Great importance is laid on the cerebral aspect of music-making during the long years of rigorous taaleem or training that a serious student of Hindustani music undergoes. Chief among the many areas that fall within the purview of the cerebral aspect is the utmost care with which raags are to be navigated so as to prevent interpretations from straying into other raags that share close resemblance. Having said that, raags are open to diverse interpretations according to conventions established within gharanas. There are even rare cases when exceptionally gifted, creative geniuses discover paths within raags that have been hitherto untrodden. But one of the keys to understanding the ways in which raags have been interpreted in the past is to study old compositions that encapsulate seed ideas of the melodic structure.
In the case of raag Bhairav, students are instructed to maintain a safe distance from another morning raag called Kalingada that shares the same notes but has a different chalan or movement.
This week’s episode on raag Bhairav, fifth in the series, features Rashid Khan, well known vocalist and scion of the Rampur-Seheswan gharana. He presents a detailed exposition of the raag with two compositions.
The first composition is set to vilambit or slow ektaal, a cycle of twelve matras or time units. Known for his richly textured and virtuosic voice, Khan sings a relaxed vistaar or elaboration with free-flowing melodic patterns that at times use words from the song text, and at other times use only vowels. After singing the antara or the second part of the composition, he uses sargam or solfege as a rhythmic device. He then immediately shifts the focus to taans or swift melodic passages that are first rendered in sargam, and later in aakaar using the vowel ‘aa’. Khan sings the second composition in a medium-paced sixteen-matra teentaal. Once again, he lays great stress on taans.