Category Archives: Hindustani Classical Music

Sumiran Karle

Guru NanakAfter a week spent travelling, I zone in on my music today like a traveller zones in on water after a week in the desert. What my soul needs today is a bhajan to soothe away the tiredness of travel. I hesitate not a minute before playing this beautiful song in Raga Sindhu Bhairavi.

I love this beautiful raga so very much! Perhaps because of its name, I imagine myself in the sacred banks of the river Indus, as the day dawns golden, the fertile plains of Sindh stretching all around me, a gentle breeze wafting in the sounds of Guruji singing this bhajan, my eyes flowing like the river beside me.

Who doesn’t know Guru Nanak (1469-1539)? The founder of Sikhism, he stressed the importance of Naam Japan – chanting of God’s name and remembering Him at all times. In this beautiful composition, the Guruji extolls  ‘Remember his name, life is passing by’. He then goes on to compare a life without God’s name in many different ways – ‘A tree without fruits’, ‘Earth without clouds’ etc. His advice is  to ‘Leave lust, anger, pride and greed’. The words are beautiful with a flow enhanced by the raga in which they are set. I have transcribed the lyrics below. For the full translation, see footnote.

सुमिरन कर ले मेरे मना तेरी बीती जाती  उमर हरी नाम बिना रे ||
कूप नीर बिन धेनु क्षीर बिन धरती मेघ बिना |
जैसे तरुवर फल बिन हीना तैसे प्राणी हरी नाम बिना रे ||
देह नैन बिन रैन चन्द्र बिन मंदिर दीप बिना |
जैसे पंडित वेद विहीना तैसे प्राणी हरी नाम बिना रे ||
काम क्रोध मद लोभ निवारो छाड़ दे अब संत जना |
कह नानक तू सुन भगवंता या जग में नहीं कोई अपना ||

To present this song, I have found a remarkable and unique concert by the inimitable Pandit Jasraj of the Hindustani tradition accompanied by the Violin Maestro L.Subramaniam of the Carnatic tradition and his wife Kavita Subramaniam, famous for her singing in the Hindi film industry.  It is to L.Subramaniam’s credit that in spite of his name and fame, he has played a supporting role to his elder.

 


Footnote 1: Translation

Remember God, O mind of mine, life is passing by without remembering his name.

Like a well without water, a cow without milk, like earth without clouds,
Like trees without fruits, so is a being without God’s name .

Like a body without eyes, like a night without a moon, like a temple without a lamp,
Like a learned man without scriptures, so is a being without God’s name.

Be rid of lust, anger, pride and greed, O good people!
Nanak says listen O seekers, no one in this world is your own.

 

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Filed under Bhajan, Guru Nanak, Hindustani Classical Music, Jasraj, Kavita Subramaniam, L.Subramaniam

Katyaayani

Durga

It is the night before the great battle. Brother was going to be pitted against brother, disciples against their gurus, sons against their fathers. On such a night, Lord Krishna, the divine charioteer, advices Arjuna, our hero, to pray to Goddess Durga to achieve victory over his enemies (Bhishma Parva, Section XXIII of Mahabharata).

Arjuna creates this beautiful hymn, the third verse of which is –

कात्यायनि महा-भागे, करालि विजये जये,
शिखि पिच्छ-ध्वज-धरे, नानाभरण-भूषिते।।

O Durga! Great Being, fierce bestower of victory! O Personification of victory! You who bear a banner of peacock plumes, you who are bedecked with every kind of ornament!

The fourth and fifth verses are given below. Bombay Jayashri has sung them in her album Salokyam with slight differences.

अट्टशूलप्रहरणे  खड्ग-खेटक-धारिणे,
गोपेन्द्रस्यानुजे ज्येष्ठे नन्द-गोप-कुलोद्भवे||

She who wields a lofty spear, the holder of sword and shield, born as the younger sister of the chief of cow-herds (Lord Krishna), eldest child of the family of the cowherd Nanda.

महिषासृक्-प्रिये नित्यं कौशिकि पीत-वासिनि
अट्टहासे कोक-मुखे, नमस्तेऽस्तु रण-प्रिये||

She who is fond of buffalo’s blood, born of Kushika’s clan, draped in yellow garments. She who laughs aloud, is wolf-faced (legend of killing of asuras in the form of a wolf). I bow to you who are fond of battle.

The Goddess grants Arjuna a vision and blesses him. A beautiful and powerful sloka, it is a prayer to Shakti (power and potency).

I normally do not like my classical music to be messed with; I like its purity, its ageless quality so I don’t take to fusion music. Yet the music I have selected today falls into that category. It is a beautiful combination of two Voices (capital intended) which stroke every sensory input that you could have as a human. The song is titled Katyaayani and it is by Bombay Jayashri in Raga Durga and Ustad Rashid Khan in Raga Charukeshi. To learn more about the raga Durga, click here. To learn more about Charukesi, click here.

Bombay Jayashri’s album Salokyam has her singing Katyaayani Maha Bhage with more traditional accompaniments. Listen to track 5  here to appreciate her beautiful voice.

 

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Filed under Bombay Jayashri, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Hindustani Classical Music, Rashid Khan

Krishna : Channulal Mishra

krishna_from_the_heart_of_benaras_audio_cd_icj038[1]

Have you ever felt that all the electrons in your body have decided to quit their orbits and are madly jumping from cell to cell, creating havoc? That your mind has shattered into so many fragments that you are not whole anymore? In fact, you don’t know what it is that you refer to as ‘I’ ?

There is a cure for you! What you need is music which cajoles all the electrons to their correct orbits, get them whizzing about in perfect synchronisation so that your body feels at peace. You need music which collect all those fragmented bits of your mind and bring them together to form a light, a flame of a lamp, perfect and luminous. And when the music is right, the notes of the music will weave about this flame in a dance, like planes on a formation flying intricate patterns, and in joy this flame will burn brighter and brighter.

You don’t need to sit in Lotus Position to achieve this. Scrubbing the kitchen floor, ironing a mountain of shirts, walking in the fields, long distance driving on quiet roads or lying in a hammock watching patterns in the clouds – all of these are suitable states to be in when listening to this ‘becoming whole again’ kind of music.  Today I offer you just the CD for that.

Channulal Mishra (born 1936) is a Hindustani Classical music maestro with a voice like melted honey.  This CD is my long time favourite and lulls me invariably into a very peaceful state. I recommend listening uninterrupted to the whole album here to get the full benefit of this ‘treatment’. If you have only little time to devote to yourself, then here’s a sample to whet your appetite.

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Together: Saxophone & Bansuri

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one name which any fan of Carnatic Music will think of if the Sax is mentioned is that of Kadri Gopalnath. I can’t quite remember when I first heard his music. But this I remember : I was immediately captivated. I had of course listened before to the Nadaswaram and the Shehnai, wind instruments which are used for auspicious music (e.g. for weddings) in the South and North respectively. The sound of Carnatic music on the sax sounded equally auspicious to me. In fact, Gopalnath’s initial training had been on the Nadaswaram, so this is not surprising.

I have always loved the Indian Bamboo flute, whether it be the Bansuri as played in the North or the slightly different Venu (Pullanguzhal) as played in the South of India. I have listened spellbound to Hariprasad Chaurasia’s music since childhood and from the South, stalwarts like T.R.Mahalingam and  N.Ramani. Sashank’s music has been a staple for me ever since he emerged into the Carnatic Music world. I believe that the lyricism of Indian Classical Music finds an appropriate voice on the flute.

All this to introduce one of my favourite albums !

I came upon this lovely CD about 20 years back in which Kadri Gopalnath & Ronu Mazumdar present an incomparable Jugalbandi.  And what a lovely marriage it is, the gutsy sound of the Sax with the seductive cooing of the Bansuri! The album has given me much pleasure over the years and now my son is equally fond of it. 20 dollars for 20 years of pleasure….it’s a good bargain indeed! You can listen to the album Together on Music India Online.

For those who prefer visuals, here is a playlist of some good music by this duo on Youtube.

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Hindustani Classical Music, Kadri Gopalnath, Ronu Majumdar

The One Album to Have

Indian Classical Music

 

If for some reason you are allowing yourself only ONE Indian Classical Music album, which one would it be?

Indian Classical Music covers two major Classical traditions – Carnatic Music and Hindustani Music. So to be ‘Indian’ the album would need include both.  And therefore, I propose this extraordinarily marvellous album.

Album : South Meets North (1983)

Label : EMI G/ECSD 2932, 1983 Re-published by Saregama

Artist : Lalgudi Jayaraman (Sept 17, 1930)

Artist : Amjad Ali Khan (Oct 9, 1945)

 

I have had this album since the mid-eighties and I still haven’t tired of it. What makes this so special? The Maestros play their instruments with a skill that ordinary mortals can only dream about. Lalgudi Jayaraman traces his illustrious lineage to  a disciple of Saint Tyagaraja (1767-1847), one of the pillars of Carnatic Music. Amjad Ali Khan is the sixth generation of the equally illustrious Bangash lineage. Both play stringed instruments and the sounds complement and contrast perfectly.  Lalgudi Jayaraman plays the violin in his own unique style which mimics the vocal style of Carnatic music, with beautifully smooth transitions, waves of melody and rhythm caressing all ours senses. Amjad Ali Khan plays the Sarod, like ripples on a smooth lake at times, like cascading waterfalls at others. This confluence of Southern and Northern traditions means that the music is almost all improvised (the composed pieces are region specific). The call-and-response in this album is an education in music.   A jewel of an album.

Listen to the album on Music India Online here.

To my great joy, I recently found videos of Lalgudi Jayaraman and Amjad Ali Khan on Youtube. I cannot begin to explain how joyous that first viewing was! These are two men I have loved and admired for years and here they were, playing right in front of me!! I knew their music, now I saw how they interacted with each other and even ‘played’ with the percussionists! Their music is so wonderful! I know I am gushing, but oh, this is an old love affair….a cradle-to-graveyard crush….

There are two performances online. The first one of Raga Hindolam (one of the ragas on the featured CD)

part 1, part 2  and part 3 (sorry, embedding not allowed)

The other video features the Raga Simhendramahdyamam. Play special attention to the interplay between the artists starting 21:07..its magic!

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Hindustani Classical Music, Lalgudi Jayaraman

Music to keep from 2010 (Part 2)

2nd Place

Album : Ishqiya

Song : Badi Dheere Jali

Music : Vishal Bharadwaj

Lyrics : Gulzar

Singer : Rekha Bharadwaj

 

My choice for 2nd place in my ‘Keepers for 2010’ list is this little gem from Ishqiya.  I admit, I am biased towards classical music, and even within Bollywood music, I tend to like the more traditional songs. Compliments to Rekha Bharadwaj for having beautifully rendered this song in Raga Lalit. I paid attention to the words once I realised they were by Gulzar but honestly it works for me on music alone. The clip below plays the songs to the stills from the movie.

Badi Dheere Jali–Rekha Bharadwaj

There is another song in this film which is noteworthy, though it doesn’t make my list  – ‘Dil to baccha hai ji’ by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. The clip below is wonderful, see how Naseeruddin Shah emotes with his eyes. What a fantastic actor !!

Dil To Baccha Hai Ji–Rahat Fateh Ali Khan

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Filed under Bollywood 10's Music, Hindustani Classical Music, Rekha Bharadwaj

Homage to Pundit Bhimsen Joshi

February 4, 1922 – January 24, 2011

When the Great Ones of this earth pass away, one can mourn only silently. What accolades can I give to someone who has already been the reigning regent of Hindustani Classical music for decades? The quest of an Indian Classical musician is, it seems to me, to become one with the music. To realise the Hindu precept of तत् त्वम् असि (‘Tat Tvam Asi) : Thou Art That/That Thou Art. To merge oneself into one’s notes until the music and the musician become an inseparable whole. Pundit Bhimsen Joshi certainly achieved that; when he sang, HE was music. And with his passing, we have all lost something precious beyond words. Today, while I mourn our loss, I also exalt in my fortune in having his music in my life, for this music will be with me forever.

Here is a good article about his early life and his quest for a Guru.

To celebrate his life, I present the following Bhajan from his wonderful CD called Bhakti (also published as Krishna Kahiye Ram Japiye), with four wonderful songs, which has given me great listening pleasure over the last twenty odd years. 

Album : Bhakti (Krishna Kahiye Ram Japiye)

Music : Srinivas Khale

Lyrics : Brahmanand

Song : Jo Bhaje Hari Ko Sada

Raga (in Carnatic system) : Sindhu Bhairavi

 

As the song says, ‘He who thinks of God all the time, is the one who will reach the Ultimate’.

Pundit Bhimsen Joshi has reached the Ultimate.

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Filed under Bhajan, Bhimsen Joshi, Hindustani Classical Music