Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Pleasantness Personified – Raag Nand

Delve into the pleasant world of Raag Nand and enjoy the celebration!

As has been emphasized time and again, there are a number of raag-matrices in Hindustäni classical music that use the same set of notes from an octave. The factors that identify them differently are peculiar rules of ascent and descent and phraseology associated with them individually. We examined one such group of raags (Märwä-Puriyä-Sohini) sometime back in this blog. We will now take a closer look at some matrices that use all seven flat notes in octave and use teevra madhyam (sharp fourth note), additionally. Raags Märu-Bihäg & Bihäg featured here belong to this category and we will look at some more melodies of this mould in this and subsequent episodes.

With such complete framework, raag-matrices of this type are generally pleasant in nature evoking romance (at times a little aggressive romance, too) and pleasantness. Raag Nand is one such raag that fits the bill perfectly. The typical chalan (phrase) that identifies Nand is ‘ga-Ma-pa-dha-ni-pa-dha-ma-pa’ and ‘ga-Ma-dha-pa-re-sä’. This raag, although it has evolved only in the last century or so, has been immensely popular amongst vocalists from all gharänä traditions. There have been comparatively few compositions in this raag and ‘Dhoondu bare saiyyän’, the most popular, has been immortalized by Pt Mallikärjun Mansoor. Pt Kumär Gandharva’s ‘Räjan ab tu äjä’ has also been hailed as a landmark composition in this raag. However, Pt Räjan-Säjan Mishra, in recent years, have popularized Nand with their trademark 'Benäras' style rendition. Their bandish ‘Bahut din beete’, definitely comes out as a top-recall from among compositions in this pleasant raag-matrix!

Late Madan Mohan, composer par excellence, was always at his best using Hindustani classical as a springboard for his creations. ‘Tu jahän jahän chalegä’ (Film: Merä Säyä) is a fitting example. Offbeat composer like Vanräj Bhatiä also composed ‘Ghar nähi hamare shyäm’ (Film: Sardäri Begum) for Smt. Aarati Ankalikar-Tikekar and gave his own flavour to Nand. In Maräthi section, we have Shridhar Pärsekar composing ‘Päkharä jä’ for the film ‘Vahini’ featuring celebrated ‘PuLa’. But once again, it was the genius of late Pt Jitendra Abhisheki who gave us ‘Aänand sudhä barase’ for ‘Meerä Madhurä’, a landmark musical play that cluelessly went flat at the box-office.

It is interesting to also know about Raag Swänandi, a blend that evolves out of a phrases from Raags Bhinna-Shadaj, Nand and Bhatiyär. This melody evolved out of the genius of Pt Jagannäthbuwä Purohit ‘Gunidäs’, but was popularized by Pt CR Vyäs and Pt Jitendra Abhisheki. Raag Nand is the mainstay of this combination and also the main contributor to the pleasant ‘mähaul’ projected here. So here's the genius of Late Abhisheki-buwä singing Nand turning it into an eternally pleasant melody fit for a lifetime of celebration!

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...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Worthy Sibling - Räg Märu-Bihäg!

Räg Märu-Bihäg proves its mettle as a worthy sibling to Yaman with countless melodies...

A new post after a long hiatus here  (due entirely to my lethargy, let me confess!) after we looked at one of the most complete rägs (Räg Yaman) in detail! But now let’s move on our enjoyable musical trek towards a few more räg-matrices that are performed during the first quadrant of night. Naturally, the framework of notes used here is also similar to some extent. Most naturally, Räg Märu-Bihäg beckons us due to its closeness with Räg Yaman.

Märu-Bihäg, undoubtedly, is one of the most pleasant matrices in Indian Classical music tradition that uses all seven flat notes in the octave and also uses Teevra Madhyam (sharp fourth note) additionally. A number of musicologists have highlighted its similarity with Yaman, especially in its descent and can, therefore, be called its sibling! Märu-Bihäg also allows for a vast potential in its expansive treatment in presentation and has, therefore, been one of the favoured rägs with vocalists and instrumentalists, alike.

A number of seniors have left behind some remarkable compositions in this matrix, but Pt Vasanträo Deshpände’s ‘Mein patiyä likh bheji’ set to mid-tempo Teen-täl merits a special mention here. Thanx to good old DoorDarshan, you can actually enjoy Vasanträo’s super-expressive Märu-Bihäg bandish in video here!

Also special is Pt Bheemsen Joshi’s ‘Tarpat rainä din’ with some outstanding and breath-taking tän-patterns. But what I have specially for readers of ‘Music-Fundaaz’ is one of the most memorable Märu-Bihäg presentations by internationally reputed violinist Pt DK Dätär in a concert organized by Saptak, Nashik in 2000 where he was accompanied by Pt. Vibhav Nageshkar on tablä – enjoy the violin that sings…

Popular music has borrowed heavily on Märu-Bihäg matrix treating listeners to a number of delightful compositions. The top-recall, without doubt, is the immortal Latä-Rafi duet ‘Tum to pyär ho’ (Film: Sehrä) under the baton of Late Vasant Desai. But Mukesh, not really well known for classical singing, also holds his own in ‘Matwäli när thumak-thumak chali jäy’ based on Märu-Bihäg. The crown, however, definitely goes to late RD Burman for composing an exceptionally delightful song based on this räg in recent times. ‘Pancham-dä’, the composer responsible for popularizing Western music in Hindi films single-handedly, was always unpredictable in the sense that he came up with a lilting and hummable yet conservative, hardcore classical composition that was least expected of him - the most fitting example being ‘Rädhä jäye nä’ (Film: Mehboobä) sung by Latä Mangeshkar!

The enchanting world of Maräthi bhäv-geet is replete with many such compositions in Märu-Bihäg. Geet-Rämäyan, as usual, gives us an all-time favourite, ‘Palavili Rävane Seetä’.

However, my personal choice is ‘Jeevanät hi ghadi’ (Film: Kämäpuratä Mämä, Music: Yashwant Dev) sung by Lata-didi. 

Indeed a worthy sibling to the eternally pleasant Yaman – this Märu-Bihäg...!