Thursday, November 27, 2008

The 'Raag' Matrix

The raag system in Hindustani music has its own rules and guidelines. A raag must, for example, have a minimum of five notes (including the base-note Sa) to begin with and both halves of the octave must be represented in those notes. The vaadi-swar, the most important note of the combination that is given special emphasis during presentation, of the raag should also be properly defined. The next most important note, called samvaadi-swar, should also be defined and must not belong to the same half of the octave as that of the vaadi-swar.

Consider this example – Raag Bhoop has five notes, Sa, Re, Ga, Pa and Dha, all shuddha (the first, second, third, fifth and sixth flat notes). Ga (the third note) is its vaadi-swar, which belongs to the first-half (poorvang) of the octave while Dha (the sixth note) is the samvaadi-swar falling in the second-half of the octave (uttarang). Since the most important note in this raag is in octave’s first-half, the presentation of this melody will always be dominated by the lower notes constituting the first-half. This raag, therefore, is called a poorvang-pradhan raag.

There are a number of combinations of various notes which are recognized as valid raags and some of them employ all seven or more (a combination of flat and sharp / minor) notes. These raags are classified into various thaats (categories) according to the notes used in the combination. There are ten such thaats that have been universally accepted in Hindustani style.

Another peculiarity of the Raag Matrix is that each of them has been assigned a time-slot in the 24-hour cycle. This again is unique to Hindustani music and it has been universally accepted that a raag will make the maximum impact if sung in its proper time-slot. Take, for example, the case of Raag Ahir-Bhairav. This melody is a twilight raag sung just before sunrise. If you remember the famous Manna Dey song ‘Poocho Na Kaise Maine’ based on this raag, you will realize that the composition makes you yearn for the early morning sunlight streaming through your windows and takes you right into the early dawn ambience.

Let’s get melodic and look at some of the famous raags in the forthcoming posts...!

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