Sonic Saturday

Listen: Interpretations of the rare raag Deepak that was closely associated with the magic of Tansen

The raag is not performed by most musicians today and its melodic structure is also not commonly known.

A few years ago, this column had mentioned a raag called Deepak that is unrelated to Diwali, the Festival of Lights, but is linked to a myth about its power to engulf the performer in the heat or fire that its intensity apparently produces. The most popular story in this regard is related to Mia Tansen, one of the nine jewels in Akbar’s court who was asked by the Mughal emperor to perform this raag.

The fact remains that the raag is not performed by most musicians and its melodic structure is also not commonly known. The compositions that are found today suggest that the interpretations are based on the Bilawal, Khamaj or Purvi parent scales.

Today, we listen to three interpretations of the raag by eminent vocalists.

The first track features Ram Chatur Mallick (1902-1990), an exponent of the Darbhanga dhrupad tradition. He explains that most musicians do not perform Deepak, and that there are few compositions created for this raag. The interpretation he chooses uses komal and shuddha or flat and natural varieties of the Nishad or the seventh note, and has a pronounced inclination towards the raag Bihag with a slight tilt towards the raag Jog in the manner in which it descends from the upper tonic to the komal Nishad. Mallick sings an aalaap or introductory movement followed by a dhrupad composition set to Chautaal, a cycle of 12 matras or time-units. The rendition of Deepak continues to 23.30” into the track.


The second track includes another interpretation of Deepak by eminent scholar-musician KG Ginde (1925-1994). He sings a vilambit or slow khayal set to the 12-matra Ektaal, composed by his guru SN Ratanjankar.


Rampur-Sahaswan maestro Ghulam Mustafa Khan sings Deepak based on the Purvi thaat. He presents two compositions in vilambit and drut or fast Ektaal.

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