Bhairav, the quintessential morning raag, is an integral part of the repertoire of a student of Hindustani music. Be it in a music class or by way of traditional guru-shishya or master-disciple training, the raag has been taught to one and all.

However, vocalists and instrumentalists in the past few decades seem to have chosen to concentrate more on variants of Bhairav like Ahir Bhairav, Nat Bhairav and Bairagi Bhairav. Not surprisingly, therefore, music lovers do not have easy access to many recordings of Bhairav. In the second part of our series on raag Bhairav (you can read the first part here), we feature a concert recording of Sharadchandra Arolkar, a respected vocalist of the Gwalior gharana.


Arolkar begins the recital with a vilambit or slow khayal set to Tilwada, a cycle of 16 matras or time units that is often used by Gwalior vocalists. His rendition is marked by the majestic use of long meends or glides between notes. Treating the words of the song-text with care, he changes the space between them every so often instead of treating them as distinct and equidistant islands of vowels and consonants, thus conveying a literal and musical narrative.

While a silsila or sequential progression is discernible in the rendition, the performance is not split into distinct sections. Instead, there is a seamless flow between the bandish or composition and various parts of the melodic elaboration that follows.

The rhythmic cycle remains constantly identifiable not only because of the chosen pace, but also because the vistaar or free-flowing melodic movement never seems to lose sight of the framework of the taal. The bol-baant or changing scansion of the words does not point to a mathematical approach to layakari or rhythmic interplay.

The vilambit khayal is followed by a medium-paced compostion in the ten-matra Jhaptaal and a tarana set to the 12-matra Ektaal.