Anyone who has endured the unrelenting heat of the Indian summer will appreciate the relief that the Monsoon brings to the Indo-Gangetic plains. Cleansed of the heat and the dust, all nature seems to wear a new shiny robe. Suddenly the air is laden with the smell of damp earth and the gathering clouds cover the scorching sun with the promise of showers. The men and the boys are on rooftops flying kites of a hundred colors, while women and children swing from the branches of lofty trees. Peacocks fan out their long incandescent tails and the Papiha bird sings its love songs. The whole atmosphere is loaded with the symbology of love and yearning.
The ancient Vedic culture of India believed in the invocation of the rain Gods to bring life to the parched plains of India. Ragas were sung in scientifically worked out lengths and recited with specific musical notes to initiate the onset of rains each year before the season. Musical geniuses in ancient India believed that specific notes, sung in certain phrases, could darken the skies and bring a downpour of rains. In fact, this practice of invoking the rain Gods continues even in modern India whenever there is fear of a delayed Monsoon.
Begum Akhtar – Chha Rahi Kali Ghata :
Munawar Ali Khan – Kari Ghata Ghir Aayi Ri Sajani :
It has been my endeavour all along to provide a download link for all the songs that I post on this blog, so that you may soak into the music at your leisure. However, I must tell you in clear terms that all these uploads have been deliberately encoded in a very lo-fi quality and are meant for sampling purpose only. As such, these songs can be best heard on a desktop computer or laptop speakers only. Any attempt to load these songs on your iPods or playing them on a high fidelity audio system could harm not only your precious ears with high static and crackle, but also the commercial interest of our striving artists. So if you like the music posted on this blog, please buy the original CDs. Don’t hesitate, gather enough courage and go for it. I bet, you won’t be disappointed. It would be a proud moment for all classical music lovers, and a dream come true for the artists, to see at least one Bhimsen Joshi CD along with one of Himesh Reshamiya, lying side by side on the CD rack, in all homes of the subcontinent.
Based upon visitors’ requests and also the ‘search words’ that led people to this blog, here are a few more songs, specially posted for you.
Begum Akhtar – Dadra – Hamari Atariya Pe :
Bhimsen Joshi – Bhairavi – Boli Na Bol Humse Piya :
In India, the common house crow (kaga or kagwa in hindi) is a widespread resident, except in high altitudes and dense forests. It is wholly dependent on human habitation for it’s survival. This highly vocal bird is seemingly unafraid of humans. Aggressive, it will attack and chase off any large bird of prey. Strangely, the crow has been given a place of pride in our classical music. For reasons unknown it has played the role of a lover’s messenger (“Ja Kaga Ja“), which in many a lyrical khayals, is even promised a ‘gold plated beak’ in return of favours rendered (“Ab Ke Sawan Ghar Aaja“). Pigeons, the otherwise commonly known messenger birds, have been given a back seat here.
Almost all vocalists have pleaded with this glossy black bird to pass on a message, in all Ragas possible, RagaDesi, Bageshri and Pahadi being the more common ones, although other Ragas are not being discounted.
With the passing away of Siddheshwari Devi in 1977, the last of the four great divas of the last century was gone. First went Begum Akhtar in 1974, and then her older contemporaries, Rasoolan Bai and Badi Moti Bai. All four of them were inheritors of great traditions of music from a glorious era of the past when music dominated the lives of musicians from childhood to death. They were musical ‘stars’ who shone brilliantly in the courtly era, but when the ‘darbari‘ era ended they did not hesitate to step out into the glare of public acclaim.
Rasoolan Bai – Ja Main Tose Nahin Bolun : (Download)
Thumris were once sung with abhinaya. When classical purists began to frown down upon this type of music, all the four singers took to the Bol-Banav-Ki Thumri in which the emotional contents of songs are effectively brought out through vocal expression only, through the beauty of notes, voice modulations and swara combinations, resulting in an emotion-charged style of singing.
QUIZ : To add more spice and fun to this blog, I am going to put a QUIZ song in any one post every month. You just have to answer two questions about the song in your comments. The names of the male and female singers and the name of the album (or the name of the film). The song could be a classical one, or from films of the black and white era. The person who gives the first correct answer will get the song by email. If this blog gets the right answer too soon, you may always try your luck on my other blog : indianraga.blogspot.com
Unlike any other music of the world, hindustani classical music is not only abundant with songs for various moods of the human mind, but also songs for every hour of the day and season of the year. Monsoon, being an unique phenomenon in this part of the world, has an important place in our music.
Kajri (or Kajari), derived from the Hindi word Kajra or Kajal, (meaning Kohl or Black), is a genre of Hindustani classical music, popular in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In a country of sizzling hot summers, the black monsoon clouds bring with them relief and great joy. This is the moment for the Kajri to be sung.
It is often used to describe the longing of a maiden for her lover as the black monsoon cloud come hanging in the summer skies, and is often sung during the rainy season. It comes in the series of season songs, like Chaiti, Hori and Sawani, and is traditionally sung in the villages and towns of Uttar Pradesh : around Benares, Mirzapur, Mathura, Agra, Allahabad and the Bhojpur regions of Bihar.
Begum Akhtar – Koyaliya Mat Kar Pukar : (Download)
Birha (or Biraha) is another popular Folk song genre of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. This genre is mood based and the basic theme revolves around the separation of lover and his beloved. Actually ‘Birha‘ in Hindi means separation. The history of this genre is not very old and the earliest reference goes back to 17th century.
The possible origination of this folk genre is credited to the incidents where mostly men from small villages used to migrate to cities in search of livelihood. Often they had to leave their newly-weds behind in the village. The lament of separation from both the motherland and spouse led to the birth of Birha. The genre is extremely popular among the farmers and laborers in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Bade Ghulam Ali Khan – Naina More Taras Gaye : (Download)
In the mid-nineteenth century thousands of laborers from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were taken to Caribbean (West Indies) as sugar plantation laborers. In fact, the laborers and their descendents who now constitute a sizable population in the Caribbean still love this song genre. The best example of this is the growing popularity of Chutney Music, the Soca-Samba version of Birha, in the west especially in the Caribbean Islands.
Note : The songs posted above do not necessarily come under the genres of Kajri or Birha. These are merely reflective of the mood of the post. Songs of longing are also sung in the form of Thumri and Dadra.