The Difficulty of Singing Easy Ragas

Looser the Raga structure, more difficult it becomes to perform it..

Ragas are the back bone of the Indian classical music. A certain collection of notes which follows certain rules and behavior becomes a Raga. As one starts learning Indian classical music, the journey begins with practice of basic Swaras and then eventually by learning Ragas and various compositions in those Ragas. Naturally, students find some Ragas very easy to sing while others are very difficult to master due to their complex nature and arrangement of notes.

Most of the students feel that Ragas like Bhoop, Yaman, Bilawal, Kafi etc. are very easy to sing when compared with Ragas like Kedar, Chhayanat, Darbari Kanada etc. Over the years, my observation is, students find easy the Ragas which are less rigid in nature. For instance, Bilawal or Kafi, though they have certain rules and behavioral traits, they can be sung with much more freedom when compared with Ragas like Chhyanat, Kedar or Poorvi which are heavily defined by specific phrases. Mastering these phrases is very crucial in order to perform these Ragas well.

This sounds so logical. Ironically, when one performs in a concert, these simpler Ragas are more difficult to present when compared with the so called difficult Ragas. Why so?

Since these difficult Ragas are heavily defined by the phrases, they already have a readymade face or flavor. Whereas in case of the simpler Ragas, one has to create a face from scratch as there is no such readymade face in existence. For instance, if one has to perform Yaman well, one has to thoughtfully select phrases and combination that add to one particular flavor or face that the performer has selected (which will be mostly defined by the lyrics of the composition).  Loosely structured i.e. the so called simple Ragas like Yaman can convey multiple feelings, even opposite feelings like happiness and sadness. So, the performer has to eliminate or avoid certain phrases though they absolutely fall under the premise of that Raga. Mastering the difficult phrases of the so called difficult Ragas is much easier a task than creating your own phrases in a simple Raga to convey a coherent story.

It is not an uncommon scene to see young artists selecting Ragas like Yaman or Bhoop assuming that they are easy to perform and then not being able to create a consistent picture out of the overall performance. This results in a performance which is technically perfect but emotionally dry and aesthetically scattered.

That’s why, simple Ragas  like Bhoop and Yaman performed by legends like Kishori Amonkar and Kumar Gandharva have a very special place in the hearts of the music lovers!

By Mandar Karanjkar

Mandar Karanjkar is author, motivational speaker and consultant based in Pune. Mandar works with handful of organizations helping them with strategy, communication and culture. Mandar is trained in Indian Classical Music over a decade. He is a classical singer and flute player.

Mandar has written columns for many reputed newspapers. Engineer by profession, he conducts workshops and delivers talks on subjects as wide as strategy, innovation, online marketing, spirituality, Kabir, Zen etc.

Mandar is a published author.

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