Monday, March 27, 2006

Bhairav and Beyond

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Bhairav and Beyond

This little piece is dedicated to the charming Anoushka Thakur, who left JJ and I with moist eyes after her much-too-brief visit to Bangalore. We bless her that the music in her takes tangible form and illuminates the world some day.

The high-point in our rapidly dying culture has been the exalted status of classical music. Due to the forbidding aura of unfathomable secrets that surround it, many abandon its exploration even before they start, a grave loss for future generations. May I suggest boldly approaching this mental barrier and making a small effort to cross it to get a glimpse of the wonders available to us for the asking.

The Raaga Bhairav has highly esoteric connotations. It may be considered the primordial musical scale in many ways. It is precisely the same as the Carnatic Raaga Mayamalavagowla.

A simple description of the musical elements of Bhairav is here.

All seven notes exist in the ascendent and the descendent. Technical analysis fails in the face of practical considerations. Never mind. Associate if you will, for a moment, Bhairav with Shiva. Bhairavi then associates with Parvati. Bhairav is deep and calm, and subdues the restless mind. Bhairavi adds to restlessness due to its stimulation of many musical patterns born within us. But I digress.

Here is Bhairav by Rashid Khan. Notice the particular quality of the percussion heightening the mystical quality of Bhairav.

Bhairav contains the note Komal Rishab. Easing into it or leaving it requires the exercise of gray matter and deep respect. The note must stand alone and linger and not sway to the extent possible. Thats just one view (mine) and others may differ. And they may be right.

A certain little-known book in fact claims

This note, this Komal Rishab, is the sound of peace across the Universe.

Later, we find

All Raags come from me. I permit them to exist and I finally destroy them. From me springs
Bhairavi, intoxicating, permitting every emotion to express itself through her. She is my mate, my Ardhangani, my half, but only because I allow her be so. I am the ultimate expression, seeking neither approval nor even acknowledgement of my existence.

Imagine that!

Bhairav is a Thaat (root) too. That means there can be hundreds of variants that owe their existence to Bhairav.

Here are some:
The deviation of Nat Bhairav in the use of Shuddha Rishab is a pleasure. Here you have a sample.

Closely aligned is Charukesi, borrowed from Carnatic music, with a deeper touch of pathos, achieved by the use of Komal Nishad and the stress on Shuddha Gandhar.

Ahir Bhairav and Nat Bhairav are twins, in my raw mind. As a violinist, I see it vividly on strings, but its difficult to convey. The swapping of Shuddha and Komal Dhaivat and Rishab notes are best illustrated by demonstration. For that, I invite you home for tea.

The sheer dignity and classical depth of this Raaga and its derivatives should be enough to calm the soul of the most troubled by speaking of eternity and illusion. I highly recommend it.

All hail English Literature lovers and critics! Send constructive suggestions my way!

I must point out that all sources are freely available in the public domain. I have done nothing special here. You could do the same if you are so inclined.

Do note that I am no expert; I freely accept that I am a novice. For a much better analysis, I refer you to Rajan Parrikar's page here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Song of Oluadah

The Song of Oluadah

Said Oluadah's Father:

Oluadah! Oluadah!
My son, my son!
Where are you?
Who took you away?
Oluadah! O Oluadah!
They say a white man dragged you away
and you walked on the water
and went away.
Say it is not true
Oluadah! Oluadah!

Said Oluadah:

Father! O Father!
I do not wish to say Goodbye
My children must know you
and I do not wish to go away
What shall I tell these men, O Father?

Said Oluadah's Father:

Oluadah! O Oluadah!
My son!
I wish to see your children
and their children
I wish to stroke their eyebrows
I wish to hold them to my chest
Do not go, my son!
Do not go!
Oluadah! Oluadah!

Said Oluadah:

Father! O Father!
They say I shall go to Savannah
They say I am worse than the dog
who died of sores in the village
These chains hold me to the wood
and I rock with the water
Can I not drown, O Father?
Can you not teach me how, O Father?

Said Oluadah's Father:

Oluadah! O Oluadah!
Come back my son!
Your mother grieves, your sister cries
The village is dark
Your friends dash their heads
against silent trees
asking for you
what shall I tell them, Oluadah?
What shall I tell
the leaves and the birds, Oluadah?

Said Oluadah:

Blood stains the rocking wood, O Father
So many die,
so many wish to die
I can hear them throw their bodies
and the sharks feast lazily
And ahead of us, I can hear
the sharks swim
waiting for my unborn children
Where are you, Father?
Where are you?

Said Oluadah's Father:

Oluadah! O Oluadah!
Come back, my son!
Take the chicken, take the yam
take the ripened fruit
what use are they to me without you?

Said Oluadah:

O Father!
They have tied a rope
around my neck
They have chained me to the planks
I have died
though they say they shall
sell me alive
No longer shall I see you, O Father!
No longer shall I sleep under your tree, O Father!
No longer shall I eat the ripe yams, O Father!

And you shall not hold your Grandchildren, O Father!

Oluadah! Oluadah!

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Pursuit

Once I said, to Cupid, to Love I was not prone
But those limpid black eyes - ah! from a heavenly zone!
That dusky tone, that silver voice, that Samsung phone
I felt, no, I could not possibly be further alone

T'was clear to all that her alone I loved
With quotidian certitude, my heart gloved
But indifference, and harsh looks that shoved
T'was clearly no deep interest from my beloved

With festering sores, in pursuit to distant shores
My heart bled, but I took up loathsome chores
"Proximity would allow quadrature"; my heart soared
In Beijing, I was caninized to one on all fours

Onwards to Santiago, where she took up a posting
The yaw of my heart, my love I was a-boasting
Peculiar diction I heard, a similitude to roasting
O'er the Andes, my coccyx was sent a-coasting

Undeterred, no ullage of courage, to Albania
This love, this sheer caballine mania
Her dark tresses, beauty and clear megalomania
"Away! Awast!" she spoke sharply, "To Campania!"

Her transfer again to distant shores, to Ghana
I crept in via Air Cargo, feeding only on a banana
"My nacreous love" I crooned, wearing a bandana
The Police, alas, escorted me to a decrepit cabana

Her feelings reached their nadir, in quaint Quetta
I swam there, to be presented by harsh documenta
Gossamer o'er my head, hubris smashed, blood magenta
I did not care; my deep love was still in a fermenta

A promotion - off she was to Dar Es Salaam
I ran after, my pounding heart seeking calm
Hoping finally, her words to my heart would be balm
Alas, t'was with some pain that my cheek felt her palm

Finally it dawned that she wished me in the Marina Trench
I sat, head bowed, on a rusting old bench
I cried, my heart broken by this final wrench
Travels to no avail, desire, who shall quench?