Among the plethora of raags in Hindustani music, a large number have been handed down through several generations without any information about the names of their creators. In fact, some musicians believe that the raags existed in the ether and were discovered by one or the other musician, and gradually became part of the tradition after undergoing the test of time. Others vehemently oppose the idea of creating new raags, as they believe that tradition already has enough to offer and to explore.
However, that has not deterred individual musicians from experimenting with existing raags and coming up with ideas for new raags, or from exploring possibilities for composing new raags triggered by stimuli other than already established raags.
Over the next few weeks, this column will feature raags that have come to be associated with individual composers.
Of the raags that have come to be identified with specific musicians, there are some that are named after the musicians who are believed to be the composers. A classic example is that of the sixteenth century dhrupad singer Mia Tansen, who is generally regarded as the creator of raags like Mia ki Todi, Mia ki Sarang and Darbari Kanada.
Unlike the many bans that have consumed our society in the past few months and have displayed the cruel side of the fundamentalist forces at work, mercifully, Hindustani music has not experienced a ban on raags and compositions because of their association with composers belonging to one or another religion.
Here are a few recordings of Mia ki Todi, a raag prescribed for the morning, sung by vocalists belonging to different gharanas.Faiyaz Khan (1881-1950), the chief representative of the Agra gharana, sings an aalaap or introductory section in the raag Mia ki Todi. The presentation has all the hallmarks of Faiyaz Khan’s gayaki or vocal style, replete with long sweeps over the swaras or notes, at times nudging each one and at other times making a strident statement, employing pukaar or the musical device that expresses a longing or yearning by prolonging a particular swara and creating a tension that desires a resolution, and cascading melodic phrases, all of which are delivered in his inimitable strong and heavy voice.
Faiyaz Khan follows the aalaap with a dhrupad set to Chautaal, a cycle of 12 matras or time units. As is the practice for dhrupad presentation, he focuses on cross-rhythmic play while elaborating upon the composition. After presenting the composition, he sings the song-text in different tempi like dugun or double, tigun or triple, and chougun or four times the original speed. At times, he even introduces the song-text in a speed that varies between chegun and saatgun, or six and seven times the original rhythmic canvas, respectively.
Bhimsen Joshi (1922-2011), the famous Kirana gharana vocalist, presents a detailed exposition of the raag Mia ki Todi. He sings a vilambit khayal in the 12 matra Ektaal, laced with meend or long glide between swara, behalava or slow oscillations on the swara, rhythmic interplay between the song-text and the taal canvas, gamak or rapid oscillations on the swara, and powerful taans. The second composition is set to Teentaal.
The last track features well-known Kishori Amonkar, who was originally trained in the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana but has created her own style that has influenced several women vocalists. Unlike the artistes featured in the preceding tracks, Amonkar deviates from the generally accepted structure of raag Mia ki Todi. She elaborates the vilambit khayal set to Teentaal through melodic patterns sung in aakaar or using the vowel ‘aa’. The second composition is a drut or fast composition in Teentaal in which Amonkar unleashes a series of swift taans, the effect of which is accentuated with the accents that she applies. The final composition is a tarana set to a medium paced Ektaal.