Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Lilting Melody - Raag Lalat

As you progress on the musical trek, you will notice some peculiarities in Indian raag system. That the notes used in a raag are predominantly komal (sharp) if it falls in the twilight zone and shuddha (flat) notes are the hallmark of raags sung in the middle of night or day is very special feature of the system. Now that we are in the morning ambience, let’s look at one more melodious composition from the morning repertoire – Raag Lalat!

A typical pre-dawn melody, Lalit (also known as Lalat at times, esp. in Maharashtra) excels in the upper half of octave. The framework of this raag leaves out Pancham (fifth note) but uses both flat and sharp Madhyam (fourth note). ‘Ni-Re-Ga-Mâ-Mã-Mâ’ is the typical phrase by which Lalat is established. There are a number of famous and immortal compositions sung by generations of vocalists and instrumentalists in this raag. The traditional Gwalior composition ‘Mäi Ghungaravä’ embodies a romantic feel to the raag while ‘Jogiya more ghar’, immortalized by greats like Ustad Amir Khan or Pt Rajan-Sajan Misra, brings out the joy at re-union after long years.

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan’s presentation of Lalat on sarod has been widely popular for past several decades while his guru-bandhu Bharat-Ratna Pt Ravi Shankar gave the raag a deeper feeling in his rendition of Ahir-Lalat, a jod-raag derived from the main melody. Ustad Shahid Parvez, in recent years, has also played Bhinna-Lalat beautifully on sitär combining Raags Bhinna-Shadaj and Lalat.

It is worth mentioning here that Lalat once upon a time, used to be sung with Shuddha-Dhaivat instead of the Komal-Dhaivat as it presently does in recent times. Lalat with Pancham (fifth note) used in descent (avarohä) was also prevalent in historic times although it is heard very rarely these days. Pt Ulhas Kashalkar recorded a delightful Lalat-Pancham way back in early-eighties that is still a much sought-after recording for connoisseurs even today. Lalat also gels well with other pre-dawn raag-matrices to create melodious sound-scapes. Raag Triveni (a combination of 3 pre-dawn raags), Raag Bhavmat-Bhairav (a combination of Bhairav, Lalat & Bhatiyar conceptualized and popularized by Pt Kumar Gandharv) are some of those gems that have emphasized individual creativity embodied in Indian Classical Music.

Popular music has seen a number of songs based on Lalat – ‘Ek shahenshähne banawäke haseen Taj-mahal’ from Naushad’s ‘Leader’ being the most famous composition. But Manna Dey-Lata duet ‘Preetam Daras Dikhäo’ from ‘Chächä Zindäbäd’ also features high on popularity ratings. The male duet ‘Tu hai mera prem devatä’ sung by Manna Dey-Mohd Rafi is another immortal number. But the most melodious composition in Lalat in the recent years has been the Jagjit Singh’s ‘Koi Päs Aaya Savere Savere’. The ghazal-maestro has made magnificent use of this early morning melody in bringing out the melancholy in this ghazal. A half-hour mini-digest of sorts on Raag Lalat recorded for All India Radio under the title 'Swar-Rang' has been posted for your pleasure under the section ‘For your listening pleasure…’

Marathi repertoire also boasts of some hummable numbers based on Raag Lalat. Sudhir Phadke’s ‘Te maze ghar’ or Pt Jitendra Abhisheki’s ‘He sakhi shashivadane’ are typically ‘Lalat’ compositions. But the most popular, perhaps, is the natyageet sung by inimitable Pt Vasantrao Deshpande, ‘Tejonidhi Lohagol’. Although it is based on Raag Triveni (comprising Lalat, Bhatiyär and Bibhäs – a recording of this rare combination by Vijay Koparkar, disciple of Pt Vasantrao Deshpande, is available as a link under ‘For your listening pleasure…’ section), Lalat is the most dominant melody here. The fitting lyrics complement the composition by Pt Abhisheki and one truly gets into the mood worshipping the Sun God – truly a lilting melody, this Lalat!

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