Tuesday, October 04, 2005


If one searches the Internet for sufficient amount of time, one is ensured to find enormous amount of data on Hindustani Classical Music. The theory behind the raagaas, the swaraas, the shrutis, the taals: anything and everything. There have been a lot of books written on this. Both simple-to-understand ones and those which present a rigorous analysis.

It has been almost three years since I have been an addict to Hindustani Classical Music. I am always interested in attending live performances, buying records and cassettes and as an amateur, playing my synthesizer. I thought I can share some of my thoughts in a series of posts. I know there are hundreds of programs and articles that take up themes based on thaaT, swaras and what not. This is just an attempt to summarize my knowledge (?) in this area : an area I am so fond of (second only to sports I guess).

Let me start with a raagaa that actually started my career as an avid listener and follower of Hindustani Classical Music, raag Durga.


In one of the Sangeet Sareeta program episode on Vividh Bharati, the presenter emphasized on the "startup" of a concert. The first swar, most probably a Sa, is to be rendered with utmost care. Not only as a confidence builder for the performer but just for the beauty of the raagaa he is going to present. The first Sa needs to be so powerful that to a trained ear, the raagaa should be immediately recognizable. I have myself experienced this in my (short) listening career. To quote an example, when Pt. Rajan Sajan Mishra starts his famous "Jay Jay Durge Maata", a chhoTa khyaal in Durga, Durga is evident without any delay. Sa-Re-Ma-Pa-Dh-Sa, Dh being the waadi swar. Theoretically, this raagaa finds the night to midnight time as its preferred playing time.

Durga is supposed to be a raagaa that is not suited for a detailed rendition. And it can be seen that one mostly finds short bandish or bhajan in this raagaa. One of the other Durga performances, of note is Pt. Bhimsen Joshi's baDaa khyaal, with a drut, "Sakar sukhadaa.." towards the end. Malini Rajurkar's Durga is also worth a collection.

Durga is a favorite raagaa for instrumentalists. Ut. Amajad Ali Khan's sarod sounds sweet and formidable at the same time when he plays the alap-joD-jhaalaa, with slowly increasing rhythm. Ut. Bismillah Khan's jugalbandi with Pt. V G Jog on his inimitable violin is a treasure. This dhun can be remembered as a unit to measure the Durga-ness, for identifying this very common raagaa.

As the name of the raagaa suggests, it is supposed to be fast paced, with notes bombarding, raining all over. It is difficult to explain the feelings a particular taan evokes, yet if one thinks about it as a experience as a whole, he may be able to relate the mood it creates. Listen to Rajan Saajan Mishra's Jay Jay Durge Maataa. You'll know what I mean. I enjoy Durga's stress on Dh as its waadi swara. When Sa-Ma-Ma-Pa jumps to Dh, it is the identification of Durga. One of the simplest feature of the raagaa is when I play it on my (low-end) synthesizer, all I have to do is use all black keys!

One of the most striking appearance of this raagaa in a pop or film music, is A R Rahman's Gurus of Peace from the album, Vande Maataram. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is amazing in his tanaas and layakaari. When I first tried to play it on synth, I did not know it had so much of Durga to it. Once I was done, I was delighted to have related a raagaa to a non-classical song. I guess this kind of revelation is sometimes more enjoyable than simply listening to a performance. Now every time I play it over, I see more ways of introducing complexities. Of course this kind of self-learning is not supposed to add much value as compared to a instructor-led learning, but it achieves satisfaction anyway.

And that's what matters the most for an amateur like me.


I am a 100% opportunist. Wonder what is the name of the festival that starts today!

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