Sonic Saturdays

Listen: Renditions of raag Ram Gauri and Kapar Gauri that you’ll rarely hear in concert

These variations of the raag show that there is much room for creativity in Hindustani classical music.

Continuing the series on Gauri, a raag prescribed for dusk, we look at two varieties of this raag that are rarely heard in concert. While they lean heavily on the melodic structure of Gauri, some with the natural fourth, others with the sharp fourth and still others with both, one finds that a single phrase or movement gives a special colour to the varieties.

These minor deviations demonstrate yet again that Hindustani music allows for creative impulses to be absorbed into the tradition over time and that it does not remain unchanged. In fact, it is yet another reflection of Indian culture that has allowed for diversity to flower in every which way.

We begin this week’s episode with the raag Ram Gauri. Agra gharana vocalist and scholar Baban Haldankar sings a vilambit or slow composition set to the 14-matra Ada Chautaal. The mukhda (literally, the face) or the initial part of the sthayi lands on the sum/sam or the first matra of the cycle, with a long upper octave tonic that heightens the poignancy.

The melodic elaboration, therefore, appears in a descending pattern as it moves to the middle octave tonic only to hit the upper octave tonic on the approaching sum/sam to create musical tension each time. True to the Agra gharana idiom, Haldankar incorporates boltaan or quick melodic passages using the words of the composition, changing syncopation, and layakari or rhythmic interplay.

The second composition is a creation of Haldankar’s guru and revered Agra gharana maestro Khadim Hussein Khan, who composed under the pseudonym “Sajan Piya”.

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Noted vocalist Narayan Bodas sings a composition in raag Kapar Gauri set to a slow paced Teentaal, a cycle of 16 matras or time-units. He follows that with a faster composition also set to Teentaal.

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