Eternal Favourite: Raga Darbari

I’m back again on my all time favourite raga, the king of the Indian Raga pantheon : The King of Ragas, The raga of Kings : Raga Darbari

Darbari lends itself naturally to the sarod, with its deep introspective tone. There are many good compositions in Darbari, and I thought I’d showcase one particular one which is not heard publicly much nowadays,

I’ve recorded – Raga Darbari, Drut Ektaal (fast 12 beat tempo) by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, which he first played in the 80s – and then very rarely thereafter. In fact, this composition is hardly heard nowadays. I outline the composition without rhythmic metre and then the “implementation” of it at 250 bpm fast 12 beat cycle (Ektaal) -which is a tad faster than the original.

This compositions was originally played to tabla accompaniment with Sabir Khan, in what constitutes one of the definitive Darbari recordings of all time.

I decided to play the composition at length without rhythm to expose the subtleties of this composition. This is a multi layered construct – there are a lot of things going on – the mood of this grave raga, an underlying rhythmic framework, as well as a structure built on that famous masterpiece by Ustad Amir Khan (vocal) – Yaare Man Biyan Biyan. The composition balances the competing pressures of technical activity with keeping the mood of the raga intact (it doesn’t take much to destroy Darbari’s gravity, turning it into a Bollywood song – the poor raga has been much abused in this manner)

Then I play the full composition with the metre at 250bpm.

Here is the Youtube video:

Raga Improvisation & Expansion


(Picture above: my hometown of Varanasi, India, famous for Indian classical music, especially tabla)

Ever wondered what musicians play after the main composition and how it’s structured?

Especially in the slow (vilambit) part of the composition, there are a number of devices and pathways available to the artist.

As a short example, I start with a very standard composition in slow 16 beat cycle in Raga Marwa-(notations provided below)…

The main composition is repeated a few times:

(italics: lower octave) Bold: Upper Octave, lowercase:komal, UPPER CASE: Shuddha

Starts from 12th beat.DD N rr G m D-, D m G r SS, N r N D

It is essential to maintain a very prominent Dha in the lower octave, to bring out Marwa’s mood.

Thereafter, the following expansion pathways are demonstrated:

-Vistaar (expanding upon the notes, with our without metre)

-Aamad: Rhythmic variations

-Bol – Taans with Bols

– Peshkar (rhythmic phrases)

Only a few short samples are provided, and the main composition is played over and over again – but these are just few pathways which can be explored in playing the raga…

Raga Bageshri- Conclusion

Here is my last post on Raga Bageshri – a gat in Rupak Taal (7 beats) to round off the full series: Vilambit, Madhyalaya and Drut…

I learnt this composition from Ustad Shahid Parvez – he also showed a different style of taankari- using phrases. As always, I’ve ended up experimenting with tihais etc – more of a concert thing…

The notation is fairly simple – starts from 1. (Sam)


g R S  D(lower) n(lower) S


g- M- Dn D

M- P gg R- (back to Sthayi)

The taans are played in a style which is not commonly heard either on the sarod or sitar, so very much enjoying this -it’s got a bit of rhythmwork (layakari) in it. There are some concert grade “dazzlers” in there such as the one taan where the end of the tihai is played thrice – once with space, the second at regular speed and the third without a space. All that is good for concerts, and musicians must keep their arsenal equipped for performance purposes. Even if you are not playing these in concert, it focusses you on taal practice and control of your laya.



Bageshri- Drut Teentaal – Some compositions

I’ve been a bit late with my posts – but here the latest one covering off more material in Bageshri –  this time some select compositions in Drut Teentaal…(Bageshri is such a “big” raga, one could spend years on it..)

I’ve recorded a video showing 7 compositions in Drut Teentaal, some never played on the sarod (e.g. sitar heritage) but all unique in some ways:

First up, without the tabla – is the vocal composition “Balma More Tore Sang”.. sung by many (even fusion bands)
Then the lineup begins with an intricate composition that I learnt from Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan. What is different about this composition is the rhythmic phrasings and long taans, not commonly heard on the sarod.
I then play an old composition from Ustad Amjad Ali Khan from the 60s. I’ve modified the antara by truncating it the first phrase only – which works better for me

Then some traditional compositions in sarod from the Shahjahanpur Gharana, learnt via Shri Sugato Nag

Then two masterpieces by the greatest musicians of the last century: Ustads Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Amir Khan Sahab.
In particular, as I went back to Ud Amir Khan Sahab’s original rendition of the Bageshri, it really had a profound effect on me in terms of his notes and tone. He managed to say so much in a few notes… we mere mortals can never hope to accomplish that. I now know what Pt Nikhil Banerjee felt when he first heard the legendary Ustad… please read the article here….
Then a self composition that I’m working on.

Next, Bageshri in Rupak… to round out the collection…