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Monday, April 27, 2015

Guruji - Miya malhar and Chayanat

'Gharana' is the main piller in Hindustani Classical Music. Over a period, many gharanas have grown and evolved. Basically, gharana originated from a place where a particular style started emerging and set a trend in classical music. Each gharana has a unique style of rendition. Every gharana mastered one or more aspects of presentation and developed further. Some examples of the specialties of gharanas are Kirana gharana's aalap, Agra gharana's nom tom aalap, Gwalior gharana's laykari, Jaipur gharana's rare raga presentation.
Music is going through a lot of changes in the modern times. Changes are inevitable in society. There have been many discussions about whether or not Gharanas are relevant today. How many artists can actually claim that they sing purely in a certain Gharana? Experiments are natural for human beings and especially artists like to explore new ideas and bring that into their experience. Experiments lead to new styles in renditions. This gives ‘singing’ a new identity which we might refer to as Gharana in the present day. The new style/identity grows, develops and becomes popular through an artiste teaching many students and hence propagating that style. It surely will not happen in a short amount of time. It may take 3-4 decades or 1-2 generations. If the style has substantial potential then it will register as a Gharana in the music arena.
My Guruji Pt. Vinayak Torvi had rigorous training under Gayanacharya Gururao Deshpande, who is a doyen of Gwalior gharana and had the influence of Agra and Jaipur gharanas as well. Training under such a Guru, who not only has a strong base in one gharana, but also has an idea and influence of few other gharanas, the disciple gets a clear picture of what a gharana is. Although back in those days, the discussions or question and answer sessions were unimaginable. Guruji grasped the essence of Gwalior gayaki which is known as "Ashtapailu" (8 dimension presentation) and Agra-Jaipur flavor as a bonus from Gururao. He understood, contemplated and practiced using his own capacity without any specific directions from anyone. After 1983, Guruji started taking lessons from the legendary singer in the Kirana Gharana, Bharataratna Pt. Bhimsen Joshi. Mixing different Gharana's music without proper knowledge may lead to confusion both for the artiste and the audience. When trained properly by gunijan, the beautiful blend becomes evident. For example, one can observe neat, proportionate mixture of gharanas in Guruji Pt. Kashalkar-ji's singing. After a few years of contemplation in this regard, a new style emerges. In a few decades it might become a new gharana in itself.
Guruji portrays every raaga with a particular gharana as the backdrop and adds treatment of other gharanas. For example, while singing Miya Malhar, Todi, Puriya, Kirana Gharana's share will be more. That is not to say that we cannot see the influence of other gharanas. While singing Chayanat or Jaijaivanti his approach is different. Some artistes present all the raagas according to their style. Irrespective of the raagas, their design will not change. But every raaga will have its special and unique features. My Guruji says "Every raaga has its own picture, size and nature. You can’t sing all the raagas for one hour or fit all the raagas in 10-15 mins duration. Few of the raagas blossom slowly but its impact remains for a very long time." There are occasions where we have heard people exclaim "Oh that day (maybe 10-20 years ago) Bua (singer) sang superb Marwa, it still rings in my ears!”. Every singer sings the same notes or same scale for a particular raaga, but what is it that makes some renditions remain etched in the listener's memory for a very long time?! We do not have a scientific theory or proven formula to predict a certain result. But when we study the lives of legendary singers and their way of thinking, we can uncover many aspects. Among them Gharana or style is one of the prominent ones. Kumar-ji's music is extraordinary and experts opine that it was beyond the Gharana boundary. That extra ordinary view beyond the Gharana or within the Gharana is what I am trying to explore with this small write-up. We can refer to it as 'style'. Say, Kumar-ji's style or Bhimsen-ji's style or Jasraj-ji's style. When you study these styles you might observe that it may not belong to one particular gharana. We, as music students study, observe and preserve these styles. Not by merely copying but by imbibing the style with an open mind and giving it a personal touch.
Guruji is very clear in this matter. He observed the raaga's nature and thought thoroughly to give his own shade to it. His Miya Malhar is different from Shankara in terms of style with which they are sung. He gives the following example to get his point across: "You cannot play 20-20 cricket like test match or vice versa". His blend of Kirana inputs with Gwalior Agra Jaipur is superb and it does not feel like a forcible inclusion.
Natural stillness of Kirana, naughty restless of Gwalior. Soothing aalap of Kirana, mesmerizing laykari taan patterns of Gwalior. All of these sound simple but they have evolved through this long musical journey. We should consider ourselves lucky that we are getting this as one pack. It is ready to present as a model. Paying close attention to the changing approach during practice is crucial. It requires a lot of sadhana and chintan.

Let us walk towards that. The journey is long and hard but it is fun.......

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jod raga.

Jod raga

Jod raga is a beautiful concept in Indian classical music. Singing Jod raga is always a challenge and needs a certain temperament. Jod raga may not be sung elaborately unlike other ragas, such as, Yaman, Todi and Bhimpalas. But Jod raga has been extensively explored by music stalwarts. Jod raga means singing a blend of two ragas, with a single identity. Bhairav-Bahar, Hindol-Bahar, Lalit-Bhatiyar, and many such combinations are popular these days. Singing Jod Raga does not mean that you sing each raga 50-50 or a few phrases in one raga and a few in another. It should sound like you are rendering a single raga. When great singers present Jod raga, they will balance both the ragas so well that you can see only one picture. Transition from one to another is crucial in such a presentation. It requires identification of a few track changing spots and making the shift from one to the other without glitch or doubt.

LearnQuest Academy of Music, a well know music organization in USA organized its 10th Annual Music Conference from 3rd to 5th April in Boston. Academy always showcases both genres of Indian classical music, Carnatic and Hindustani. Conference not only organizes concerts but also provides an opportunity for listeners and music lovers to attend Lecture Demonstrations as well and interact with world class musicians. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to perform in that extraordinary music conference. In a span of 10 days, I attended about 25 events including concerts, lec-dem, cross culture fusion events, homage to artiste (A/V presentation). Great musicians of both styles participated in this festival of Indian classical music

I observed that performances of very famous Dhrupad duo Gundecha brothers, Carnatic singers duo Malladi brothers, were like Jod raga! You can see two scales and one raga, two brothers and one voice. Their coordination, appreciation for each other and balance in the presentation were all extraordinary. Carnatic and Hindustani styles of presentation is like Jod raga, throughout conference we observed the beautiful balance, each performance better than other and the entire conference felt like it was in Jod raga. During the trip to America and Sweden this time, there were instances were I could apply this Jod Raga analogy. LearnQuest Music Conference. (Carnatic and Hindustani style) Performances by brothers together. (Gundechaji Brothers and Malladi Brothers) My students who performed (Sohini-Poorvi Torvi sisters and Medha-Sadhika Hiremath sisters) I presented Jod raga in one of my concerts (Hindol-Bahar) I visited a place where two seas meet (in the photo you can see the two different entities merging as one. The difference in colour is noticeable)

Prakriti and Purush are the two elements of entire world. We can say, Jod raga embodies prakriti and purush and its balance is key. When blend is suitable and appropriate then the effect of Jod raga is beautiful. It is not the precise measure that matters, say, one unit of oxygen and two units of hydrogen makes water. We cannot infer that a certain units units of Hindol and a certain units of bahar makes super blend. The quality of the presentation depends on how the singer balances both the ragas and presents it as one. Our senior artistes composed very high quality compositions in Jod ragas. A single composition which depicts both the ragas and does justice in giving a good idea of both the ragas.

Balance is essential in life. It may be work and family or music and work etc. The outcome depends on how you can balance and are able to give time to each. I saw few students balancing study and music so well. They never complain that studies comes in the way for music practice. I saw how my Guruji used to practice for hours at length when he was also working in bank. You can see many similarities in music and daily life. This concept of managing multiple things with the right balance applies in music also. Jod Raga requires a bit more of that balance.

Lets learn how to balance in life with the help of music……….