Friday, July 28, 2006


Withal, Eftsoons and Quotidian Certitudinaly, this is dedicated to our James Joyce.

A light rain in Bangalore and thoughts turn to Malhar.

This beautiful family of Raags is extremely fulfilling when heard during the monsoon. Something in Malhar captures moisture and the touch of wet earth, of grass in ecstasy as water caresses it, of trees in love with nature and fresh clean air. The birds sit quietly on branches letting the heavens bless them with water.

Malhar emerges from the Kafi thaat (root), noted for its use of both Gandhars. But the beauty is actually in the slowly undulating Nishaads; thats wherethe actual Malhar effect comes in. The cadence is slow and unhurried. The glide from one Nishaad to the other is constant but gradual, so gradual.

Played in the middle octave, Malhar is one of the most effective in capturing seasons. There are others like Basant and Hemant, true, but the association of Malhar and rain is immediate.

Here is Mian Ki Malhar by Ramakrishna Bua Vaze. A nice one by Mashkoor Ali Khan. An outstanding example on the Sarangi by Abdul Latif Khan.

Here is Ramdasi Malhar by Mashkoor Ali Khan (and a short extract from my 'book')

And then, without warning, came that brilliant movement between the two Gandhars!

Shuddha Gandhar trembled, caught between the quicksand of the Komal and the embrace of Shuddha Madhyam. Without a break, the Gandhar dipped and rose, serpentine, beautiful, glorious, brushing against the Madhyam. What joy! What wonder! The other notes seemed to hold their breath and watch, from across the other octaves. The Nishads must have asked who these usurpers were, behaving as they themselves were supposed to, but an arms length away!

I felt my father's chest shudder. His breath stopped and his heart beat faster. I looked up in alarm. His eyes were open and he was rigid. He looked down at me and exclaimed, "Did you hear? Did you hear?" And without waiting for my response, he fell back in his armchair, breathing deeply, smiling the sweetest of smiles.

And here is Surdasi Malhar (Sur Malhar) by Vinayakrao Patwardhan. And another example by Mashkoor Ali Khan.

Faster expositions, but distinctive Nishad movements; perhaps you noticed something.

We also have Anand Malhar, here by Kishori Amonkar.

Megh (Malhar) is another Rain Raag, again resting on the Nishaads, but bearing mild theoretical similarity with Brindavani Sarang.Amir Khan's Megh is here. Another example, Purnima Sen.

Bahar: This Raag is pretty much like Malhar except that it has a restless character and is executed more effectively in the upper octaves. Bahar is famous for its grafting with Basant to give Basant Bahar, a brilliant but hideously difficut Raaga to play. Another stunning example of Basant.

(Digression: Songs from that great movie Basant Bahar are here; you'll have to click selections.)

Here is Mian Ki Malhar followed by Gaur Malhar by Amir Khan. Another couple of examples of Gaur Malhar.

Shubra Guha
Buddhadeb Dasgupta

This monsoon, enjoy Malhar.

WARNING: I am not an expert. Do not follow any suggestions or misleading information here. Just enjoy, if you care to.

No comments: