Monday, August 3, 2009

The mercurial ‘Chärukeshi’

This matrix puzzles me – on one hand, there are romantic songs like ‘Baiyä nä dharo’ (Film: Dastak) or a lively Marathi number like ‘Rutu hirawä’ by Asha Bhosale (Music: Shridhar Phadke), while there are equally sweet but sad numbers like ‘Akele hai chale äao’ (Mohd. Rafi, Film: Räz) or that famous Hridaynath Mangeshkar song ‘Gele te din gele’! These songs belong to the mercurial repertoire of Raag Chärukeshi.

Although Chärukeshi hails from the Kärnatic musical tradition, it has been assimilated in the Hindustani tradition for quite some time now. A sampoorna raag (employing all seven notes in the octave) that uses komal Dhaivat and Nishäd (minor sixth and seventh notes), Chärukeshi has found more favour with instrumentalists. Probably, the usage of all seven notes allows them, esp. the maestros of string instruments like sitär, santoor, more freedom of expression and better playing techniques. Pt Ravi Shankar’s recording of Chärukeshi from mid-‘70s is popular even today and memories of Pt Shivkumar Sharma’s early morning’s presentation of this raag in a concert at Pune in early ‘80s are still vivid. Pt Hariprasad Chaurasiyä had also recorded this raag for HMV once upon a time but the cassette seems unavailable these days.

The vocal tradition, however, seems to have sidelined Chärukeshi in a way. This may have been because of availability of other beautiful raag-matrix in the closer range like, for instance, Nat-Bhairav, Asävari, etc. But Gäna-Saraswati Kishori Amonkar used to sing Chärukeshi in her own inimitable style around twenty years ago. Others have rarely, if ever, included this raag in their repertoire. Popular music, on the other hand, has made extensive use of Chärukeshi’s captivating notes to belt out some of the most memorable songs. Lata Mangeshkar’s outstanding songs like ‘Chhod de sari duniya kisi ke liye’ (Film: Saraswatichandra), ‘Kisi räh mein kisi mod par’ (Film: Mere Humsafar) or ‘Aaj dil pe koi jor chalta nahin’ (Film: Milan) are all based on Raag Chärukeshi. But who can forget that nätyageet from ‘Yayäti Aäni Devayäni’, ‘He suräno chandra vhä’, composed by Pt Jitendra Abhisheki? Almost thirty years since its debut, the song still holds its forte as one of the all-time favourites and artists of current generation also seem to be enamored by its magic. This composition, in the late maestro's own voice, is now available for your listening pleasure elsewhere on this page as a link. Do enjoy the rousing 'peshkari' of this otherwise serene raag-matrix!
Although we borrowed it from the South Indian music, Chärukeshi is now here to stay, like the proverbial spoonful of sugar in a glass of milk!


  1. We went to Ravishankar's concert a week back, and he played Raag Charukeshi on Sitar. Amazing! Thanks for your wonderful posts always!

  2. Thanx for your words of appreciation! Do write in about your memorable experiences with other raag matrices, as well... And where was this Ravi Shankar concert? Do you have a recording?