At the initial stage, gurus in the Hindustani music tradition often choose to teach raags Yaman and/or Bhairav. But rudimentary exercises are often taught using shuddha swaras or notes that do not use their komal or flat and teevra or sharp varieties. Such a scale is called Bilawal and is treated as one of the 10 parent scales according to the system of raag classification evolved by musicologist and music educationist Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1936).
Bilawal is also treated as a raag and lends its raagang or characteristic melodic features to several different raags. Some musicians also call this raag Alhaiya Bilawal, but others differentiate between the two because the latter uses the komal variety of the Nishad or the seventh swar.
We begin this episode with a short rendition of a drut or fast composition in the raag Bilawal by Narayanrao Vyas (1902-1984), a prominent representative of the Vishnu Digambar Paluskar (1872-1931) branch of the Gwalior gharana. The composition is set to Teentaal, a cycle of 16 matras or time units.
The same composition is interpreted in a completely different manner by the inimitable, pathbreaking vocalist Kumar Gandharva (1924-1992). He chooses to use Addha or Sitarkhani, also a cycle of 16 matras but with a decidedly different lilt to that of Teentaal. The recital is marked by an ingenious use of sargam or solfège, cascading taans or swift melodic passages and small swara clusters that are left suspended unpredictably.
We end with another interpretation of the same traditional composition by Kishori Amonkar (1931-2017), one of the main exponents of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana who created a style that was followed by a host of vocalists. Amonkar moves away from the conventional melodic contours of the raag during the melodic elaboration. She presents a series of taans and then accelerates the pace to signal a change of taal from Addha to Teentaal.