Gopal Nayak’s Kanada – Raga Nayaki Kanada

In the pantheon of ragas of the North Indian (Hindustani) tradition, Kanada ragas have a special place. This genre of ragas have no direct equivalent in the South Indian (Carnatic) system. The ragas which form part of this group have unique  Hindustani music characteristics- the slow undulation of certain notes without any additional ornamentation (e.g. gamakas).

Well known Kanada ragas include Darbari Kanada, Nayaki Kanada, Kafi Kanada etc. There are but a handful of such ragas

Nayaki Kanada is attributed to the musician Gopal Nayak (variously called Nayak Gopal) whose life is variously documented as court musician of Devagiri and/or the Delhi Sultan Allauddin Khilji.

He is also believed to be the founder of the Kirana gharana.

As with most historical documentation of Hindustani music, none of these are completely proven and musical historians often disagree.

Irrespective of the origin of the raga, here are some details of Nayaki Kanada

A strict ascent and descent for Nayaki is almost useless as the essence of the raga is through its progression, which is not linear.

In fact the progression can be quite confusing as rules followed in one set are often broken in the next.  Well, they are consistent if you understand and feel the raga. If you are simply following it by rote learning (e.g. have no emotional appreciation of the raga) you will continue to be bewildered by apparently contradictory note progressions.

This is why ragas like Nayaki are usually meant for those at intermediate or advanced level of raga studies. For lay listeners, it just sounds nice, which is fine.

Some progressions:

1.n (lower) S R,

S R g (heavy andolan around g, as a Kanada raga)

M R n(Lower) S R n (Iower) P(Lower)

2. n (lower) S R P, M P n P, Mp g,  MM (gamak) R S R

3. n(lower) P (lower) R,  n R R S (like Darbari)



Nayaki has some beautiful vocal compositions. On instruments, the sarod, with its natural strength in the Kanada notes (komal ga and komal dha) really brings out the serious flavour of Nayaki.

I have documented three compositions: two from Late Pandit Buddhadev Dasgupta ji and one from Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. The latter has rarely performed Nayaki and few recordings exist. This composition was picked up during a live performance that I was attending as his student.

The compositions from Buddhadev ji are special to me as I first heard them as a boy of around 10. I was mesmerised by his playing and although I could not identify the raga (a 10 year old accurately identifying Nayaki Kanada would qualify him/her as a bonafide prodigy !!) it stuck in my memory

Decades later I learnt these compositions from his senior disciple, sitar exponent Pandit Sugato Nag.

This composition has an exceedingly hard antara which becomes highly risky at speed. This is probably why this antara is rarely played in public. In my survey of recordings of Panditji, this antara was not played – substituted by a simplified form which is technically easier. The difficulty comes from maintaining accuracy of notes which are very wide apart at such speeds. I have given it  shot.