Sonic Saturday

Listen: Shuddha Saarang raag’s diverse interpretations by different gharanas

Performances by Amir Khan, Kishori Amonkar, Basavaraj Rajguru, Jasraj and more.

Of the Saarang varieties, Shuddha Saarang seems to be a favourite with most musicians, which is why there is a second episode dedicated to this raag (read the first here). The inclusion of both varieties of the fourth note, namely shuddha and teevra Madhyam, lends the raag its special mood and character and also provides performers with more avenues for elaboration.

The teevra Madhyam is used in the ascent, but the shuddha Madhyam is introduced while descending from the Pancham, the fifth, by gliding over the teevra Madhyam in an imperceptible manner, or in a characteristic way using the Rishabh, the second, as a grace between the Pancham and the shuddha Madhyam. The use of the Kalyan ang in this raag has prompted some musicians to demonstrate this aspect more explicitly.

As per the raag-time theory prevalent in Hindustani music, Vrindavani Saarang is usually performed at noon or thereabouts, whereas Shuddha Saarang is heard a little later.

In the third episode of our series on the raag Saarang and its varieties, we will listen to renditions of Shuddha Saarang presented by vocalists of various gharanas.

We begin with a rendition by Amir Khan, the founder of the Indore gharana and one of the most important vocalists from the second half of the 20th century. He sings a vilambit or slow composition set to Jhumra, a cycle of 14 matras or time-units.

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Jaipur-Atrauli gharana exponent Padmavati Shaligram presents a traditional composition set to a vilambit sixteen-matra Teentaal followed by a drut or fast-paced composition set to the same taal.

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Kishori Amonkar, a stalwart of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana experimented greatly with conventionally accepted interpretations of raags. Not surprising, therefore, in this presentation recorded from a live concert, she chooses to bend the rules yet again. She sings a composition set to the 10-matra Jhaptaal followed by a drut composition in Teentaal.

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Basavaraj Rajguru, a respected Kirana gharana vocalist from the Karnataka region, sings a vilambit composition set to Ektaal. The structure of the second composition in drut Teentaal is unconventional, as the longer than usual song-text weaves its way through the rhythmic canvas with many unpredictable pauses or with some words extended asymmetrically over several matras.

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Mewati gharana exponent and celebrated senior vocalist Jasraj presents a vilambit composition set in Ektaal followed by a drut composition in Teentaal.

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Lalith Rao, a well-known representative of the Agra gharana, sings a composition in vilambit Ektaal. The second composition in drut Teentaal is created by Faiyaz Khan “Prem Piya”, one of the most important vocalists of the Agra gharana and a celebrated performer from the first half of the 20th century.

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We end with a presentation that is decidedly different from the ones included earlier. This track features the inimitable Kumar Gandharva, who sings his composition in a medium-paced Teentaal. Listeners will note the chromatic sequence of the teevra and shuddha Madhyam embedded in the composition.

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