Songs of Longing and Seperation

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.

Rasoolan Bai – Tarsat Jiyara Hamar :  (Download)

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)

Siddheshwari Devi – Tadpat Bin Balam :  (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.

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Voices along the Ganges : Saints & Beggars

The Ganges, above all is the river of India, which has held India’s heart captive and drawn uncounted millions to her banks since the dawn of history. The story of the Ganges, from her source to the sea, from old times to new, is the story of India’s civilization and culture, of the rise and fall of empires, of great and proud cities, of adventures of man…
Jawaharlal Nehru in Discovery of India

Twenty centuries ago, the essential role of music of India was deemed to be purely ritualistic. Much part of Indian music is folk music. Indian classical music is said to have evolved out of the fusion of these. It is presumed that folk music existed long before the Aryans in India. Indian classical music has become unique in the world.

Hindustani music is an enveloping influence in Indian life. It pervades the big and small events of Indian life, from the birth of the child to it’s death, religious rites and seasonal festivals. Originally, not all developments of music were transformed to writing. To keep their traditional integrity, they were imparted orally from master to pupil : the Guru Shishya tradition in gurukul.

Winding 2,510 km across northern India, from the Himalaya Mountains to the Indian Ocean, the Ganges river is NOT just a flowing body of H2O (water), but a whole culture and way of life to India. Innumerable stories, plays, songs, movies, history is woven along the wild journey of this mighty river. From the small but wild Himalayan birth to the mighty, fast paced or silent journey into the fertile Indo Gangetic Plain, and cities of Allahabad, Benaras, Patna and Kolkata, the Ganga is a major contributor to the political history and spiritual culture of this subcontinent.

Gangotri – Ganga Stuti :  (Download)

Kanpur – Nautanki :  (Download)

Mirzapur – Badhaiyya :  (Download)

Voices along the Ganges‘ is an effort to take the listener on an odyssey down the river Ganges, from Gangotri to Kolkata. The rich music, a fusion of various instruments, permeates the senses infiltrating them with a soulful confluence. The compositions have been beautifully woven around a meditative pattern ranging from soft to rhythmic and highly energetic.

Mirzapur – Gauna :  (Download)

Mirzapur – Kajri :  (Download)

We will travel further south and savour more of the Gangesflavour‘ in my future posts.

Enjoy !!

indianraga

gupta.agra’s Classical.Music collection at eSnips

I am fortunate enough to have collected a large number of hindustani classical music songs over a period of couple of years. I have uploaded some in my eSnips folder :

Hindustani.Classical.Music

I am no expert of classical music nor do I understand the intricacies and technicalities of such music but still I am fascinated by it.

My eSnips folder is a tribute to all those young artists who have chosen to sing this genre of music inspite of better financial and glamourous lure of playback singing in the film world. Only an absolute dedication and love for their art has prevented them from swaying to the ‘other’ side.

I have included about 100 artists, some of them are very young and relatively less known but in no way less talented.

I am also very happy to tell you all, that this eSnips folder has attained Google Page Ranking of 3 within two months. This blog too has a ranking of 4 and my other blog Indian Raga at Blogger has a Google Ranking of 2. Both these were created about the same time as my eSnips folder. This just proves that hindustani classical music is becoming more popular than ever before.

Hindustani Classical Music artists included in my eSnips folders are :

  • Adnan Sami (Piano)
  • Ajay Pohankar
  • Ajoy Chakrabarty
  • Ali Akbar Khan
  • Amelia Cuni
  • Amjad Ali Khan
  • Anita Sen
  • Anoushka Shankar
  • Anup Jalota
  • Anuradha Kuber
  • Arati Ankalikar
  • Ashiq Ali Khan
  • Ashwini Bhide
  • Bade Ghulam Ali Khan
  • Badar-uz-Zaman
  • Barkat Ali Khan
  • Begum Akhtar
  • Bhimsen Joshi
  • Bismillah Khan
  • C R Vyas
  • Chandrakantha
  • Channulal Mishra
  • Chitra Singh
  • D V Paluskar
  • Devki Pandit
  • Dilraj Kaur
  • Dilshad Khan
  • Dinkar Kaikini
  • Farida Khanum
  • Fateh Ali Khan (Patiala Gharana)
  • Firoz Dastur
  • Ganpati Bhat
  • Gauhar Jan
  • Ghulam Ali
  • Ghulam Hassan Shagan
  • Ghulam Mustafa Khan
  • Girija Devi
  • Hariprasad Chaurasia
  • Iqbal Bano
  • ITC-SRA Scholars
  • Jagdish Prasad
  • Jagjit Singh
  • Jai Uttal
  • Jayanti Sahasrabuddhe
  • Jitendra Abhisheki
  • Kabir Altaf
  • Kalapini Komkali
  • Kalpana Zokarkar
  • Kaushiki Chakrabarty
  • Khansahib Nasiruddin Saami
  • Kishori Amonkar
  • Kumar Gandharva
  • L Shankar (Violin)
  • Lakshmi Shankar
  • Latafat Hussain Khan
  • M S Subbulakshmi
  • Malini Rajurkar
  • Malavika Kanan
  • Mallikarjun Mansur
  • Mehdi Hassan
  • Mitali Banerjee Bhawmik
  • Mohammad Bakhsh
  • Moinuddin & Aminuddin Dagar
  • Moumita Mitra
  • Mubarak Ali Khan
  • Munawar Ali Khan
  • Nazakat & Salamat Ali Khan
  • Nirmalya Dey
  • Pandit Jasraj
  • Parween Sultana
  • Prabha Atre
  • Rajan & Sajan Mishra
  • Rashid Khan
  • Ratna Basu
  • Ravi Shankar
  • Rita Ganguly
  • Saleem Khan
  • Sanjeev Abhyankar
  • Satyasheel Deshpande
  • Sawani Shende
  • Shivkumar Sharma
  • Shobha Gurtu
  • Shruti Sadolikar
  • Shubha Mudgal
  • Shujaat Khan
  • Sipra Bose
  • Subha Joshi
  • Subhra Guha
  • Sultan Khan (Sarangi)
  • Taufiq Qureshi
  • Trilok Gurtu
  • Uday Bhawalkar
  • Ulhas Kashalkar
  • Vaishali K S
  • Vasundhara Komkali
  • Veena Sahasrabuddhe
  • Vishwa Mohan Bhatt
  • Zahida Parveen
  • Zakir Hussain
  • Zarina Begum
  • Zila Khan

More artists will be added soon.

While visiting my classical music folder at eSnips don’t forget to have a peek into my other music folders which have some interesting music of different genres. All the music is raga based.

Link to my Esnips profile and all my folders:

http://www.esnips.com/user/guptaagra

Enjoy!

Indian Raga : back to the basics

Melody and Raga : Terminology

Melody is the fountainhead of Indian music and ragas are the fundamental organizing principle of Indian classical melody.

Ragas are fixed sequences of a minimum of five notes arranged in ascending and descending order (respectively the aroha and avaroha). Unlike contemporary Western scales, but like the modes of early European music, the ascending and descending notes are not identical. Adjust the sequence or introduce an extraneous note and the result will be a different raga. Since ragas have been systematically studied for centuries their permutations have been calculated mathematically and defined scientifically. New ragas do come into being, however, through the blending of elements of two ragas to produce a so-called mishra or mixed raga with the names of the parent ragas. At times, too, apparently new ragas have turned out to be unknowing rediscoveries of ragas that have dropped out of the repertory. A double-barrelled name tends to indicate a mishra rage, but not always: “Todi” in a raga’s name — examples being “Shuddha Todi” and “Gurjari Todi” — is an adjectival construction denoting that it originated in a particular location. Hindustani musicians, to generalize, use a more limited palette of ragas than their Carnatic cousins.

Ragas unfold in a set order. The opening movement, called alap in Hindustani music, is a leisurely, precise, impassioned unfolding of the raga’s essence. It teases out the mood with melody, seeking and setting out that mood without any rhythmic accompaniment or rhythmic pulse. One of its foremost exponents is the sarodist Ali Akbar Khan. His recording, Ali Akbar Khan Plays Alap, is a perfect introduction to this art. “Alap,” he wrote in that album’s sleeve notes, “has fifteen parts. Training in alap is not for beginners or even advanced students, just as you don’t offer a drink or reveal all your property to a small child.” The second movement is called the jor. In an instrumental context this part will take on a rhythmic form but still without the assistance of percussion such as tabla or pakhawaj. The next major development is the jhala which has percussion accompaniment. This is the final fast movement. There are a number of intermediate steps in the process and etiquette varies about their inclusion or exclusion.

Carnatic music has its equivalent terms. Alapana is its equivalent of alap. The classic sequence and most elaborate item in a Carnatic concert is known as ragam-thanam-pallavi (the hyphens are optional). Opening with the melodic, unmetered ragam improvisation in the particular raga, it moves into the thanam and concludes in rhythmically metered improvisations on the pallavi (song text).
Ragas have been scientifically dissected for generation upon generation. They have even been placed in families. Ragas are attended by consorts or wives called raginis, ragaputras and ragaputris, respectively their sons and daughters. They have been analyzed to identify which `environment’ they belong to — whether they belong to a particular season or hour. “Raga Megh” or “Megh Malhar” is associated with the monsoon season, megh means cloud. “Vasanta” — literally, spring — is a raga for springtime (and by extension has characteristics similar to sunrise ragas). The psychological characteristics of notes give them a personality — a feminine aspect, a dark color, an uplifting sensation — and hence all the major ragas have their appropriate time of day. Great store is placed in getting this right, even to the extent of listening to recordings at the proper hour.

Rhythm and Tala :

In Indian music tala, tal or taal is the rhythmic cycle of a specific number of beats. A specific tala are expressed as compound nouns, sometimes split into two words. Throughout this text the convention is to give them as one word. Jhaptala consists of ten beats. Chautala is one consisting of 12 beats. Ektala is also 12 beats but the term is the one used for tabla rather than chautala which is associated with pakhawaj.

Classical Song Forms :

There are many, many singing styles and it is only possible to explain a little about the most frequently encountered. Classical song forms tend to be separated into classical and light classical (sometimes called semiclassical) forms. Light classical forms include ghazal, bhajan and qawwali. Classical forms include thumri and dhrupad. Folk styles are even more numerous. Many folk styles relate exclusively to particular regions, religions or musician castes

Bhajans :

Bhajans are the most popular form of Hindu devotional composition. They are found especially in the repertoires of Northern Indian musicians. In the South the commonest Hindu vocal style is the kriti. However, Carnatic musicians — the violinist V.V. Subrahmanyam, for example — also include bhajans in their repertoires. Thus instrumentalists will also include them in their repertoire and therefore part of the art is to capture the sonorities, mood and meaning of the words in their playing or to bring these elements out if accompanying a vocalist. The increased exposure of Hindustani music in the South has led to Northern Indian bhajans by composers such as Mira, Kabir and Tulsidas being performed. These tend to be set to the appropriate Hindustani raga but sung to Carnatic talas which are often rhythmically more sophisticated.

Dadra :

Dadra is a light classical song form similar to a thumri sung in a tala of six beats.

Dhrupad :

Dhrupad is an ancient form of the classical singing. One of the most commonly encountered forms, it places great emphasis on the lyrical content, rhythmic accuracy and clear enunciation. Lyrically dhrupad is set in a medieval form of Hindi called Brijbhasha or Braja Bhasha but it is also sung in modern-day Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali and Rajasthani. Many commentators decry the sacrificing of dhrupad’s high literary and poetic standards by today’s more popular forms. Usually set nowadays in a uniform tala or rhythmic cycle of 12 beats (chautala), historic accounts report a far greater rhythmic sophistication with each line being set in a differing tala from the preceding one. This would involve singing one line in chautala and the next in jhapatala of ten beats. Dhrupad compositions may eulogize gods or royalty. They are especially known for mining religious and heroic seams but there are worthy traditions of subject matter as varied as philosophy, metaphysics and eroticism as themes. A dhrupad is composed of four elements. These are melody (raga), tempo (laya), rhythm (tala) and its melodic components (dhatus).

Dhamar :

Dhamar is a related form which employs more gamaks or grace notes than dhrupad, usually set in a tala of 14 beats. To no little extent both forms have been displaced by the principal contemporary classical form, khyal, in particular but also by thumri and tappa. Among dhrupad’s most noted singers are Candanji Caube (1869-1944), Siyaram Tiwari, Ritwik Sanyal, Ram Chatur Mallick and various combinations known as the Dagar Brothers.

Dhun :

A dhun is a melody lighter in tone than a raga and often derived from a folk tradition. In such cases it will be labeled with the region of origin such as “A Rajasthani Dhun.” Being free from the strict discipline of the raga system, it allows liberties with the notes which the musician may include.

Ghazal :

Although an Indo-Muslim light classical form, ghazal enjoys widespread popularity. A development of one of the main poetic and literary traditions of Persia, its name derives from the Arabic for `talking to women’. It is therefore often viewed as a conversation or a dialogue between a lover and his beloved. This can be sacred, profane or allegorical. It is closely associated with the major Indo-Muslim language, Urdu. At its heart is love of either the romantic or devotional kind. Since the mid-‘30s secular and political themes have increasingly crept in, most famously through the work of the poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1911-1984). Ghazals have formed the core repertoire of a number of performers ranging from Jagjit & Chitra Singh to Begum Akhtar and Najma Akhtar.

Khyal :

Sometimes rendered as khyel or khayal, is generally translated as imagination or fancy — indications of its lightness and reliance on the performer’s powers of improvisation. It is also translated as whim or idea but the etymology of khyal is, as one commentator put it, abstruse, and no records of any authority exist about the beginnings of khyal. By the 18th century A.D. the form had taken shape in the court of the Mughal emperor Mohammed Shah in Delhi. Since then khyal has loosened the hold that dhrupad traditionally had to become the staple style of Hindustani classical music. Paradoxically, some musicological soothsayers have warned that popular taste looks set on loosening khyal’s hold in favor of thumri, dadra, chaiti and kajri (a folk song form originally from Uttar Pradesh).

Kriti :

The Carnatic kriti (or krithi) is a song of praise or adoration for a particular Hindu deity. Kritis are especially associated with Tyagaraja (or Thyagaraja) (1767-1847), Muttuswamy Dikshitar (1776-1835) and Syama (or Shyama) Sastri (1762-1827), a famed trinity of musician-saints or saint-composers. In order, appreciating the trinity’s work has been likened to the grape, the coconut and the banana. The first can be consumed and enjoyed immediately. The second involves cracking open a shell to get to the kernel. The third involves the removal of a soft outer layer to get to the fruit. Their era is known as the Golden Period of Carnatic Music and during their time they composed a collection of timeless compositions. Tyagaraja alone is credited with some 600 kriti compositions. Kritis are usually composed in Telugu, Tamil or Sanskrit are habitually seeded in specific ragas.

Qawwali :

An Indo-Muslim devotional music of light classical complexion sung in Urdu, Persian, Punjabi and other northern Indian languages.

Tappa :

Tappa is a song genre popularly and romantically supposed to have arisen from the songs sung by the camel drivers of the arid northwestern regions of the subcontinent. The language it is most frequently sung in is Punjabi. It is typified by passages in fast tempos.

Tarana :

A song genre in which meaningless rhythmic syllables substitute for a lyric similar to syllables replacing words in, say, Ella Fitzgerald’s scat singing or jazz vocalizing. While the concept is easy to grasp, maintaining artistic integrity and musical interest over the length of a tarana is not. A tarana section will frequently conclude a khyal performance and will be substituted for the fast tempo or drut khyal. Unlike its Southern counterpart known as the tillana, taranas are opportunities to extemporize.

Thumri :

Thumri is another well-known classical song form.

Courtesy : Ken Hunt

Sawani Shende

Sawani Shende is a very popular up-and-coming vocalist of her generation. She is a student of Smt. Veena Sahastrabuddhe, a well known classical vocalist of international repute. Sawani has performed in prestigious music conferences all over India and also toured U.S.A/Canada in 1998. She has received prestigious awards like Pt. Jasraj Gaurav Puraskar, Smt. Manik Varma Puraskar and Pt. Ramkrishnabua Vaze Puraskar. Sawani has several cassettes and CDs to her credit.

Sawani was born in a musically rich family. She was introduced to Indian Classical Music at a tender age of six by her grandmother, Smt. Kusum Shende, herself a noted singer of Kirana Gharana. Quest for more and more knowledge in music at the age of 12 Sawani started her training under the expert guidance of Dr.Smt Veena Sahasrabudhe, a noted classical vocalist of Gwalior Gharana. Sawani’s father, Dr.Sanjeev Shende has groomed her in semi classical generes like Thumri, Dadra, Kajri, etc.

Sawani made her debut at the age of 10 to celebrate her grandmother’s 61s birthday. The journey of concerts started when Sawani was invited to perform at the prestigious Pt. Vishnu Digamber Jayanti Samaroh in Delhi when she was just 12. Sawani was honored when she performed for the then President of India, Mr. R. Venkatraman at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Since then she has never looked back.

Sawani’s music is a beautifull soul searching combination of Kirana Gharana and Gwalior Gharana, where she mesmerizes audiences with enchanting melody & strength of both.

Sawani’s confidence and mastery in Khayals, her crystal clear diction and overall sensitivity in presentation takes every performance to a very high aesthetic level. Her rendition of semi classical genres highlights the emotive and expressive quality of Indian Classical music and adds a very important dimension to her performance leaving audiences spellbound.

Sawani gave concerts in prestigious music festival all over India. She has also performed in 30 states all over USA and Canada. She also gave performances in Doha, Dukhan and Umsaid.

Listen to one of her mesmerizing rendition in Raga Durga ‘Bajavat Veena‘ which is one of my favourites :

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