Raga Pilu- Some old compositions

After an extended break, here is a video of various compositions in Raga Pilu (Piloo) that I recently had the opportunity to play:

Pilu, like Bhairavi, is an evergreen raga, and brings together the joy and sadness of love in its mood…

Pilu is used in a variety of “thumris” – semi classical compositions which sing about the waiting for one’s true love… with hope (natural notes) alternating with sadness (minor notes)… for example, one famous composition in Pilu (called a Dadra) is:

“Barsan Lage Saawan Bundiya Raja” [Many monsoons go by my love]

Tore Bina Lage Na Mora Jiya [My heart pines without you]

Rendered by countless semi classical and Bollywood singers, this is exactly the kind of composition which brings out the character of Pilu.

Another classic dadra is :

Nath Besar Balamwa Mangwa De

[O my  love,(who’s not paying attention to me)- get me an ornament – (nose ring))  – the word Besar loosely translates into “Be-Asar” – someone not paying attention or beyond influence (Asar)…]

Barna Me Tose Nahi Bolu [Otherwise I will not speak to you anymore]

The structure of Pilu alternates between phrases which stress hope and joy and phrases where the same hopes are dashed and recede into sadness. This mesmerising mix of emotions makes Pilu an eternal source of joy and sadness – the definition of human emotion. Skilled musicians in Pilu often draw this out, inventing a myriad ways of portraying this struggle.

I was once told by an audience member that Pilu feels like a conversation where someone is telling the story of their love.

While the vast body of work in Pilu is of the romantic variety, it has been successfully adapted to other forms e.g

Mere Angane Me Tumhara Kya Kaam Hai” – a popular song from the Bollywood film

Laawaris (1981) sung by and filmed on popular actor Amitabh Bachchan.

and also:

Saare Jahan Se Accha Hindostan Hamara” – [Our country – Hindustan – is the best in the world] -a very popular patriotic song composed in Urdu by Poet Mohammed Iqbal and set to Pilu by Pandit Ravishankar, which is a fixture at National events in India and also used as a march by the Indian Army.

Mishra Pilu

The world Mishra (which means -Mixed) is used to denote variants to the raga which are acceptable but not formalised. In many ways, affixing Mishra to a raga means that the raga will be extended in directions  which are not part of the core raga. It must be kept in mind that Mishra usually is used for light ragas (e.g. you cannot have Mishra Marwa or Mishra Darbari).

Mishra Pilu allows musicians to add tasteful, subtle and aesthetically pleasing phrases to core Pilu. In doing so, they may use notes that Pilu doesn’t usually use. In the performance above, I have played a composition which uses the Tivra Ma which is not used in Pilu. These notes have to be sparingly used to embellish tastefully. Calling a raga Mishra is not an open invitation to wreck the core emotion of the raga by adding whatever you feel like !

In this Mishra Pilu, I end up using all 12 notes in various compositions.

The first one is Pilu Jungla, which used to be played by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan last century

The second one again is vintage Ustad Amjad Ali Khan – a terrific composition using the komal dha which is no longer heard commonly.

Barwa, is a raga similar to Pilu. There are two schools of Barwa : one which uses the shuddha gandhar (ga) and one which doesn’t. I’ve opted for the former.

Some Shahajahanpur compositions – I did not play a popular composition from Shahjahanpur players composed by Pt Buddhadev Dasgupta who interpreted a song composed by Tagore in Pilu called “Shedin dujone” as I wanted to focus on compositions not usually heard in the public domain….

Then onto some more serious compositions from sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan who composed a technically challenging piece where the first section (sthayi) has no gaps, the second one (manjha) has a gap of 1 beat between key phrases and the last one (antara) has a gap of 2 beats between phrases all perfectly landing correctly in the end…

It is a challenge for tabla players to hang on to the beat as the instrumentalist goes off in a completely different cycle.

And finally a fast composition by Ustad Shahid Parvez.

As always, my gratitude to gurus: Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pt Sugato Nag and Ustad Shahid Parvez.

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from a recent concert

Over this weekend (9th August), I had the opportunity to play with percussionist Shubh Maharaj…. we played Nayaki and Sughrai Kanada, and Bhimpalasi..

Here’s a brief except from one part of the concert…presented under the banner of Raag Rung – organised by Sangeet Sandhya, Melbourne…..

Raga Improvisation & Expansion

Varanasi.jpg

(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 Jhinjhoti- Continued

Here is the first video of Raga Jhinjhoti – a fast (drut) composition in 16 beat (teentaal) followed by a variant of the same composition set to the same taal.

This composition is from the Shahjahanpur Sarod Gharana, and was developed by Abdullah Khan or Mohammad Amir Khan…

Originally meant for the sarod, this has been adapted on other instruments. The composition has several rhythmic accents, which take time to learn.

The notations are :

RR MM GG, DD nn P D S R  G (Sam)

-R M PD Sn R S nn D PD, M P DD MM g RG,

SS RR g SS n D nn

P D  S R G, S R M G (RR MM GG etc)

The antara is very complex and I’ve found that a lot of musicians leave it out.

G S R M P D n P D M, P D S R GGR R S

D S R M G, D S RS N D PD, M P D MM G RG

SS RG SS n D nn P D S R G, S R MG (RR MM etc)

The key points of this composition is to stick to the rhythm. As the composition veers off  the main beat, the rhythm has to be tightly controlled. Fortunately, the composition does not veer off randomly, it still maintains the flow of the taal, so can be learnt after some practice.

Here’s a Youtube video of me playing this composition, recorded at a practice session in my room…

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)

Sthayi

g R S  D(lower) n(lower) S

Antara

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.

 

 

Raga Marwa – An evening mood

For some time now, I’ve been “besotted” by Raga Marwa. Raga Marwa is a unique raga in many respects and its characteristics can take a while to understand. The Raga goes like this

Notes of Raga Marwa:

Family (Thaat): Marwa

Ascending (Aarohan): N r G m D N S

Descending (Avrohan): S N D m G r S

Characteristic phrase (Pakad) : N(lower) D (lower) N (lower ) r,  G  m D m G r, N(lower) r S

What makes Marwa a unique raag is that Sa plays a secondary role in this raga. N D N r bypasses Sa  and builds up a tension, which is released when the Sa is finally reached. In doing so, Marwa establishes a signature distinct from its derivative ragas : Puriya and Sohini (Sohni)

On the sarod, there are hardly any Marwas recorded at all. The deep sound of the instrument suits the raga and I present here a simple composition in Vilambit Teentaal

The notations of the vilambit compositions are as follows, starting from the 12th beat:

D N R G m D – m – G R S – SS N

r- N D x x , N N S x, NN r X, G m G r, N D S

I’m going to record a few more compositions in Marwa and upload them as soon as I can…