Sunday, August 13, 2006

'Small' Raagas

Small Raagas

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There are a few Raagas which may be called 'small', for lack of
a better term. 'Limiting' might be another word option, but that
would wrong as well.

These Raagas have an implosive quality which tend to force a
performer to sound cramped. Playing this for more than a short
period causes a sense of deja vue, because it sounds like the
same sequence of notes is being repeated again and again. This
may be a flaw of the performer too, true, but something undefinable
in the Raaga serves to make it sound best when performed for brief

This is not a function of a number of the notes in the Raaga
at all; Malkauns and Bhupali are oceans despite having limited
notes. It may be a reflection of the movement within a Raaga;
you can only do so much.

Here are a few examples


This Raaga is a short step away from Bhimpalasi, a vast Raaga.
Dhaani misses the Dhaivat and so the rendition of the Raag is
fraught with the danger of a performer slipping in that note,
because its so tempting. Listen to Bhimpalasi first; Click on
the last option 'Prabhu Tero Naam'.

(Bhimpalasi is a deeply moving Raaga - I read somewhere that
Ali Akbar Khan said it could make even animals cry. The structure
of Bhimpalasi is here. )


A migrant from Carnatic Music, its become quite popular in the
Hindustani realm. Here is the formal scale.

On the violin, its a real challenge. That's because, if your
violin is tuned as S-P-S-P, shifting between strings causes
continuous changes in the middle and ring fingers. Hard to
explain. Nevertheless, its a lovely and deeply pleasing Raaga
and very exciting. Its quite popular in Marathi Natya Sangeet

Here are a few examples


A sweet Raaga, here's a rendition by Amir Khan.

Here's an example by Shiv Kumar Sharma.

And a classical Hindi film (a tiny sample) favourite.

Slightly away is a Janasammohini;
Here is a lovely song in the Raaga.


Okay, this is easy. Here's the structure.

This is another popular Raaga and used frequently in film
songs. It gets a bit tedious because it gets melancholy-
that's my point. We can take these only in short doses.
You'll remember the famous song from Mera Naam Joker.

Notice the wailing violin pieces. Its tough to believe
that the mere softening of a single note (Gandhar) of
the more energetic Bhupali makes this melancholy Raaga.

Mishra Shivaranjani is more amenable - the 'Mishra'
implying the mixing of foreign notes for effect.

Here's Shiv Kumar Sharma again.


Is this a small Raaga? Its difficult to make the claim except
to say that this is a very earthy Raaga, basic to the folk tunes
of India. You'll hear this mostly as a light interlude in some

Here's the structure.


An extract from my book, about Raag Maand:

When the men of our land went to fight wars as soldiers for
Kings they had never seen, we prayed for them and welcomes them
back with tunes composed in me. When the rains came and the first
tender shoots of sugarcane poked inquiringly through the soil
searching for the sun, I was there. I am Raag Mand, the Raag of
Mother Earth.

Disclaimer: I know nothing about music. With a little
effort, you can write something quite similar.


Anonymous said...
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angry fix said...

I love Kalavati!

Also I did not know Bhimplasi is a small raga! (I understand the sense in which you use the term.) In Carnatic tradition it is often the centre piece of concerts. But then Kalavati is a small raga in Carnatic, a tail piece, while it is considered an important raga in Hindustani.

Great blog!

Here are two of my favourite renditions of Kalavati:
Salamat Ali and Nazakat Ali

Prabha Atre

V Murthy said...

angry fix, i never meant to imply that Bhimpalasi is a small Raag. In fact, ts not. Dhani is the one I meant, and t happens to be close to Bhimpalasi. Sorry for the confusion.


Anupa said...

i stumbled on ur site while researching raga maand.
great info. nice blog u've here!