One of the things that can provide relief in sultry summer afternoons is some hours of good music heard in shaded surroundings, which is obviously an impossible task for those with working hours through the day. But for the Hindustani music lover who may just be lucky enough to find some time, this would perhaps be the most appropriate moment to relish the variety of the raag Saarang. The Saarang family of raags is not specifically prescribed for summer, but it is prescribed for afternoon performances. The association of these raags with this time of the day is evident even in some song-texts that describe the intensity of the sun’s heat.
Over the next few weeks, we will hear different kinds of Saarang. Unfortunately, these raags are rarely heard in live concerts as most performances are held in the morning, evening or at night. There are occasions when morning concerts spill into afternoon hours, giving performers a chance to present some of these raags. But even if this is not so, they continue to form an integral part of a performer’s repertoire.
The main raag in this family is called Saarang or Vrindavani/Brindavani Saarang. Prescribed for noon, this raag has Rishabh or the second and Pancham or the fifth as dominant and sub-dominant tonal centres, respectively, in its melodic structure. Gandhaar the third and Dhaivat the sixth are omitted.
The first track features the charismatic Bhimsen Joshi, one of the chief exponents of the Kirana gharana. He sings a composition in Saarang set to a slow-paced Jhaptaal, a cycle of 10 matras or time-units, followed by a drut or fast-paced composition in the 16-matra Teentaal.
Vilayat Hussein Khan, revered guru of the Agra gharana, sings a drut composition in Teentaal for a 78 rpm disc.
The following are instrumental renditions of Saarang. The first is a shehnai recital by the inimitable Bismillah Khan, playing a composition in Saarang set to the 12-matra Ektaal.
The final track features Hariprasad Chaurasia, the celebrated flautist. He plays an introductory aalaap, followed by a composition in Jhaptaal. The second composition is set to drut Teentaal, which ends with the jhala section.