Last week, this column featured a detailed exposition of raag Yaman Kalyan by the Maihar gharana sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. Continuing the series on instrumental interpretations of raag Yaman and its close variants, we include another track of raag Yaman Kalyan that acquaints us further with perspectives offered by exponents of the Maihar gharana.
This is a rare recording of a surbahar duet by Annapurna Devi and Shankar. Two of the foremost disciples of Allauddin Khan, the founder of the Maihar gharana, both performers in this live concert recording show exemplary understanding in negotiating a duet that can often stand the risk of being diluted by petty competitiveness. There is, of course, no attempt at layering each other’s phrases with a parallel melodic line. Instead, their elaboration is juxtaposed in a way that carries forward a cohesive narrative.
Simply put, the surbahar is a larger version of the sitar, with a broader fretboard that allows long meends or glides between notes. The bass tone of the instrument also sets it apart from the sitar. In fact, this is an element that allows the instrument to be used to the fullest in aalaap renditions, which are introductory movements in raag development without percussion accompaniment. Both performers utilise this opportunity to delineate key areas of the raag.
The aalaap advances at a deliberate and gradual pace through the mandra (an octave below the middle) and anumandra (an octave below the mandra) regions as per the practice in the dhrupad tradition. The pace of the elaboration does not change radically through the first section of the aalaap, but this does not seem monotonous as would have otherwise happened. Instead, it draws the listener into the Yaman Kalyan universe and the intonation and articulation of melodic phrases grows on the listener progressively.
This section is followed by the jod where a pulse is established, but there is no percussion accompaniment. The pace of the jod quickens as both performers move towards the higher notes. Finally, they trade virtuosic passages towards the end of the jod.