Geet Varsha, by Kumar Gandharva, is a presentation of monsoon songs selected from both the folk and the classical repertoires. A theme concert, one of its kind, the presentation is so artistically seamless that the lay listener may fail to realise where the stylistic lines are drawn. Recorded in Delhi in 1978, this twin album of two hour duration has Kumar Gandharva’s wife Vasundhara Komkali accompanying him. Kumar Gandharva may have stood many a traditional norm on its head but none in his time could match his aural aesthetic. And his orchestration of voices here is absolutely enchanting. These recordings are very rare and not easily available.
The album opens with a song, Ghaam Pare Re, lamenting the heat of the summer in the afternoon Raga Marwa. Marwa is a raga which employs an imperfect consonance and Kumar Gandharva has used it to convey the oppressive heat and restlessness of the time just before the monsoons break. Then slowly he draws the listener into a layered landscape of gathering clouds, the first torrent of rain, the flashes of lightening, the yearning of the Nayika (heroine), the birth of Krishna on a dark rainy night. Apart from traditional rainy-season Ragas like the Miyan ki Mallar, Gaur Malhar, Sawani and Des, he also makes effective use of folk melodies from Malwa. The concluding piece, Heera Moti Neebaje in Raga Jaladhar Basant, evokes the silent moment after days of heavy rain, when one contemplates the fields around and realizes that they have turned green with vegetation, the earth giving forth its bounty after its thirst has been satisfied.
Ghaam Pare Re, Nayo Nayo Meha, Ghan Garje, Megha Ko Ritu :
Kare Megha, Jaiyo Re Badarwa, Lago Sawan Mas, Bole Mora Re :
Le Ja Sandeso, O Sahiba, Sawan Jhar Aayo, Main Kaise Aaun :
O Dildara Aaja Re, Yasoda Ke Mandir, Amaraiyan Ke, Heera Moti :
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 :
The Raga, Malhar is a powerful legendary Raga in Indian classical music. Raga Malhar is associated with the atmosphere of torrential rains. There are many written accounts and legendary tales about Raga Malhar. According to the legend, Raga Malhar is so powerful that when sung, rain starts falling from the sky. Many great artists of the medieval, and much earlier period used to sing this Raga to invoke the Rain God. Tansen, Baiju Bawra, Mahanvilas Kanh (son of Tansen) and Meera are among the singers, who are said to have been capable of invoking rains, by singing various forms of Raga Malhar.
With certain parts of North and Central India reeling under intense heat and the monsoon still eluding the people living there, the Malhars posted above may bring some soothing, if not cooling, effect.
The monsoon is knocking at our doorstep. While the southern part of India is already drenched with heavy rainfall, the northern part of the country still awaits the sweet smell, that emanates from the first drop of rain falling on the sun baked earth. The rains have always been unpredictable, the science of meteorology notwithstanding. However, some things have remained steadfast down the centuries, and one of these is India’s concept of monsoon music. Ragas that bring out the romance of rain are a part of our heritage.
QUIZ : Give me the names of the male and female singers and the name of the Album/Film, and I will send you this rare song + a bestseller e-book (in Microsoft Reader .lit format) by email. Answer the questions in the comments to this post, and please don’t forget to mention your email address.