As per convention, raags in Hindustani music do not allow chromatic usage of swaras, but like many other aspects of this tradition, there are some exceptions to this rule. This flexibility only goes to show that the aesthetic balance between freedom and discipline in this tradition, an idea that could teach us a lot in our day to day activity too.
This week, we look at the raag Jog, which uses both varieties of the third or Gandhara. Some musicians choose to use both varieties of the seventh or Nishad, although the more popular version only uses the lower seventh.
But it is the manner of using the Gandhara that is pertinent to this discussion. While some musicians use the upper third on the ascent and the lower third on the descent, others use the two chromatically when they descend in a meend or a gradual glide from the fourth or Madhyam to the lower third. However, this chromatic usage is normally discernible in slower melodic passages, particularly in the aalaap section and during the free-flowing vistaar or elaboration over the rhythmic canvas.
We will listen to both interpretations in this episode. The following tracks also demonstrate the different ways in which the Nishads are employed.
We begin with a rendition of this raag by the Agra gharana maestro Latafat Hussain Khan. He presents two compositions, the first composed by Mehboob Khan “Daras Piya” in the 12-matra Ektaal, and the second by Faiyaz Khan “Prem Piya” in the 16-matra Teentaal. Listeners will note that the vocalist uses the two Gandharas chromatically, but with great delicacy. He also uses both varieties of Nishad.
We follow with the second track featuring an instrumental interpretation of the same raag. Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar does not play both the Gandhars chromatically and he also does not use the upper variety of Nishad. After an introductory aalaap, he plays two gats or instrumental compositions set to Teentaal. He is accompanied by noted tabla player Chatur Lal.
The artistes on the next two tracks include a chromatic use of the Gandhars in their performances. Renowned vocalist Amir Khan, the founder of the Indore gharana, sings two compositions on the first of these two tracks. The first is set to the seven-matra Rupak and the second is the popular Prem Piya composition that we heard earlier from Latafat Hussain Khan. He uses both Gandhars and both Nishads, although the upper variety of the Nishad is noticeable only in the slower passages. The use of two Nishads is also at times chromatic in this case.
Sitar maestro Vilayat Khan and his brother surbahar virtuoso Imrat Khan present the raag Jog in a duet. They use both Gandhars chromatically, but use only the lower variety of Nishad. They play a drut or fast gat set to Teentaal.
One of India’s leading tabla players, Aneesh Pradhan is a widely recognised performer, teacher, composer and scholar of Hindustani music. Visit his website here.