja categorise musical form despite a high degree of overlap in these concepts. The helpful section on trends in Khyal singing is alas too short.

The book begins with a lively account of the state of Hindustani classical music in today's India. Raja's essay showcases the concerned aficionado's fear of the future. What will happen to this wonderful music in a world where the presence of established maestros is rapidly shrinking while the untutored audience makes relentless demands? The author's tentative answer is to build dykes against the pressures of the market, to plump for elitism so that all that is good in this music can be preserved. In this sphere he argues forcefully that mere `conservatism' would not do and what is needed is `conservationism', which is a new kind of activism by connoisseurs to save this art.

Reproduced from: The Hindu : Tuesday, Sep 06, 2005

Monday, April 28, 2008

How the Begum trumped the Nawab

Kumar Mukherjee (died: 2007) was, for several decades, one of the most influential members of Calcutta’s music “establishment”. In 2006, Penguin Books published a book titled “The lost world of Hindustani music”, under his authorship. For those interested in Hindustani music, the book is a highly readable cocktail of dramatized history, memoir, musicology, critical writing, known myth, and unverifiable anecdote.

According to Mukherjee, Nawab Raza Ali Khan of Rampur, whose own musical skills and discernment were dubious, continued his legendary father, Hamid Ali Khan’s patronage of classical music. One of his remarkable practices was to offer generous inducements to musicians under his patronage to become his “ganda-bandh” (ceremonially initiated) disciples. Apparently, even the redoubtable Ahmedjan Thirakva succumbed to the Nawab’s guiles, as did several others of considerable stature. But, according to Mukherjee (Pg.143-144), Begum Akhtar, the queen of Ghazal and Thumree, made the Nawab pay dearly for his misguided enthusiasm. The context was, no doubt, a little more complicated.


One gathers that the Nawab fell so deeply in love with Akhtaribai Faizabadi, that he carried her off to his palace and held her in luxurious imprisonment for many years. To quote Sheila Dhar (Kairana vocalist, socialite, and author), once again, she was endowed with gifts and allowed to wear the priceless heirlooms of the state, including a “Satlada”, a seven-stringed pearl necklace. The Nawab was rumored to have said openly that the only thing brighter than the seven diamond pendants of the famous necklace was Akhtaribai’s smile. However, his fixation soon made her claustrophobic, and she began to resent her golden cage.

Partly as revenge, and partly as a game to test her power, she ordered coins to be struck in her name and had them embossed with her profile. She thought it was time to bring matters to a head and this seemed a stylish way of doing just that. When the Nawab’s intense devotion began to turn into displeasure with what she steadfastly regarded as nothing more than a lark, her mood changed to one of anger. She expressed it by decamping with the necklace, no doubt, to teach him a lesson.

The Nawab’s men were dispatched in hot pursuit, but could not find her anywhere because she immediately stopped singing publicly and went underground. When she emerged years later, it was as Begum Akhtar, the respectable wife of a barrister from an eminent family of Lucknow. The protection of such a husband made all the difference. The wild and outdated allegations of the princely state now seemed absurd.


Mukherjee neither vouches for the story, nor dismisses it. Nor does he report any attempts at verification. But he gives it credence by being broadly sympathetic to both parties. His impartiality is reasonable. But, the implicit acceptance of the story’s veracity is disturbing. The attribution to Sheila Dhar does not quite absolve him, because its inclusion in the book appears to endorse its veracity. The issue of veracity is important because formidable reputations are involved. When Mukherjee was writing, the participants in the drama had been gone for a long time. Since his writing, Mukherjee has passed on, and so has Sheila Dhar. The story is now in the realm of unverifiable anecdote, which the gullible could unwittingly respect as history.

Begum Akhtar’s posthumous stature may, or may not, be affected by this reportage. But, Mukherjee’s certainly will. I make this observation with some sadness because I had known Mukherjee since I was a teenager (mid 1960’s), as he was my father’s colleague in government service. I admired him for his erudition and his passion for music, while he encouraged me in my artistic pursuits. He needed neither his musicianship, nor penmanship to live comfortably, though he was more than competent with both. His surrender to salacious gossip is a warning to every writer against the temptations that lie along his path.

(c) Deepak S. Raja 2007

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Swara, Raga, & Rasa – a perspective

Reproduced from
“Hindustani Music – a tradition in transition”
Author: Deepak S. Raja
Foreword: Pandit Shivkumar Sharma
Introduction: Lyle Wachovsky
DK Printworld (P) Ltd. New Delhi. 2005

Swara, Raga, and Rasa, are the fundamental melodic and esthetic concepts in Indian musicology. The three terms are almost impossible to translate, because their lexicographic connotation delivers no meaningful value. Their meaning is predominantly cultural. This is why every author on the subject offers a different perspective on them. I present below my interpretation of these concepts with specific reference to Hindustani music, as written for the Glossary to my first book.

The word derives from Sanskrit “Swa” = self + “Ra” = illumination. Swara is, therefore, an utterance expressing the entirety of the practitioner’s being, and has the potential for personality transformation. Though an avowedly subjective expression, it necessarily has certain known and measurable acoustic features. However, the Indian musical tradition also identifies two features, which pose conceptual problems. The Sanskrit texts do define the terms for them, which are almost impossible to translate. The qualities are “Deepti”, loosely translated as luminosity, and “Anuranan”, loosely translated as a haunting quality. Clarity on these dimensions may have to await either an acoustically meaningful translation of these terms, or their recognition as hitherto unknown/ unmeasured acoustic dimensions. This brief etymological-acoustic discussion supports the growing realization that, “Swara” in Hindustani music does not correspond efficiently to the Western notion of tone or a pitch-ratio relative to the tonic.

The Hindustani scale has twelve swara-s, all of which acquire musical meaning only with reference to the tonic, which is chosen arbitrarily by the musician. These twelve swara-s have names. But, the existence of standard frequency ratios for eleven of them, relative to the tonic, is debatable. Nor is it clear that their musical values depends upon the existence of such standardized acoustic relationships. There could, in reality, be stronger evidence to support the opposite argument -- that their musical value depends precisely on the freedom the musician has to intone them in accordance with aesthetic, rather than acoustic, principles. This is particularly so since, as a rule, Hindustani music eschews staccato intonation.

This proposition is consistent with the crucial difference between the Hindustani and the Western scales The Western scale is an octave with eight fixed points, while the Hindustani scale is a Saptak ( Sapta = seven) with seven intervals covering the same tonal distance. Music making activity in Hindustani music is focused on the handling of intervals, while Western tradition focuses its attention in handling the tonal points.

The issue here is, in fact, philosophical and cultural more than acoustic. Any cultural manifestation can be held accountable only to its own goals and values. The primary values of the Indian musical tradition are spiritual, with the aesthetic and the sensory being subservient to it. In the hierarchy of music making goals, the primary place belongs to the generation of Rasa at the highest possible level of intensity. A musician shapes and re-shapes Raga-s in order to achieve the Rasa goal. In the process, he also arranges and re-arranges relationships between the individual units of melodic expression, the swara-s.

The amorphous and malleable character of Raga-s, and the floating pitch values in Hindustani music are an essential part of a tradition that gives the musician the combined role of a composer-performer, requiring both these processes to be performed simultaneously. Raga grammar and the "standard" pitches of swara both have only ephemeral validity as the stimuli of an interactive process validated solely by its generation of the target emotional response, the Rasa.

The word, generally used as a suffix, is Sanskrit for “attitude/ quality of response/ emotional content of a relationship”. In music, it has come to denote a melodic idea or framework, associated with a specific quality of emotional response. The notion of Raga-ness is, therefore, inseparable from the concept of “Rasa” in Indian aesthetics. A Raga is a psycho-acoustic hypothesis, which states that melody, created and rendered in accordance with a certain set of rules, has a high probability of eliciting a certain quality of emotional response. The set of rules for the creation and rendition of the melody constitute the grammar of a Raga. An awareness of the target response enables a musician to transcend grammar and enter the realm of literature.

As a melodic entity, a Raga is neither a pre-composed melody, nor a mode or scale. It is represented by a set of rules governing the selection, sequencing and treatment of tones/ swara-s. These rules define a framework, which is tight enough to ensure aesthetic coherence, while also providing sufficient freedom for individual creativity. This approach to guiding the melodic content of music was necessary for a tradition, which combines the role of the composer and performer in the same individual.

As a cultural choice, this approach harmonises the competing demands of continuity within change, and unity within diversity. This enables each performed piece of music to retain a familiarity while giving audiences a substantial access to a novelty and freshness of the musical experience. Every Raga is a plausible psycho-acoustic hypothesis because of the accumulated experience of society, and continues to remain plausible with every musician being allowed to test it, and even revise it, at every performance. The hypothesis is perennial and ever-changing, never intending to attain the finality of a theory.

Each Raga is shaped and re-shaped by each performance, and has no existence exogenous to this context. The total achievement of its emotional goals is accepted as a random event because it is susceptible to a host of variables, many of which may be un-controllable and even unrelated to the music itself. The names of Raga-s, and their grammar, are only the starting point of familiarity for contemporary audiences. Once the basis for familiarity is established, the music itself is not bound by the familiar relationship between a raga's name and its contemporary grammar. The musical performance has the sole purpose of sharing the experience of literature, often leaving grammarians struggling to relate the "happening" to a name, and to document what liberated grammar from itself.

The Indian aesthetic tradition views the sensory experience as a pathway to the emotional, and the emotional as a pathway to the spiritual. This reflects the fundamental transcendentalism of Hindu thought. All art is, therefore, validated by a single dominant criterion – its ability to elicit an emotional response. This criterion acknowledges that, at its most intense, the experience of beauty evokes a response that transcends its qualitative aspect, and acquires a mystical quality. This defines the potential of the artistic endeavour, and its reception, for personality transformation and spiritual evolution. At the intermediate aesthetic level, however, the tradition allows for the classification of works of art on the basis of the quality of the emotional response. The name given to these qualities is “Rasa”, a metaphorical expression derived from the Sanskrit “Rasa” = extract/ essence/ juice.

Orthodox Indian aesthetic theory, enunciated in pre-Christian texts, recognizes nine basic emotions/ sentiments, called Navrasa, Sanskrit for “Nav” = nine + “Rasa” = qualities of sentiments/ emotional experience. The nine are: [a] Shringaara, the romantic sentiment, [b] Karuna, the sentiment of pathos [c] Haasya, the sentiment of mirth [d] Raudra, the sentiment of wrath [e] Veera, the sentiment of valour [f] Bhaya, the sentiment of fear [g] Bibhatsa, the sentiment of disgust [h] Adbhut, the sentiment of surprise/ marvel [I] Shaanta, the sentiment of peace. Over the two millennia since this enumeration, critical literature has added several other sentiments, and combinations of orthodox sentiments, to the interpretation of the emotional content of artistic endeavours.

© Deepak S. Raja 2005

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sanjh Saravali – Ustad Vilayat Khan’s Magnum Opus

It is known of Ustad Vilayat Khan, that he did not particularly care either about adopting new ragas crated by others, or about creating ragas of his own. He spent most of his life performing a select number of mature ragas, attempting to achieve progressively greater levels of depth in their exploration. But, being the creative genius that he was, he did occasionally give an idiosyncratic twist to some mature ragas. Most of these were flirtations which did not last beyond a performance or two.

In two cases, however, his individualistic interpretations went far enough beyond the recognizable boundaries of the mature ragas, and acquired a life of their own. Once this had happened, the Ustad devoted considerable musical energy to them over several years, and pushed them towards an independent raga-ness. One was his interpretation of Darbari Kanada, finally named Enayet Khani Kanada; and the other was his interpretation of Yaman Kalyan, which he named Sanjh Saravali. Of the two, Sanjh Saravali is the more significant because he developed its “raga-ness” with much greater persistence over a much longer period of time.

From available concert archives of the Ustad, it appears that the idea of Sanjh Saravali was born in the late 1970s. Since then, he has performed it frequently at concerts in India and abroad. The Ustad first recorded it for commercial release in the mid- 1980's (EMI: STCS 048 7764). The melodic character of the “raga” remained constant between then, and the late 1990s, when he recorded it for the last time, for India Archive Music, New York.

In 2002, I asked him to explain Sanjh Saravali (Sanjh= evening + Saravali=melody) to me. The Ustad described it as a beautiful "Cheez (a piece) which had composed itself." Because the word "Cheez" is used for describing compositions, and ragas are "created" rather than "composed", the remark appeared to refer to the composition, rather than to the raga. By this indication, and also by the evidence of the music itself, it appears that the composition "composed itself" first, and Vilayat Khan built the raga around it.

Sanjh Saravali is, essentially, a song (capital S) complete in itself, requiring no reference point or validation beyond its own direct appeal to the heart of the listener. If it does not qualify as a raga, the Ustad, in all probability, did not intend it to do so.

The melody uses tonal material common to ragas Yaman Kalyan and Bihag, as also to several other ragas of the Kalyan parent scale. Its treatment alternates between these two ragas, and incorporates fleeting impressions of several other ragas of the same family, especially those which use both the Ma swaras, Shuddha (natural) and Tivra (sharp) such as Nand Kalyan, Chhaya Nat, and Hem.

The rigor of Hindustani music demands meticulous adherence to raga grammar in order to avoid confusion with other ragas similar either in tonal material or phraseology. On the other hand, punctuating the renditions of one raga with apparitions of allied ragas (Avirbhav/ Tirobhav= appearance/ disappearance) is an accepted device for the display of musicianship -- a device to be used very prudently.

Against this backdrop, you have Sanjh Saravali, whose very melodic identity rests on hide-and-seek between several allied ragas. Not surprisingly, it is a musical challenge which even the Ustad's brilliant heir, Shujaat Khan, accepts with considerable apprehension. Despite having accompanied his father at least 15 times with Sanjh Saravali, Shujaat confesses he still hasn't got a comfortable grip over the melody.

According to Shujaat, the melody was defined to him in 1984/85 as Yaman Kalyan played in the shadow of Bihag. It has therefore to be understood from both ends.

Yaman Kalyan is popularly understood as Yaman with the addition of the Shuddha Ma in the descent. This is accompanied, in the descent, by a shift in phraseology.

N R G M^ D N S'/ Descent: S N D P M^ G R S
Yaman Kalyan:
: N R G M^ D N S'/ Descent: S' N D P M^ G, R G M G R, G R S

Bihag becomes a relevant reference point for Sanjh Saravali because of its catch-phrase (P M^ G M R G), which is unique amongst twin-Ma usage ragas of the Kalyan parent scale, but closest in its aural experience, to Bihag (P M^ G M G).

The totality of this raga retains a reasonable distance from both, Yaman Kalyan and Bihag, by incorporating several phrases external to both. To reinforce the independence of this raga from Yaman Kalyan and Bihag, the Ustad frequently resorts to a non-descript treatment of the two Ma swaras. However, while developing the raga in the lower octave, and in the lower tetrachord, Vilayat Khan accepts the phraseology of Yaman and Yaman Kalyan. And, in the upper tetrachord, the Ustad allows in phrases which are explicitly from Bihag (N D N S N).

Despite the stability of its melodic character in the creator’s mind over a couple of decades, the raga-ness of this “raga” is elusive, and defies formal codification. In terms of its emotional content, Sanjh Saravali evokes a combination of the tranquil, and the solemn – largely, the atmosphere of Yaman Kalyan. There might be a hint of the romantic in this melody; but it is a stoic romanticism devoid of any vivacity.

The riveting effect of this melody can be attributed to its tendency towards becoming a raga without really becoming one, its habit of hovering in the vicinity of several familiar ragas without merging into any of them -- the amorphous grammar which liberates literature. An expression of Taoist insight at its best: In vagueness lies wisdom; in precision, folly.

The Ustad's critics will, of course, ask whether Sanjh Saravali is distinctive enough to be called a raga, and whether it justifies itself by fulfilling a musical need that had hitherto remained unfulfilled. Issues such as these are, indeed, important for an understanding of the cultural process. But, they pale into insignificance when we consider the greatness of the music such novel melodic ideas can inspire. It is the Ustad’s 78-minute Bada Khayal style rendition of this “raga”, recorded for India Archive Music, New York, which will qualify amongst the greatest pieces of instrumental music recorded in the post-independence era.

Deepak S. Raja
© India Archive Music Ltd., New York, producers of the finest recording of Raga Sanjh Saravali by Ustad Vilayat Khan.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ulhas Kashalkar – “Don’t be in a hurry to judge us”

Ulhas Kashalkar spoke to Deepak Raja on January 1, 2000

I have had a variety of influences on my music. Even my Gurus brought a multiplicity of influences with them. I like great music from all gharanas. As a listener, I am also a student. But,my preferences are with individual musicians rather than gharanas. As such, I would be hard put to say which gharana's style dominates my own singing. I don't consciously try singing in any particular style. I am more concerned that my music should be pleasing, and communicate the mood of the raga. All my training, and the great music I have heard, contributes to this effort; and this happens in ways I do not fully understand. And, yet, it is possible that in a particular raga, you can notice a marked influence of a great vocalist whose rendering of it has made a deep impact on me. With so much recorded music available nowadays, this can happen to anyone.

Gharanas are not cages, and were never intended to be that, either. Consider the background of so many modern giants in Khayal music. They had all studied with three or four Gurus, often from different gharanas. Bhaskar Buwa Bakhle is a great example. He had studied the Agra, Jaipur as well Gwalior styles. So did my Guru, Gajananrao Joshi. Then, consider Vilayat Hussain Khan, whom we consider an Agra exponent. He listed forty-one Gurus of his. Obviously, all forty-one of them were not Agra vocalists!

I have heard it said that until a few years ago, my music had a strong Gwalior flavour and that, in recent years, it is acquiring the Agra touch. This is typical, superficial, "trade talk", because this is not quite the way it works. Today, a vocalist, if he is good, is exposed to public scrutiny right in the midst of the most vulnerable stage in his evolution - the stage when he is struggling to break out of the shell of his training, and to make his own original statement. Until then, in most cases, his training has not achieved much more than making him a good replica of his Guru. But, having been thrown into the professional circuit, he cannot risk sounding like a poor Xerox of the Guru. This builds a great deal of tension in him, making him try out different approaches to shaping his original musical statement. During this period, his music can easily seem like a shifting patchwork of clichés drawn from different styles. Sometimes, he might even be judged as impatient, restless, or confused.

It takes a musician a long time to abstract, from his training, the principles of music making which have been imparted to him. It is only because this is possible, that a great Guru can produce several disciples, all of whom are originals, but also have the stamp of his, or the gharana's, training in their music. Look at the variety amongst Sawai Gandharva's disciples - Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal, Phiroze Dastoor. Each of them is unique and yet in the same mould. I would like to know what connoisseurs thought of these luminaries when they were twenty-five. The chances are that they were not even visible, at that age, on the horizon of professional music!

Even with the best of training, the process of self-discovery in a vocalist matures only around the age of forty. Until then, a vocalist does not fully understand his own training, the significant features of his own and other gharanas, his own musical temperament, or even the eccentricities of his own voice. This is why I discourage influentials in the music world from jumping to premature conclusions about young vocalists.

Today, the brightest talent is able to achieve recognition much earlier in life than was possible just two generations ago. The market starts paying you early. So, it demands that a twenty-five year old should match up to the maturity of Ameer Khan or Kesarbai Kerkar at the age of fifty. I know this cannot be helped. But, we should not be unfair to budding talent; nor can we succumb to the generalised feeling that contemporary vocalists are pushing Khayal music down the drain. To those in a hurry to judge us, my request is to give us time until we are forty -- until we get our act together. Our task is made more difficult by having to mature under public gaze. But, we are serious about music, and discovering ourselves through it, exactly as earlier generations have done. But, this cannot happen overnight.

At the Sangeet Research Academy, at the moment, I have four students assigned to me under a personalised apprenticeship programme. They are gifted and they work hard. We have our own internal systems for tracking the progress of students. Outsiders watching our efforts often ask how well my wards are doing, and how they will shape up as musicians. My answer is always the same: "Give them ten or fifteen years of struggle on the concert platform before you decide. Until then, neither I, nor they, nor you, will know how well their training at the Academy has worked for them".

© Deepak S. Raja 2000.
Read a detailed profile of the artist in: "Khayal Vocalism: Continuity within Change".
The finest recordings of Ulhas Kashalkar have been produced by India Archive Music Ltd., New York.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Raga Gara – The raga and the fragrance

This essay is now published in my fourth book:

Removing it from here was proper, though not obligatory, in order that my publisher's investment in the book is protected. 


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma – “The foundation of the 'Musician's Truth' is sincerity and seriousness of purpose”

Foreword to Deepak Raja’s book:
“Hindustani music – a tradition in transition”
signed on May 16, 2004.

Change is the only permanent reality in music. Even the music of the same gharànà changes from generation to generation. No musician can be a perfect xerox of his guru. This is the way it has been, this is the way it will remain, and this is the way it should be. It is this process that allows new styles to emerge, and new genres of music to be created. If classical music does not change constantly, it will stagnate, and become irrelevant to society.

Along with accepting the permanence of change, we have to acknowledge that, in music, as in other fields, each generation is attuned to certain values based on the environment in which it has been brought up. Because of their conditioning, a majority of people tend to develop firm notions about what is good and what is bad, or what is right and what is wrong, and find change difficult to accept. Their initial response to anything new is often rejection, and even condemnation. It is only gradually that society begins to discover the elements of truth in the newer manifestations of human endeavour, and concedes legitimacy to them.

To develop an intelligent approach to change and diversity in music, we have to recognize that classical music, like any other art form, evolves in society in response to the changing socio-economic realities, and sustains itself by fulfilling the cultural needs of society. Its evolution is the result of an interaction between musicians and their audiences and reflects the quality of the relationship they wish to forge between them.

In our own era, say a little before that, performances of classical music were confined to the courts of the Mahàràjàs and Nawàbs. Outside this circle, concerts took place primarily in private gatherings. They were either “Jumme-kà-takiyà” (Friday evening gatherings) or special occasions where either a musician's son was getting married, or some musician was hosting a commemorative concert for a deceased father or relative. Sometimes, a local aristocrat hosted these concerts. In most cases, the organizers and the audiences were either musicians, or close friends and relatives of musicians -- in short, people of considerable discernment in matters of classical music. The event had virtually no financial implications for anyone. This was the chamber-music stage of evolution of our tradition. Considering the context of these gatherings, the music of the era was naturally of a very high standard, very intellectual, very competitive, and perhaps even intimidating.

In the second quarter of the twentieth century, music came out of the chamber music context into the public arena. These were also the sunset years of British rule and the era of Mahàràjàs and Nawàbs as patrons of music. That was the time when scholars like Pandit V.N. Bhatkhande, and enthusiastic patrons like Jeevanlal Mattoo in Lahore and Lala Babu in Calcutta started organizing music conferences. At that stage, musicians were still poorly paid; and audiences were not large -- maybe 500 or 700 people at the most. But, musicians got an opportunity to acquire a following, and create a market for their music. Around the same time, the radio and the gramophone record also started taking music all over the country. So, there was an opportunity as well as an attraction for reaching out to audiences -- of shaping a career in music. From this stage onwards, the receptivity of audiences became an important determinant of the quality of music that was performed.

I am sure that, out of audiences 500 or 700 strong in that era, 100 per cent of the listeners were not knowledgeable about the intricacies of music. The proportion of audiences who understood, for instance, the nuances of the komal gàndhàra of Darbàri was probably not much higher than it is today. From that stage to present times, audiences have become larger, their profile has changed, their expectations from music have changed, and the media for exposure to music have grown in number and reach. But, as a percentage of the total population, I doubt if classical music audiences are much larger today than they were 50 years ago. I also doubt if the ratio of the discerning to the rest is very much smaller today.

I am driving at two points here. Firstly, that music has changed much more because society has changed, and not as much because the discerning audiences have been reduced to a small minority. Secondly, despite dramatic changes in the quality of music, which some regard as signs of decay, the musicians who enjoy stature along with popularity today exhibit the same values as those of the early twentieth century, whom we mention with reverence. And this quality is what I call the “Musician's Truth.”

The “Musician's Truth” touches the mind, heart, and soul of audiences irrespective of their level of discernment. This truth goes beyond ràga grammar, and aspects of music theory. People relate to music in a million different ways, and it is futile for a musician to think that he can tailor his music to specific audience profiles and needs. The only thing he can rely on is a steadfast commitment to the “Musician's Truth” and help his audiences to become receptive to it. He may not accomplish this in a year, or five years, or even ten years. But, abandoning it is no solution to his relevance as a musician. If this element of “Truth” is missing from a musician's art, even the undiscerning listener will be uneasy, though he may not be able to tell you why he is uneasy. If it is present, even the total ignoramus will go home happy, and will return for more. In the short run, a musician may be able to create a niche for himself without the “Musician's Truth” But, he will find it impossible to retain that position without a secure grip over it.

The foundation of the “Musician's Truth” is sincerity and seriousness of purpose. This is reflected in several facets of music, which have remained, and will remain, fundamental to our music. A musician's intonation should be perfect. Whatever his interpretation of a ràga, his exposition of it should be consistent and coherent. He should organize his musical material neatly and logically. There should be a reasonable balance between the melodic and rhythmic elements in his music. While a degree of partiality to either melodic or rhythmic elements is acceptable in our tradition, an obsession with either of them at the cost of the other deprives the music of its aesthetic value. These qualities qualify as good music by any yardstick of value.

The “Musician's Truth” has exhibited amazing resilience for over a century now, and I have no doubt that it will continue to attract musicians in sufficient numbers for the tradition to survive. However, I am concerned about the threats that have emerged in the last decades of the twentieth century. The threat comes from two recent developments -- the tidal wave of consumerism, and the “commoditization” of music.

It takes 10 or 15 years of rigorous training to groom a classical musician, and another 10 to 12 years of concert experience for him to reach his peak level in the profession. A life in classical music requires the musician to defer his economic aspirations until he is about 40. This is asking for a lot of self-denial from a musician who sees a successful pop singer achieve a glamorous lifestyle at the age of 20 or 25.

This reality may, or may not, shrink the inflow of top class talent into classical music. But, it will certainly encourage classical musicians to think in terms of a “strategy,” in which the “Musician's Truth” becomes the first casualty. With the growing impatience of musicians to live well, and an environment that offers ample opportunities for exposure, we now find a large number of talented musicians struggling -- somehow, and even anyhow -- to create a comfortable niche for themselves. This tendency is crowding the music market with a lot of dishonest classical music.

However, there is no reason to be pessimistic about the future of Hindustani music. I believe so because a few of the musicians struggling in the “somehow-anyhow” circuit might stumble upon the “Musician's Truth,” even if inadvertently. Moreover there will always be musicians outside this circuit who have the junåna (passion/commitment) to pursue the “Musician's Truth” irrespective of the financial consequences. The number of such musicians has always been small, and will remain small.

The task before the community of musicians and music-lovers is to make the world of Hindustani music more receptive to the “Musician's Truth,” which will continue to shine forth, though almost certainly in less homogeneous and more unfamiliar manifestations. This requires us to rise above our conditioning, and open our minds to change and variety. It also requires us to drop the arrogance of the classical music world, and appreciate the manifestations of the “Musician's Truth” in other forms of music -- semi-classical, folk and even popular. It is in this context, that I commend Deepak Raja's book “Hindustani Music: A Tradition in Transition” as a panoramic, and serious, review of the Hindustani music tradition in the post-Independence era.

Deepak is an author with a keen analytical mind, imbued with a scientific approach. His chapters on ràga grammar, ràga authenticity, ràga chemistry, and his introductory essays on Dhrupad, Khayàl, Thumaree and Tappà can be of immense value to music students and scholars. His essay on the time-theory of ràgas is a thought-provoking piece of writing, which deserves the attention of the music fraternity in view of the changing context of music performance and enjoyment. I may not personally agree with all his views on the current trends in Hindustani music. However, I acknowledge them as representing those of his generation of hard-core rasikas, who find themselves in a minority today.

I sincerely hope that this book will be widely read, and will encourage serious discussion and debate on different facets of Hindustani music. I wish Deepak success in his endeavours as a student of Hindustani music and as an author.

Reproduced with the consent of the publishers of the book, DK Printworld Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Raga Ahir Bhairav... and issues in raga grammar

Since Bhatkhande’s documentation of raga grammar in the first quarter of the 20th century, “Vadi” and “Samvadi” swaras have been the pivotal notions describing the melodic personalities of ragas. This set of notions, identifying two dominant swaras, one primary and the other secondary, each located in a different tetrachord, has immense intuitive appeal. But, on close scrutiny, the theory as well as practice of specific ragas appears to warrant re-examination of the “Vadi-Samvadi” notion. Ahir Bhairav, a mature and popular raga, is an interesting example of this phenomenon.

Ahir Bhairav belongs to the Bhairav parent scale, and is a variant of Bhairav, the foundation raga of the scale. It is documented as a compound raga, derived as a blend of a folk/ tribal melody called Ahiri and Bhairav. Texts on raga grammar do not appear to suggest a standardised melodic identity for Ahir Bhairav. In terms of characteristic melodic patterns, Subbarao [Subbarao, B. Raga Nidhi, Vol. I, 4th edition, 1996, Music Academy, Madras] lists two variants of Ahir Bhairav. Thakurdas, [Thakurdas, Manikubuwa, Raga Darshan, Vol.IV, 1st edition, 1997, Lakshminarayan Trust, Rajpipla] presents a third and, substantially different, interpretation of the raga.

For the Ahir Bhairav of his era, Bhatkhande considers Sa as the vadi swara. He avers that because the frequent stand-alone use of Ma, this swara could also be considered the vadi. However, he argues that [komal] Re is also an important swara in the treatment of the raga. Thakurdas suggests Pa and Sa as the vadi and samvadi.

Survey of recordings
Important clues to the raga’s melodic personality may be gleaned from a survey of seven recordings by modern masters: Gangubai Hangal [Inreco:2711-0078], Bhimsen Joshi [TCICL-062C], Kishori Amonkar [Music Today: A91006], Ravi Shankar [STCS:850094], Brij Bhushan Kabra [STCS:850321], Shivkumar Sharma [6TCS:O4B:7175], Pandit Jasraj [STCS:O4B:7402].

The trickiest issue in decoding raga grammar pertains to identification of the “vadi” and “samvadi” swaras in the raga. The raga is consistently treated as a Bhairav variant, with its Bhairav personality being highlighted by the oscillated [komal] Re in the descent [G-M-r-S]. If the vadi [primary dominants] is intended to indicate dominance over the totality of the aural experience, [komal] Re would be a probable choice. Considering the melodic contours of the mukhdas of most bandishes, Ga would also be a candidate for the status.

While Sa and Pa do not enjoy even near-dominant status in the surveyed recordings, Ma appears to have a following, though not categorical enough to qualify it as a dominant. Kishori Amonkar, Pandit Jasraj, Brij Bhushan Kabra, and Shivkumar Sharma have invested a considerable amount of improvisational energy with Ma as a melodic focus. Kabra and Shivkumar have reinforced this emphasis with an appropriate tuning of the acoustic ambience [chords/ drones] on their instruments, exploiting the first-third harmony of Ma and Dh. Kabra’s bandish itself is centred around Ma, and is perhaps the only conscious treatment -- in this sample of recordings -- of the swara as a “Vadi”.

While the “vadi” seems elusive on the surveyed recordings, the “samvadi” does not even appear faintly on the horizon. In the uttaranga, Dh appears to enjoy some significance, but not sufficient to claim samvadi status. The samvadi of the raga remains indeterminate.

The evidence considered here suggests a debatable vadi, and an indeterminate samvadi, with almost all swaras [Ni excluded] usable as terminal points in phrasing [Nyasa swaras]. Ahir Bhairav is thus a raga whose melodic personality is sustained entirely by its distinctive swara material, and a reasonable consistency in its “Chalan”. This makes it a raga of immense melodic tenacity, and improvisational potential. But, this does not make for a comfortable relationship between theory and practice.

The fundamental issue
Ahir Bhairav is supposedly a compound raga, and it has often been argued that compound ragas, by definition, defy the codification of their grammar. But, this is not an isolated case. There are many ragas whose melodic personalities are adequately sustained by their swara-material and their “Chalan” [skeletal phraseology] or what the Dhrupad tradition describes as “Raga Swarup” [melodic form], without reference to “Vadi-Samvadi” swaras.

All this is not terribly original. For many ragas, Bhatkhande himself has shied away from identifying the “Vadi-Samvadi” pair. Later grammarians, also of formidable stature, have often either differed from Bhatkhande’s documentation, or been vague on this matter. A similar divergence is noticed in the practice of several ragas by the leading musicians of our times, including those known for their theoretical soundness. Despite the vagueness of grammar on this dimension long believed to be crucial, several ragas identify themselves beyond reasonable doubt when performed.

What we are looking at is not simply a chasm between theory and practice [Lakshya-Lakshana divergence]. What we are looking at is the inadequacy of analytical rigour used by grammarians, and insufficient commitment to empirical research. The research method required for such enquiries is simple enough, and need not hold our attention here. What is perhaps more crucial is our willingness to make a conceptual leap in understanding the role of raga grammar, and accept its implications.

The purpose of raga grammar is to establish the identity of the raga beyond reasonable doubt, without the risk of confusion with other known ragas. It appears possible to prove that this purpose is served without the categorical identification of “Vadi-Samvadi” pair in musical performance across a large number of ragas. This could mean that this notion of dominant tones is superfluous, though probably not redundant.

In such an event, we may need to acknowledge two levels of raga grammar -- a “mandatory” level which identifies the raga beyond reasonable doubt, and a “prescriptive” level which helps by its observance, but does no damage by its breach. The notion of “Vadi-Samvadi” may, then, belong more appropriately to the “prescriptive” level rather than the “mandatory” level at which it is currently regarded in musicological literature.

After I proposed this two-level notion of raga grammar in my book [Hindustani music: a tradition in transition], experts in linguistics took strong objection. They argued that there is no such thing as “prescriptive grammar”. If anything is grammar, it can only be mandatory. The answer to this is that, the notions of grammar must take into account the nature of the language to which they pertain. Notions relevant to a spoken and written language need not be binding on a “language” that uses melody as its vehicle of ideas. Moreover, when we consider the uniquely Indian problem of codifying the “raga-ness” of ragas, we are persuaded that Indian musicology will have to develop its own “grammar” with its own conceptual and analytical tools.

© Deepak S. Raja 2007

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Book Review : "Hindustani music: a tradition in transition" by Deepak Raja

By: Prof. N Ramanathan, Former Head of Department of Music, Madras University, Published in: Sruti, Issue of May 2006.

"This book is a collection of essays written between 1996 and 2003. Some of them have appeared in Sruti, ..."(p.xiii). Deepak Raja is well known to the readers of SRUTI and more of his articles have appeared in SRUTI since the publication of this book. His articles on the music of Faiyaz Khan, Vilayat Khan, Girija Devi and Ulhas Kashalkar have been model essays on music analysis.

The articles in this book under review have been distributed over five parts titled (i) Culture, Technology and Economics, (ii) Form, Idiom and Format, (iii) The World of Ragas, (iv) The Major Genres and (v) The Major Instruments. In fact the book comes with a built-in efficient summary-cum-review by Lyle Wachovsky, Managing Director of India Archive Music Ltd., New York, which forms the 'Introduction' and which makes any further review redundant.

The first part is mainly about a) Young and senior artists, b) Quality differences among performers, c) Archiving - use and benefit and d) Marketing of music. The first article, 'Populism and Rival Forces," while lamenting the current populist tendencies among certain performers that work towards "exploiting the undiscerning majority of audiences by selling Rolls Royce bodies, fitted with Volkswagen engines" (p.29) hails the role played by institutions like the Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata and the Dhrupad Kendra, Bhopal in creating quality musicians. Again while admiring the committed performers and scholars from the West he expresses his fear about the emergence of a class of musicians of foreign origin in the West which is totally unconnected with the 'motherland of the music' and which might lead to "deculturation" of Hindustani music.

The piece 'If Peanuts is what you Pay' discusses the Music market and Quality product. Deepak Raja establishes that the consumer is paying less and less while the musician gets more and more and the difference is being made up by the recording companies and concert sponsors "... without having either the need or the desire to promote quality music" (p.40). With great concern he adds "... music is more likely to attract truly dedicated and discerning audiences when it demands an economic sacrifice, than when it is subsidized" (p.41).

The aspect of patronage is taken up in the next article 'Government, Business and Classical Music'. Making a distinction between 'sponsorship' and 'patronage', ("Concert sponsorship is contractual and event-specific, while patronage is unconditional and permanent. Event sponsorship is a business deal, while patronage is a passionate commitment.” p.45) author points out that the "The traditional patronage model has faded into history, and is impossible to reconfigure." (p.47) and way out is for the "community of musicologists, professional musicians, and specialist media to pressurize the contemporary Indian benefactor into maturing at a faster rate" (p.48).

The next one, 'Pandits and Ustads Aplenty' advocates the artists to organise themselves into a guild to circumvent exploitation by intermediaries. In the market the intermediaries rate the professionalists by their grade and although AIR is an institution that grades musicians, "today it is possible to shape a successful career without having qualified as an AIR artist" (p.50). Musicians should strive to work towards achieving a grade so that "they can avoid having to negotiate rates for every engagement" (p.51).

For today's musician, the commercial recording is his/her advertisement as well as the product itself intended for developing a concert market. At the same time the recorded music of the previous generation should be restored and made available as a 'virtual guru' for a student. Thus the article 'Archival Music and the Cultural Process' explains how the music community could exploit the technology to its advantage taking care to recognise the 'one original' and discriminate it from the umpteen 'xeroxes' that are bound to sprout.

'A Requiem for the Gharanas' is the last of the essays in the 'Market based Music' section of this book and shows how Gharana too served as a commercial factor since both 'music' and 'patronage' "were 'assets' “to be protected and, if possible, bequeathed to direct descendants" (p.75). The Gharana cast its net wider since "heredity turned out to be an unreliable guarantee of musicianship potential ... , musicians began to groom promising talent beyond the orbit of kinship" (p.76).

Deepak Raja in these essays has approached the area of 'Music Market' from many angles, namely, the quality of the artists, patronage, the intermediaries, technology and music, and the consumers. He has had many perceptive observations to make and he has made them in a forthright manner with a tinge of humour. The generalisations have been drawn carefully. But the thrust would have been greater if a few case studies or specific instances had been discussed. Musicologists might blush to see concert music being treated as a marketable product for they view a musician as a 'museum housing an exhibit' and not as an 'exhibit housed in a museum'. It is quite possible that a quality product may lack an attractive packaging and consequently not have sale value. Thus an able musician devoid of showmanship usually has no market value and ends being elevated to the status of a 'Musician's musician'. Thus to be a marketable product an artist has to equip himself with many other skills than just music. Perhaps this is one area that has been left untouched by the author.

The second section 'Form, Idiom and Format' has four short essays. The first essay "Architecture in Modern Hindustani Music" appears to belong rightly to the third section hence would be considered along with the articles in that section. Taking up the instrumental presentations in "Instrumental Idioms: Anga or Apanga?", surprisingly makes some statements relating to history (which has otherwise avoided in this book) like "Originally, Indian art music regarded instruments capable only of accompaniment to vocal music." and "... rudra vina ... was once considered a suska vadya and forbidden for solo performance". There does not seem to be any reference in history to substantiate the former while 'suska' performance probably related to drum instruments and not the melodic ones. In fact the author could have left out references to the 'music' of pakhawaja and tabala in this essay, since they technically do not belong to the realm of musical or melodic instruments. In fact in the last section of the book dealing with musical instruments the author has rightly chosen to leave out skin percussion instruments.

Taking vocal musical expression as having the highest ranking, the author without arguing out the case makes many statements like, "no instrument can match the acoustic and melodic potential of the human voice", "vocal expression ranks supreme as a unified and unfettered expression of the body, the mind, and the soul, being activated by prana". Author forgets that whether it is vocal or sitara or flute, the musical idea is generated by the human mind, for an instrument does not play by itself. The musical idea has to be shaped according to the nature of the vehicle conveying it, voice, sitara or flute, as it happens in Western music. There is no reason why 'Instrumental music' should be inferior to 'vocal music played on instrument' or why a different 'instrument music' should not be conceived for instruments. The author feels that sitara can create only an 'illusion' or 'semblance' of vocal music and it is 'anaucitya' to play a 'sitara music' on a flute or sarangi, and that the 'gayaki anga' should not become 'gayaki apanga'. But he concedes at the end that "a worthwhile direction can emerge only from a discovery and exploitation of the distinctive character of each instrument" (p.109), a bold statement indeed. On the sly this has been happening with the entry of 'Harmonium', 'Jalataranga', 'Santura', 'Electronic Keyboard' and such other instruments into the system. But let things come into the open and bifurcation of the system be recognised.

The author has, curiously, coined a term 'percussive-melodic instrument' (p.107) to refer to Saroda and Santura and also holds that "the act of plucking creates an element of melodic discontinuity as well as rhythm" (p.103) and that "Melodic discontinuity is inherent in the sitara's design" (p.106). He looks at the 'meenda' or notes produced through the deflection of the string as "extracting longer acoustic sustain from the instrument .... strongly suggestive of singing" (p.106). Music (vocal) is not aiming only towards manifesting a continuous uninterrupted vowel extension. Consonants are required for marking the limits of a melodic phrase, although, at a pinch, stressed vowels too can be deputed to perform this task, but ultimately a marker is what is required. Plucking is only a counterpart of the utterance of a consonant in vocal, discharging the function of a marker. Further apart from the facility of sliding, sitara has the advantage of string deflection which is not possible on a sarangi and which gives it an edge over the latter and cannot be considered alien to the idiom or just an illusion.

"The Jugalbandi Racket" is a well-analysed criticism of the jugalbandi format of concert presentation. The author is negative about the presence of this genre which evolved as an 'experimentation' despite some combinations being 'box-office success' and goes to the fundamentals of it "A duet, as a presentational format, is fundamentally inconsistent with the meditative-contemplative character of Hindustani music." However, he defends the traditional vocal duos - "Without exception, these pairs are brothers not far removed from each other in age, and trained simultaneously by the same guru, in most cases their father." (pp.112-113) It is not the question of 'the meditative-contemplative' character which the duo must be capable of achieving but one of aesthetics, namely, whether two artists can jointly create a single homogeneous musical edifice. It would be like two artists working on a single painting. It could perhaps be possible if the entire structure is conceived by one artist and the roles are distributed, as in the case of the art of film where the conception is that of the Director but hundreds are contributing to the creation of the artistic piece. If that be so even a trio or a quartet could work. This reviewer feels that vocal duos are still one step below serious art music notwithstanding their 'do badan ek dil' incarnation on the stage.

"Tihayis . . . and the Rape of Melody" is a serious academic study of the subject of Tihayi although the title may appear a bit sensational. After discussing the artistic function of 'tihayi' the author speaks of three kinds of tihayis, 'mukhadaa tihayi', 'aamada tihayi' and 'badhata tihayi'. While going into raptures over the tihayis unfurled by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Ustad Vilayat Khan, "it was almost as if their tihayis took shape in their minds unbeknownst even to themselves", he contrasts them with "a recording of a young sitarist which had a 14 minute presentation of a slow-tempo bandisa with 18 tihayis, one every 45 seconds.” and concludes aptly "The grotesque has a place in art. But when art becomes grotesque, it gets derailed from its elevating ideals." (p.122).

In the second section except for the first article the remaining three give the appearance of disapproving and hitting at practices that have come into concert performances. Far from being casual, the entire treatment of the subject is very serious and the observations, views and comments are very balanced and wise.

The third section 'The World of Ragas' has five articles. The first article of the second section "Architecture in Modern Hindustani Music" considers the musical forms and styles of musicians as edifices and which could be classified as architecture-dominant [dhrupada / style-Kesarbai Kerkar or Ameer Khan], sculpture oriented [khayala / Onkarnath Thakur or Roshnara Begum] or ornamentation oriented [thumari / Bade Gulam Ali Khan]. It is in this article that the author takes up a case study of a seventy-four minute presentation of raga Sanjh Saravali spread over three stages, Alapa, Laya-banta and Tana and analyses its architecture. The structure of the presentation is abstracted and the author beautifully concludes that "At the highest level of musicianship, the soundness of architecture is therefore a fundamental differentiator between durable and ephemeral music, ... a discriminator between music and merely pleasant sounds at the lowest level of musicianship" (p.101). What, however, one feels uncomfortable with are usages like 'exposition of the raga', 'exploration of raga', since architecture relates to the concretised presentation of a 'musical form' and not of the 'melodic source' (raga), unless of course the author is using the term 'raga' as a synonym for musical form, dhrupada, khayala etc.

In fact we are confronted with this very problem of usage in "Raga-ness of Ragas", the first article in the third section. The author understands raga to be (a) a melodic structure, (b) a stimulus in a communication process, (c) melodic representation of an emotional statement. If raga is understood as 'melodic structure' how is it different from a musical composition, namely, Mukta Alapa, Khayala or Dhrupada Bandisa and the improvisation element? It is true that today the presentation of a Khayala in, say Yaman, is announced as the 'prastuti' or 'presentation' of raga Yaman.

This is a secondary sense of the word 'raga' where it is used as a synonym of 'gita' or musical structure, encompassing both 'nibaddha' (pre-composed) and 'anibaddha' (improvisation-based); there being historical reasons for the word to acquire this secondary sense. A ‘rāga’ is a specific melody source, not given to perception without the melodic forms that exemplify it. And as a 'melody source' raga is only an assemblage of melodic features or characteristics that are abstracted from the musical structures that commonly share them and being an abstract entity, raga has a virtual existence. And the author himself outlines these features, under the heading 'Melodic Grammar of Ragas' - permissive svara-s, aroha-avaroha, calana, pakada, nyasa /vadi-samvadi, preference for purvanga, madhyanga or uttaranga (melodic epicentre as author likes to refer to it, placing it under 'aesthetic grammar', although it still belongs to 'melodic grammar').

Again music presentation is neither a communication process nor an emotional statement. Music is non-representational and it is received and perceived for what it is and not for what it carries, for it carries nothing. Again the raga-rasa relationship that the author brings up has meaning only in the context of drama or Natya and there too rasa is evoked by action and context and music is only an external associate.

The author also raises the question "Why does Indian tradition require ragas, when the art music traditions of other mature civilizations have produced great music even without such a device?" (p.127). Every art music system has a 'virtual' musical source for drawing upon material for structuring its music. And if 'raga' is taken in the general sense of 'musical source', then Western music too has a 'raga'-basis, only that, the grammar of that 'raga' would be defined by 'chords', 'transposition', 'counterpoint' etc.

In the article "Raga Chemistry and Beyond" the author, trying to explain the transformations taking place in the melodic images of ragas, brings in the analogy of allotropes, compounds and emulsions from the discipline of Chemistry. Allotropes are different physical forms of the same element, Coal and diamond being allotropes of Carbon. Darbari Kanada and Enayeti Khani Kanada of Vilayat Khan, incorporating in addition suddha-ga and suddha-ni, are portrayed as allotropes. Compound, as different from heterogeneous mixture, is a fusion of two entities that makes the resultant homogenous and for this Kafi-kanada is 'compound raga' fusing Kafi ascent with Darbari descent. Emulsion is a fine disposition of minute droplets of one liquid in another in which it is not soluble or miscible. Sampurna-Malkauns of Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana mixing together Malkauns, Bagesvari, Kafi and Khat (which itself is a mixture of six raga-s), is seen as an Emulsion in which the phrases of the member raga-s are made clearly perceptible. Using terms from other disciplines as metaphors for explaining music has had precedence (see Joep Bor, “Raga, Species and Evolution”, Sangeet Natak-35 in which the author brings in Biology) in musicological writings. The author has used the analogy well to drive home the distinction perceived in the different kinds of 'Joda' and 'Misra' raga-s. But more strong and valid is his criticism of the practice of 'Raga-malika' and the resulting dilution in the serious presentation of a single raga.

"Ragas: Right and Wrong" raises a very important issue of the existence of two differing images under the same raga name. Candrakauns of Agra gharana different from the normal Candrakauns, Khambavati of Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana resembling Ragesri and differing from the traditional Khambavati, Onkarnath Thakur's treatment of the svara 're' in Bihaga, two differing melodic pictures of the same raga Tilak Kamod by Kesarbai Kerkar, are instance that have been taken up and a very dispassionately discussed. The issue finally boils down to the laksya-laksana clash. Certain observations of the author could raise arguments. "In a specific context, great musicians have a variety of "reasons" for deviating from the familiar, and they are not accountable to us for their exercise of creative license." (p.154) They may not be 'accountable to us' but are they accountable to no one, not even to the system, especially since art music denotes a well defined and disciplined practice? Musician is not bigger than music, even though without musicians there is no music. The author then adds, "... raga-s are not static melodic entities." (p.156) Invariably when a raga changes or a new raga emerges it happens at the cost of another raga dying or paling into insignificance. Again "In a performing art tradition, theory can document practice, but it cannot expect to dictate it." (p.156) In no art can theory dominate, performing or plastic. But in all arts there are two levels of theorisation. One is the codification of practice in an unwritten form, which is there in the mind of all guru-s and surfaces when they pull up the student, "Betaa! Your rikhab is too flat, raise it a bit." When these do-s and dont-s get documented in a written form they become the musicologist's theory. So, there is initially, a musician's grammar and then another, the musicologist's. And it is the unseen former, that defines the system, within which framework, the art music operates.

"Kedara at Sunrise?" brings up the same issue of Raga-Time association, which most of the musicologists are not able to rationally accept and most of the musicians are not emotionally give up. After citing the theory underlying the organisation of ragas within the hours of the day, the author concludes, "The theory, as understood so far, falls short of being a comprehensive and fully organised system of relationships. Some psychometric experiments have been conducted to verify the association of melodic patterns with time-slots in the audience mind. The results are, so far, only tentative in their affirmation." (p.165) His conclusion appear to endorse the views of another musicologist, "It is one thing to find common features in ragas that have been placed in a single time bracket but quite another to show that this points at a deeper psycho-physiological basis for the phenomenon. ... I think that the association made between a raga and its allotted time is an arbitrary association ... is culturally conditioned." (Mukund Lath, 'An Enquiry into the Raga-Time Association' in Transformation As Creation, p.173). This reviewer feels that as in the case of rasas, the origin of association of time can be traced to Drama (Natya) and to non-artistic environments like temple rituals and marriage functions, in which environments the association still exists even in the Southern part of the country.

"The Experience of Melody: From Dhrupad to Santura" is the last article in this section and takes up an interesting area of how music perception is felt the same despite the different genres - Vocal (Dhrupada and Khayala), sitara, saroda, santura etc. it stems from. This article feels like a continuation and elaboration of the earlier one ‘Instrumental Idioms ... ‘. Despite the vilambita, long and contemplative Alapa section ("consuming over 60 per cent of the duration" p.198), the author regards total Dhrupada presentation itself displaying a "narrative path" approach and speaks of a 'melodic line' rather than a 'melodic phrase' as the building block of melody with emphasis on 'continuity between phrases', all attributed to the overbearing presence of the text dominated composition. On the other hand the Khayala is described as having a symmetrical and geometrical, phraseological approach to melodic presentation. The melodic expressions in Sitara and Saroda playing have been discussed in terms of the frequency of right hand plucking, timbre variation and svara patternings influencing the melodic phrasing. Author has been very objective and unsparing in his assessment of the melodic expression of Santura and some of the statements are very forceful, although at times bordering on euphemism. "Melodic discontinuity is as effortless a feature of the instrument as is its rhythmicality."(p.175) "With the santura, raganess could be totally atomized, and pushed into a territory beyond melody, and into a region so far alien to Hindustani music." (p.176) " "... its inclination appears to be towards the atomization of melody and the search for extra-melodic pathways to musical ideation and expression." (p.178) “The Santura is not the villain of the piece. It merely represents a historical and socio-cultural direction. Contemporary tendencies in Santura music reflect a progressive crystallization of this inevitability." (p.181) One gets a feeling that the author is giving too much importance to this instrument although the focus on melodic expression does not get diverted.

The themes in the articles in the third section seem to overlap with those in the second, the approach continues to be objective and discussions pinpointed.

The titles of articles in the fourth and fifth sections - An Introduction to Dhrupada, An Introduction to Khayala, An Introduction to Thumari, An Introduction to Tappa, The Rudra Vina, The Sitara, The Surbahara, The Saroda, The Santura, The Sehnayi, The Sarangi, The Indian Classical Guitar, give the impression of being textbook lessons but they are not. The write up extends beyond the description of the formal structures to presentation styles of schools and artists and to the evolution.

Using the term 'Gharana' in the context of Dhrupada too, the author mentions five - Dagar, Darbhanga, Bettiah, Talwandi and Mathura. Name of Falguni Mitra is missing in Bettiah and Siyaram Tewari in the list from Bihar region. When the author says "The melodic progression in the dhrupad alapa often appears less methodical than that of the modern khayala genre." (p.196), one feels that it was the other way about. Again when he says, "This nom tom phonetic [in dhrupada] is a remnant of what was once a rhythmic chanting of the name of Lord Visnu - om hari ananta narayana." (p.196), one wonders whether there is any historical evidence to substantiate that. Why should 'meaningless syllables' be considered having less spiritual significance (if at all that matters) since even the earliest musical system of Samagana had a lot of it and in addition made the meaningful text itself unrecognisable, a feature common to all art music systems? The observations on Khayala styles, although brief, are very perceptive and significant are the usages 'formalism' and 'aloofness'. Reference to 'Dombika' dance (mentioned by Abhinavagupta), in the context of history of Thumari is interesting. Very significant is the concluding observation, "Starting with Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Khayala vocalism moved towards a libertarian approach to architecture ... he was the forerunner of the romantic brigade -- Kumar Gandharva, Kishori Amonkar, and Pt. Jasraja -- who rebelled against either the formalism of the Khayala, or its aloofness, or both, thus driving the classicist genre closer to the emotional expressiveness of the thumari." (p.256)

Analysing the Sitara compositions, the author speaks of the Masit Khani gata - dir da dir da dir - da ra da - dir da dir da dir - da ra da -, starting on the twelfth matra, superimposing a 5-3-5-3 asymmetry on the 4-4-4-4 symmetry of the teen-tala cycle. (p.292). But the Tabala theka bola-s ‘dha dhin dhin dha – dha dhin dhin dha dha – tin tin ta ta – dhin dhin dha’ have already superimposed a 4-5-4-3 asymmetry on the symmetrical kriya vibhaga of teen-tala. So one is dealing with a three-tier system and not a two-tier one.

A Glossary comes at the end, which could as well be taken to be the six section of the book. Spread over 65 pages we have practically mini articles on most of the 220 odd entries.

The articles in the last two sections and the glossary together, apart from their analytical and documentary value, would eminently serve as textbook lessons for institutions too. At present textbook lessons in institutions confine themselves to only structures of genres and instruments and do not include style of presentation by artists and in this respect Deepak Raja's articles would have that extra dimension. In this context one is also tempted to compare this part of the book with the recently published book 'NAD: Understanding Raga Music' by Sandeep Bagchee.

The 'Select Bibliography' has one error. The author of 'Thumri ki utpatti, vikas aur shailiyan' should be 'Shukla, Shatrughna' and not 'Sinha, Shatrughna', although the attribution might do the Actor-MP proud.

This book reveals the author's involvement with the subject, extensive thinking that he has done, high command of the language laced with humour and an organised presentation. Although some of the topics might give the appearance of dealing with peripheral issues, there is a serious treatment of the various aspects of these issues. Discussion and analysis are always objective and technical. In fact his way of building up an article reminds one of the Sastraic writings in Samskrta where a discussion has two parts, the ‘purvapaksha’ and the ‘uttarapaksha’, and in the former part the commentator will argue against himself and in the latter part present his real view with all the force and conviction. And our author too discusses the issue impartially from all points of view before he puts forward his conclusion in a clear manner.

If one can fault the author on anything it is that much of the discussion on the music scene in the first two sections is based on artists and goings on in Mumbai and the West, ignoring other parts of country. This is not a coffee-table book. It is eminently readable but mainly for the connoisseurs, artists, scholars and students, in other words, not for a general music lover.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the Author, and the Editor, Sruti.