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2010 June 5 [Saturday]

Raga Darbari Kanada

"Devan ke pati Indra", composed in raga Darbari Kanada - Deshadi is a Hindustani raga composed by Svati Tirunal in HINDI language set to chowtaal. Pandit Ganapathi Bhatt, whose rendition is in two parts: Part one is around 8 minutes and part two is under 6 minutes, lends soul to one of the most beautiful Hindi bhajans that I have heard of Svati Tirunal, ala, Maharaja Svati Tirunal Rama Varma, a king from Travancore, now erstwhile Kerala.

Svati Tirunal's karnatic compositions were the first I learnt and it is not surprising that he was a prolific linguist, having composed music in 5 Indian languages. Most people can only learn multiple languages but imagine composing music in languages like Hindi,  Malayalam, Manipravalam, Sanskrit and Telugu -- they have different scripts, a different vocabulary and grammatical structure. That needs abnormally high intelligence. 

Had he been alive today, he would certainly put all the current narrow-minded egoists who play language-politics against Hindi to shame. I have never understood how politicians/people who cry hoarse against Hindi can readily accept English which is afterall a language we adopted after we were enslaved. But, i digress.

I noted the lyrics and all the scribblings (in brackets) are my notes made while listening to the song. These would not make much sense outside of a student wanting to learn this raga. I still prefer good old pen and paper as its easier to put small notations at each gamaka or niraval which is harder to do on a blog or a text file.


देवन के पति इंद्रा ॥ तारा के पति चंद्रा ॥ 1 ॥  {repeat, देवन के....}
विद्या के पति गणेशा ॥ दुख भर हरी ॥ 2 ॥ {repeat pallavi: देवन के पति इंद्रा..}

Charanam ONE:

रागपति कानडा ॥ बजन के पति बिन ॥ 1 ॥|
रितुपति है बसंता (small aalap) ॥ रतिपति सुखकारी ॥ 2 ॥
{repeat pallavi: devan ke pati indra}

Charanam TWO:

मुनिजन पति व्यास (small aalap) ॥ पंछी पति हंसा (ट्वाइस, प्लस नीरावाल) ॥ 3 ॥
नर पति रामा (twice, small niraval+swaralapana) ॥ अवध विहारी ॥ 4 ॥
{repeat pallavi: devan ke pati indra}

Charanam THREE:

गिरीपती हिमाचल ॥ भूटान के पति महेशा ॥ 5 ॥
तीन लोकपति श्री (ट्वाइस, नीरावाल) ॥ पद्मनाभ गिरिधारी ॥ 6 ॥
{repeat pallavi: devan ke pati indra}

There is another wonderful Darbari bandish by Ustad Ghulam Hassan Shaggan (My guess is they are Pakistani singers as i've never seen them on the Hindustani classical circuit nor are their CD's available in any shops), and listening to him gives me goosebumps. Those aalaps at that age...wow, just wow!! This is my main grouse with karnatic music -- most karnatic music teachers dont want to teach aalaps. Their excuse being, students dont like to learn the hard stuff, or listeners dont like wasting time listening to boring aalaps. Doh! For me neither is true. I like mental challenges and certainly dont intend performing on stage. I'd hardly care if there is another listener around, rather I'd prefer to be alone with music, something that i can create and enjoy for myself. A very famous instrument artist had once said that he does not like to talk after a public performance and dislikes people asking for autographs, asking questions, smile and pose for pics, because he was lost in the trance that he just created through music and wanted to remain there, but he could not as he was a public figure. All he wants to do is sit in a corner thinking about a raga and I *totally* grok that feeling.

Well, now I want to check out the differences between a Darbari and the Darbari Kanada ragas. Some years ago I had created a webpage comparing Hindustani and Karnatic ragas and a listing of Ragas which are supposed to be sung only in the morning, evening and night ragas. I cant seem to find this page now. I'd declare it lost but plan to search all my backups before I give up searching.

2008 October 9 [Thursday]


Vijaya Dashami (or Dashera), heralds the end of Navaratri (and nine nights of dancing :-)) and DurgaPuja. But most importantly for students dashami marks the anniversary of being one ... My respects to one of my past guru's!

Hmm,... well the correct version is : "vijaya dashami' is the first day (of learning, or vidyarambha) for any classical arts student. This is the day a new student visits the teachers home (with guru dakshina and tambula) and requests her/him to accept them as a student. A tip : on any other day the guru may reject to accept you if s/he finds you are not up to the mark, but this day is such that they will not turn any student away.

Although the ritual is small and should not take more than a few minutes, it can (and does) stretch for an hour(s) or more when hundreds of students throng the teacher's home, so one has to wait for one's turn. Students who learn dance + an instrument, or multiple forms of art have a mad rush between 3-4 teacher's homes and lotsa patient waiting :-)

The best part of it all is getting to eat 'sweet chundal' but by the time we went it was over :-(  but our guruji had made salty ones for us :-) and it tasted just like Ma makes it so I didnt care so long as i got to eat it :-) and she taught a new song [named Sarasvati, after the Raga] after we sang an old one.  Talking of music, some time ago, I had started a wiki page on NCVasanthakokilam and her song 'yen palli konder ayyaa' reminds me that i need to get out of my slumber and finish the Mohanam raga notes soon.

Sending out hundreds of dashera sms's was not such a good idea afterall ... weirdly half the messages got deferred and some group messages were just dropped ... I really dont feel like texting/thumbing again, so Shubh Dashera y'all !!

2008 May 5 [Monday]


Chakravakam is a melancholy 16th Melakarta sampoorna raga and its corresponding Hindustani raga is Aahir Bhairav. The Arohan: S R1 G3 M1 P D2 N2 S , has vakra svarams and Avarohan: S N2 D2 P M1 G3 R1 S, which manage to evoke bhakti bhava in the listener. If the notes N2 and M1 are sung as S (Shadjam), a shruti bhedam occurs resulting in Dharmavati and Sarasangi ragam, respectively.

A number of bhajans are composed in this ragam and listening to either Aruna Sairam or Pandit Bhimsen Joshi render the popular abhang "Teertha Vittala, Kshetra Vittala", is very soothing and relaxing. 

Sri.SwatiThirunal had composed "Saroja Nabhada" in Sanskrit which is set to Adi Talam.  Kailasanadam, composed by Sri MuthuSwami Dikshitar in Sanskrit language was set to rupaka talam and referred to as raga Vegavahini. He also composed Gajanana Yutam in Sanskrit, set to Adi talam and Vinayaka Vignanashaka, also in Sanskrit, set to Rupaka talam.

Sri. ArunaGiri Nathar composed Apakara NindaiPat, a  Tamil Thirupugzal (Thirupugzal, composed in Tamil are hymns in praise of Lord Muruga) which was set to Chatusra Jati Jhumpa Tala (4+3).

For more musical entries, read: http://svaksha.com/category/ART/Music

2007 September 16 [Sunday]

The language of sound

Some things manage to remain virtually unchanged. One of these is the concept of time that guides the playing or singing of the ragas of Hindustani music. Over the last two decades, as thematic festivals become a trend, one hears of morning raga festivals, since the raagas are meant to be performed during the early part of the day are rarely otherwise heard. Is it however, necessary to adhere unwaveringly to the time restrictions in a globalised world? In contrast Karnatik musicians perform ragas without reference (baring a few well-known ones) to the actual time of the day or night since very few guru's now-a-days are even aware that such a thing ever existed. For years I have tried asking every teacher/acquaintance/other music students, searched and most importantly other musically-inclined people (who may not be able to create or play classical music but sometimes have more in-depth technical knowledge about each raga and its construction than even students who learn classical music) without much progress.

Mostly live performances for a *single raga* can be an exhausting and exhilarating one and a half hour performance in Hindustani classical, but some Karnatik performers (nowadays) stop short at 20-30 min, which is further reduced by the latest crop of musicians, which again depends on their style and school of music. A few old school stylists, do keep elaborate aalaps and tani avartanams at their live concerts but organisers cite lack of time and may restrict it to a single (maybe two) piece(s) at the most. Elaborate aalaps and tani avartanams (jugalbandi between the instrumentalists and vocalists and/or the former) are done away with, which is highly disappointing.
As far as recorded CD's go, music companies are out to make a fast buck ... Five-ten minutes per raaga is hardly enough for a listener to get into the skin of the raaga. Also the same raaga rendered by another artist can be poles apart in terms of style, artists treatment, and other intricate nuances. So it all depends (to some extent) on a artist to make or break the particular raag.

2007 August 12 [Sunday]

tracking progress

... or the lack of i ? hmm... thats coz I touch the books a few minutes before class, practice in class, return and it stays there till the next week when its time for the next class. Tsk.... its frustrating that i am unable to keep up my resolve to practice regularly and each weekend I feel guilty about it, so I am not sure if blogging about it is gonna change anything.

Today we continued with "Evari mata" a vilambit kala kriti by SriTyagaraja in Raag Kamboji. Its quite tough and definitely longer than any other kriti we have learnt thusfar, except perhaps the pancharatna kritis. The scales dip and rise so keeping up with the pallavi, A.P and charanam is by far the toughest. Needless to say that Telegu is a tough language but for me linguistic barriers are not important just so long as i can learn music. Its so easy to loose the svara and that is when I feel the pressure to practice more if I ever hope to pass the exams.

Till now I have never prepared for any government music exams and to be honest karnatic music exams were not promoted with the same gusto that Hindustani music has been in the Northern cities, and even if they are its not easy to find teachers who can match and train you in the deeper nuances of Karnatic/classical music. That needs patience, excellent knowledge and dedication to the art, a tall order for one human especially since the lucre and fame is manifold.

2007 March 16 [Friday]

Mathemagical music

Its pretty much well known that classical (hindustani and karnatic) music helps the healing process but a less touted fact is that they are mathematical by nature. I stumbled upon this while wondering how to get students to "practice" the basics which according to them is an extremely boring task. One 7-year old complained that it was not as easy as they imagined it to be. Perceptions !!
For the most part popular music shows on TV propagate a false impression that music is an easy way to get famous and rake in the moolah while ignoring the years of hardwork and practice behind it. I remember a "pushy mother" asking our guruji when her kid would be able to perform professionally on stage (exactly 2 days after she had enrolled the child), to which he replied "...in 2 decades".

While wondering how to encourage my students to "listen" and "think" about music I knew it was important to get the point across differently. That is when I saw that certain basic swara kalpanas(*) are palindromes and used that to introduce it vis-a-vis mathematics and computers. I was not sure how much (already overburdened) 5-9 year olds would grasp about the latter but they did find my explanation exciting. For now it worked :-) but I will have to constantly be a step ahead to retain their excitement (and mine too) !! Sometimes I wish I had continued learning Hindustani which would have been an interesting experience. Imagine being able to effortlessly construct and weave a raaga for as long as 30-45 minutes. Wow !!

(*) Swara kalpanas (improvised combinations of musical notes within a particular raaga's framework) are the toughest and the most beautiful part of a raaga. While it is somewhat flexible within the raaga structures, sometimes its difficult to get the nuances right. Probably thats why people good at mathematics easily follow and understand / appreciate different ragas even if they are not instrumentalists or vocalists themselves? I know folks who can easily spot the mistakes and discuss technical aspects which may not make much sense to the lay audience who just intend enjoying the music, peace, whatever....