The second part of the series on raags associated with specific composers features sitar renditions of raag Mia ki Todi this week.  Mia ki Todi, also known as Shuddha Todi, is believed to have been composed by Mia Tansen, one of the Navratnas or nine jewels in the court of Emperor Akbar.

Many gharanas owe their allegiance to Mia Tansen through guru-shishya or master-disciple lineages.  One of these is the Maihar-Senia gharana founded by sarod player, multi-instrumentalist and revered guru Allauddin Khan.

Ravi Shankar

The world renowned sitar player Ravi Shankar, a disciple of Allauddin Khan, begins his recital with a short aaochar or brief introduction to the raag followed by a vilambit gat or slow instrumental composition in Teentaal, a cycle of 16 matras. He is accompanied by Anokhelal Mishra, one of the chief representatives of the Banaras gharana of tabla.

Though an instrumental recital, Ravi Shankar’s approaches the raag like a vocalist, with a detailed vistaar or gradual elaboration of the melodic framework over the rhythmic canvas maintained on the tabla, involving long meends or glides between the swaras or notes, initially in the lower octave before moving ahead.  He introduces a rhythmic element only after 20 minutes or so, by going double or three times the original tempo or introducing offbeat structures.

Through this entire duration, the tabla maintains a steady theka or the string of syllables that are played to represent a taal or time-cycle.  It is only around 26’ into the recording that there is a short but overt response from the tabla player, breaking away from the theka.  The dayan or treble drum used on this occasion is tuned to the lower tonic.

Ravi Shankar moves on to the taan section where he plays a variety of quick melodic sequences at six or eight times the original tempo, often employing gamaks or rapid oscillations on each swara.  Some of these taans are staccato with fast and continuous right-hand stroke patterns.  Tihai, a device that involves the using of a rhythmic structure thrice to arrive at the sum/sam or the first matra of the succeeding cycle, is utilised quite often.

Anokhelal Mishra's spontaneous responses are more frequent after Ravi Shankar enters the taan section.   He changes from the lower octave tabla to one tuned to the higher tonic at about 45’ into the track.

This live concert recording ends with a drut gat or fast instrumental composition that culminates in a jhala that involves playing repetitive strokes of the right hand at great speed.

Nikhil Bannerjee

Eminent sitar player Nikhil Bannerjee learnt from many sources before eventually studying with Allauddin Khan and his son and disciple sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan.  Here, Bannerjee first plays a vilambit gat in Teentaal.  The tabla player joins with an extended utthaan or a piece that marks an overt entry.  Beginning with strokes in triplet rhythm, he changes to four times the speed and finally to six times the speed, ending with a tihai.  Nikhil Bannerjee plays vistaar or free-flowing melodic elaboration over the rhythmic canvas maintained on the tabla, often ending with a tihai to arrive at the sam or coincide with the beginning with the gat.  He also repeatedly employs tihais to mark the end of a series of taans.  There are frequent responses from the tabla player, who ends his sections with longer tihais.

The second composition is a drut gat in Teentaal, which culminates in a jhala.

Rais Khan

Shifting from the Maihar-Senia gharana, here is a recording that features sitar virtuoso Rais Khan.  Known for his superb tonal quality and control over the instrument, he plays a drut gat in Teentaal.  Beginning with short sections of vistaar, he moves to a series of taans played at amazing speed, displaying tremendous coordination between both the hands.  He ends with an equally virtuosic jhala that demonstrates his command over the right-hand strokes.