Having started learning this oh-so-famous sampoorna raga last month, I am now at the point where I must create niravals, Hmm.... i was trying to explain this  over the weekend (with a practical demonstration) to a (non-technically inclined) musical person very unsuccessfully. Maybe if i write it down the theoretical aspects will be more clear. Besides i need this for the exam next year, so i need to catalog my mental outpourings on a medium better than sheets of paper which is no good for the environment (fact: i misplace sheets but the environment sounds cooler :^))

Based on the discussions we had in class, the niraval is an extempore construction and improvisation of swaras for a particular line in the kriti to bring out the beauty of the raga and its always elaborated on a portion of a kriti, usually just one line from the charanam part of the kriti. It has to sit within the framework of a tala and highlight every rasa and bhava singularly. I cant even begin to stress how important niravals are for any student as every student dreams to be able to do thsi, atleast i did ever-since I was a kid, when i first heard it but didnt really understand what the fuss was all about ...afterall it was just a permutation-combination of svaras :-))  I WISH it was THAT easy.... reality is, it requires a good, and i mean really good grasp of the raga, its construction, make-up and all that jazz. Finally though its the artist's individuality and imagination, which is why some singers are oh-so-good and some mediocre and some oh-well-forget-it.

We know, Shankarabharanam is a 29 dhira sampoorna melakarta with panchama chakram and Madhyama Bhana. Doh... what ??

See the; Arohanam and avarohanam ... Aa: S R2 G3 M1 P D2 N3 S || Av: S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

where :

S=Shadjam, R2=Chatusruti Rishabham, G3=Antara Gandharam, M1=Suddha Madhymam, P=Panchamam, D2=Chatusruti Dhaivatam, N3=Kakali Nishadam.

Here, we can see it has all the sapta svaras, with the avarohan (descending octave) being an exact opposite of the arohan (ascending octave). It is the Suddha Madhyama counterpart of MeLam 65 - (Mecha) Kalyani and the prescence of 7 svaras in the raga metre allows far greater scope for niraval's and this is an extremely popular concert raga since the scope for manodharma (artistic elaboration) is very high and flexible, besides being simple (this is my guru's opinion, mine is still oscillating between ecstatic imagination and frustration *sigh*).

Example : ShyamaShastri's "sarojadala netri himagiri putri" set to Adi talam (double) was the one for which i constructed and recorded some 4-beat niravals for "sama gana vinodhini guna" (like this : gpmgrs | s,ndpmgrs). Now i need to get the records corrected and start recording longer cycles. ; I also need to learn and keep a repositary of 40 ragams (being mandatory basic knowledge) ....gosh, so much to do and i wonder when will i "think" and _then_ record the 8-beat, and 16-beat talam niravals ???? not much time :-/

Anyway, each kriti has a different line for which a niraval is sung which is what makes it tough (and maybe unique) and the svaram should compulsarily be sung for the same line, either in the course of the song or after it is over, depending on the raga, kriti, etc.... Here knowledge of the jiva swaras and the melakarta system is important. Think of it as small building blocks of svaras. As i write this i am listening to a hindustani rendition of Raga Raageshri with the flautist and the tabla player throwing snippets of svaras (is it called 'bol' in hindustani???) at each other. The other will have to match it and return one snippet of his own. Thus they managed to build a whole tower which spirals into a crescendo where both match the others play with a simultaneous play of svaras.

Did i mention that the niravals are ALWAYS impromptu. If you had to write/document it and read off or sing whilst looking at a piece of paper then you are not considered a good artist. To this date, i have never, and i mean never seen a single artist read off from a sheet of paper or tele-prompter during the performance. Do that and in all likelihood there wont be an encore. This is also why every rendition sounds different, unlike a recorded session (ughh..predictable), and hence unique.

In Hindustani classical the artiste does the aalap (raga construction) at the beginning of the raga and does it for the _whole_ ragam. In Karnatic, we have ragam-tanam-pallavi BUT people dont want elaborate pieces. They want short and simple stuff according to our mridangam artiste last year...and oh, fast songs....this is not exactly pop ya know. *sigh*

Having said this comparing Hindustani with Karnatic music is akin to saying the North and South poles are the same, figuratively speaking, because they are not. Rather they are parallel in nature and dont overlap much if at all.