A nocturnal melody in the Hindustani stream, raag Kafi has been used extensively for tappas. This column has elaborated upon the tappa form in three episodes (here, here and here).
Like other forms found in the Hindustani system, the tappa also requires special taaleem or training and riyaaz or practice. In other words, the characteristic features of the tappa are so distinctive that it requires a different skill set to present it in a competent manner. Traditionally, tappas use Punjabi for the song-text, thus placing yet another challenge for those who are not familiar with the language. Naturally, this would not matter much to those who choose to throw language and form to the wind.
While the tappa may seem to involve a great deal of vocal adroitness, it is not merely a display of speed and acrobatics in the taans or swift melodic passages. It is, in fact, a fine play of quick melodic phrases balanced almost precariously on the vowels and consonants of the song-text and unleashed in an unpredictable manner, moving against the rhythmic cycle but rushing to meet the oncoming sum/sam or first time-unit of the latter.
The tappa is one of the important forms in the repertoire of Gwalior and Banaras gharana vocalists. In the sixth episode of our series on raag Kafi, we include two tappas in the same raag presented by exponents of these styles.
Over here, Krishnarao Shankar Pandit, doyen of the Gwalior gharana, sings a tappa set to a cycle of 16 time units or matras. Typically, the Sitarkhani or Addha taal would be used in such a case, but the tabla player employs Teentaal, also a 16-matra cycle.
After stating the sthayi or first part of the composition, the maestro surges forward with slower clusters of notes that suddenly quicken and leap across the octave. At times, his voice climbs gradually through the octave and releases a cascade of notes that resolve on the lower tonic only to rise unexpectedly to the Komal Gandhar, the flat third, or Pancham, the fifth, in the upper octave.
He uses a falsetto unabashedly to reach out to the notes in the upper octave, but equally employs a deep and full-throated projection for the lower notes. Unlike most tappa renditions, he chooses to also use short layakari passages that have a cross-rhythmic flavour.
The second track features a tappa rendition by Siddheshwari Devi, one of the greatest thumri-dadra and tappa singers of the Banaras gharana. She sings a tappa set to the Addha taal. Creating clusters of notes that pirouette on tonal centres or on successive notes in the ascending or descending order, she uses taans that are distinctive to the tappa form. Her approach to the sum/sam is unpredictable, as is her melodic elaboration, thus creating a wonderful musical tension that captivates the listener right through the performance.
As India turns 70, London School of Economics asks some provocative questions
Is India ready to become a global superpower?
Meaningful changes have always been driven by the right, but inconvenient questions. As India completes 70 years of its sovereign journey, we could do two things – celebrate, pay our token tributes and move on, or take the time to reflect and assess if our course needs correction. The ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, the annual flagship summit of the LSE (London School of Economics) South Asia Centre, is posing some fundamental but complex questions that define our future direction as a nation. Through an honest debate – built on new research, applied knowledge and ground realities – with an eclectic mix of thought leaders and industry stalwarts, this summit hopes to create a thought-provoking discourse.
From how relevant (or irrelevant) is our constitutional framework, to how we can beat the global one-upmanship games, from how sincere are business houses in their social responsibility endeavours to why water is so crucial to our very existence as a strong nation, these are some crucial questions that the event will throw up and face head-on, even as it commemorates the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.
Is it time to re-look at constitution and citizenship in India?
The Constitution of India is fundamental to the country’s identity as a democratic power. But notwithstanding its historical authority, is it perhaps time to examine its relevance? The Constitution was drafted at a time when independent India was still a young entity. So granting overwhelming powers to the government may have helped during the early years. But in the current times, they may prove to be more discriminatory than egalitarian. Our constitution borrowed laws from other countries and continues to retain them, while the origin countries have updated them since then. So, do we need a complete overhaul of the constitution? An expert panel led by Dr Mukulika Banerjee of LSE, including political and economic commentator S Gurumurthy, Madhav Khosla of Columbia University, Niraja Gopal Jayal of JNU, Chintan Chandrachud the author of the book Balanced Constitutionalism and sociologist, legal researcher and Director of Council for Social Development Kalpana Kannabiran will seek answers to this.
Is CSR simply forced philanthropy?
While India pioneered the mandatory minimum CSR spend, has it succeeded in driving impact? Corporate social responsibility has many dynamics at play. Are CSR initiatives mere tokenism for compliance? Despite government guidelines and directives, are CSR activities well-thought out initiatives, which are monitored and measured for impact? The CSR stipulations have also spawned the proliferation of ambiguous NGOs. The session, ‘Does forced philanthropy work – CSR in India?” will raise these questions of intent, ethics and integrity. It will be moderated by Professor Harry Barkema and have industry veterans such as Mukund Rajan (Chairman, Tata Council for Community Initiatives), Onkar S Kanwar (Chairman and CEO, Apollo Tyres), Anu Aga (former Chairman, Thermax) and Rahul Bajaj (Chairman, Bajaj Group) on the panel.
Can India punch above its weight to be considered on par with other super-powers?
At 70, can India mobilize its strengths and galvanize into the role of a serious power player on the global stage? The question is related to the whole new perception of India as a dominant power in South Asia rather than as a Third World country, enabled by our foreign policies, defense strategies and a buoyant economy. The country’s status abroad is key in its emergence as a heavyweight but the foreign service officers’ cadre no longer draws top talent. Is India equipped right for its aspirations? The ‘India Abroad: From Third World to Regional Power’ panel will explore India’s foreign policy with Ashley Tellis, Meera Shankar (Former Foreign Secretary), Kanwal Sibal (Former Foreign Secretary), Jayant Prasad and Rakesh Sood.
Are we under-estimating how critical water is in India’s race ahead?
At no other time has water as a natural resource assumed such a big significance. Studies estimate that by 2025 the country will become ‘water–stressed’. While water has been the bone of contention between states and controlling access to water, a source for political power, has water security received the due attention in economic policies and development plans? Relevant to the central issue of water security is also the issue of ‘virtual water’. Virtual water corresponds to the water content (used) in goods and services, bulk of which is in food grains. Through food grain exports, India is a large virtual net exporter of water. In 2014-15, just through export of rice, India exported 10 trillion litres of virtual water. With India’s water security looking grim, are we making the right economic choices? Acclaimed author and academic from the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, Amita Bavisar will moderate the session ‘Does India need virtual water?’
Delve into this rich confluence of ideas and more at the ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, presented by Apollo Tyres in association with the British Council and organized by Teamworks Arts during March 29-31, 2017 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. To catch ‘India @ 70’ live online, register here.
At the venue, you could also visit the Partition Museum. Dedicated to the memory of one of the most conflict-ridden chapters in our country’s history, the museum will exhibit a unique archive of rare photographs, letters, press reports and audio recordings from The Partition Museum, Amritsar.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Teamwork Arts and not by the Scroll editorial team.