To be technically competent or proficient with the grammar of a raag is not the ultimate goal of a performer. It is the aesthetic approach that marks a performer’s individuality. Many elements act as defining points of the aesthetic approach and make the music expressive.
The manner in which notes are articulated and the way melodic phrasing is handled are two significant elements that sensitive musicians focus on. It is not enough to have precise intonation or be supremely tuneful. It is equally important to focus attention on the entry and exit points of a note. Similarly, it is vital to approach phrases sensitively, not only for their substance but also for the internal dynamics between the notes within the phrase and the tempo of the phrase and that between discreet phrases.
In the seventh episode of our series on the morning raag, we feature sitar maestro Nikhil Banerjee. His aalaap or introductory melodic movement in a detailed exposition of raag Bhairav is a lesson in articulation and phrasing.
Banerjee plays a contemplative aalaap exploring the key areas of raag Bhairav. He lays stress on the second and sixth notes and articulates them in a manner that highlights the characteristic features of this raag. He elaborates the raag in great detail in the lower octave. Following the aalaap, he moves to the jod section that has a pulse.
Banerjee moves seamlessly to the gat or instrumental composition set in Rupak, a cycle of seven matras or time units. Here, he demonstrates his command on the rhythmic aspect, as he weaves cross-rhythmic patterns in the melodic elaboration.
The second composition set to the 16-matra Teentaal is long and unconventional. Banerjee unleashes several crisp taans or swift melodic passages. He ends the recital with a jhala that has repetitive percussive right-hand strokes.