Monday, February 29, 2016

Perpetually Romantic - Raag Bihag

We take a peek into the romantic world of Bihäg...

The raag-system in Hindustani music uses predominantly flat (shuddha) notes in matrices assigned to the night zone. We entered the enchanting realm of night-raags with Yaman. We also had an encounter with Raag Maru-Bihäg. We will now take a closer look at Raag Bihäg today.

Bihäg is a night melody, generally sung in the first quadrant of night and belongs to the Biläwal Thät. It uses the complete octave of shuddha notes with a touch of teevra madhyam (sharp fourth note) in descent, typically in the ‘pa-ma-ga-Ma-ga-Sä’ phrase. This separates Bihäg from other raag-matrices using the same set of notes. These notes evoke a romantic mood and offer tremendous potential for creative expression and expansive treatment to a performer and; hence, Bihäg has been an immensely popular raags.

Recordings from the 78-rpm era give us a taste of the talent and finesse achieved by the revered seniors and one finds numerous gramophone discs presenting Bihäg. ‘Gän-Hirä’ Hiräbäi Barodekar, Ustäd Abdul Karim Khän, Mushtäq Hussein Khän, Bade Ghuläm Ali Khän and other greats have given Bihäg an expansive treatment and composed a number of enchanting bandishes in this raag. Pt Vasanträo Deshpände, Pt Kumär Gandharva, Pt Jasräj and younger artists like Smt Ashwini Bhide-Deshpände, Räm Deshpände, in recent years, have also given due justice to Bihäg in their performances and recordings. Late Vasanträo’s trademark rendition ‘Nä chhedo nä’ in Bihäg (composed by Pt. Kumär Gandharv but sung exclusively by Vasanträomerits a special mention in the context of its layakäri potential.

Vidushi Smt. Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande has also recorded a fabulous Bihäg in contemporary artists. Her rendition of jod 'Lat ulazi sulazä jä balmä' makes for a very special listening experience with tän-patterns and äläpi fitting the mood of this traditional composition.

Pt. Ravi Shankar’s early recording with tabla-accompaniment by late Ustäd Ahmedjän Thirakwa is a masterpiece in Bihäg. Ustäd Bismilläh Khän’s Bihäg is equally popular and widely available.

The list of compositions based on this matrix in popular music is vast. Latä Mangeshkar’s ‘Tere sur aur mere geet’ (Film: Goonj Uthi Shehnai) stands out as the top recall. However, late KL Saigal’s ‘Ae dil-e-beqarär zoom’ (Film: Shähjehän) is equally sweet and still hugely popular. Relatively lesser-known composers like Kanu Roy (‘Boliye surilee boliyän’, Film: Grih-Pravesh) or the unsung maestro late Jaidev (‘Koi gätä mein so jätä’, Film: Aäläp) also made perfect use of Bihäg’s magic in their work. A song like ‘Yeh kyä jageh hai doston’ (Film: Umräo Jän) exhibits composer Khayyäm’s mastery over Bihäg.

Nätya-sangeet once again leads the inventory in Maräthi compositions based on Bihäg. Bäl Gandharva’s ‘Mama ätmä gamalä’ (Play: Swayamwar) was sung once again by Pt Kumär Gandharva as a tribute to the old master and still remains much admired nätyageet. But the honour for the most imaginative composition in Raag Pat-Bihäg (a sister-melody of Bihäg) in recent years goes to Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki. ‘Yä bhawanätil geet puräne’ from ‘Katyär Kälajät Ghusali’ had the added advantage of Vasanträo’s electrifying gäyaki and is considered to be a landmark composition. But the true signature of Bihäg, so to say; came from Late Anand Modak, a revered name in Marathi music. His composition of renowned poet N. D. Mahanor's verse for 'Preet-Rang', a stage show of compilation of love-poems in Marathi, takes the top spot for my favorite compositions in Bihäg. Sung by Madhuri Purandare, here's the track that celebrates the true mood of Bihäg...

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