Sonic Saturdays

Listen: Five rare varieties of raag Bilawal

Not surprisingly, their melodic structures are open to varying interpretations – and debate.

In the last episode of our series on Bilawal, we include a set of recordings that feature some more rare varieties of this raag. As has been mentioned last week, various interpretations of Kukubh Bilawal incorporate elements from different raags. One of these is Jaijaivanti, but today, we begin with a raag called Jaijai Bilawal, which is a more overt combination of Jaijaivanti and Bilawal. Shruti Sadolikar Katkar, well-known representative of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana, presents a composition in Jaijai Bilawal set to vilambit or slow Teentaal, a cycle of 16 matras or time-units. She follows this with a drut or fast-paced composition in Teentaal.


Shukla Bilawal, another variety of Bilawal with a focus on Madhyam, the fourth swar or note, according to scholars has elements of Kedar and Malhar integrated with Bilawal. Jaipur-Atrauli gharana maestro Mallikarjun Mansur presents a vilambit composition set to the 10-matra Jhaptaal followed by a drut composition in Teentaal.


Dhondutai Kulkarni, also an exponent of the Jaipur-Atrauli style, sings a composition set to Jhaptaal in the raag Sukhiya Bilawal. The melodic structure takes elements from Savani and Bihag and integrates them with Bilawal.


As the name suggests, Nat Bilawal incorporates aspects of Nat and Bilawal. Vilayat Hussain Khan, doyen of the Agra gharana, presents a composition in Jhaptaal.


Sarparda Bilawal is an attractive variety of Bilawal that is also seldom heard in concerts. Here is a short rendition by scholar-musician KG Ginde in a composition set to Teentaal.


There are a few more rare varieties of Bilawal that are sung only in a few gharanas or are the forte of certain performers. Not surprisingly, their melodic structures are open to varying interpretations and debate. Unfortunately, at times, the positions taken by scholars and musicians on such subjects are dogmatic and monochromatic, and are often solely based on the knowledge they have acquired from their gurus rather than an analysis of the body of work available in the public domain in the form of commentaries and notated compositions and on recordings left behind by maestros from the past.

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