Fifty Shades of Yaman

Every student of Indian Classical Music, at the very beginning of his student life, learns Raga Yaman. Similarly, every performing artist, sometime or the other has played or sung this Raga during his career as a musician.

In the world of Indian Classical Music, Yaman certainly has a spot which can hardly be taken by any other Raga. As a student of music, I was exposed to this Raga at a very young age and since then, have been listening to its renderings, by different artists.

Though considered as one of the simplest Ragas, presenting Yaman in a concert is a tough task.

I personally feel that Yaman is a multi-faceted Raga. It has multiple dimensions and multiple personalities hidden inside. Not every Raga is like this. For instance, consider Malkauns. Though Malkauns has a wide canvas, its personality is very well defined. In spite of artist and her creativity, the persona of Malkauns remains quite fixed. May be this is the reason why even beginners can also easily identify Malkauns when it’s being played by some artist- the persona is unique, well defined and hence, easy to grasp.

Yaman is not like that. Though it has well defined notes and patterns, artist has wide freedom to construct the personality. We cannot have fifty shades of Malkauns but we can certainly have fifty or even hundred shades of Yaman.

I have been listening to Yaman for quite few years and many times, heard it live, from different artists. What I realized is, though Yaman is capable of casting its fifty shades, artists fail to build a personality out of it. Listening to most of the renderings of Yaman, one realises that artists get caught in the shades, without being able to build a persona on any one dimension.

Is it necessary to build a persona? What is wrong if someone exposes the audience to different shades of Yaman instead of building on any one particular shade?

While exposing audience to multiple shades is not wrong, not building a persona clearly indicates the lack of understanding of the Raga and its nuances.

Every Raga is like a person and every person has a personality. We love a person because of his personality; if the personality is missing or not defined, it becomes difficult. Same with a Raga. A Raga has to have a personality. In case of a Raga like Yaman, artist has to explore different shades or the different facets of the personality and then build one in front of the audience; the one that the artist likes the most.

Sometimes, a person we know very well behaves strangely, in an absolutely unexpected way; this makes the relationship interesting. Similarly, an artist, though he is building the Raga around one particular facet, skilfully introduces some other shades, making the Raga even more interesting and unpredictable.

Out of all the Yamans that I have heard, I liked two renderings the most. First is Pt. Kumar Gandharva, who builds a very nice personality and makes it more interesting using his creativity and unmatched imagination.

The second one is Yaman by Pt. Nityanand Haldipur. Out of all the Yamans I heard, his one has the best personality- sober, humble yet graceful.


Jhinjhoti- The song of hopelessness

Sometimes I just wonder about some Ragas and moods they create. There are more than hundreds of Ragas in Indian Classical Music, each different from the others. I wonder what led to creation of so many ragas. Some say Ragas were ultimately created by picking up some phrases from folk music which sounds quite reasonable. But I don’t think this is true for all Ragas. I feel some ragas are indeed created by some persons, saints or meditators to be precise and then these tunes came into folk or classical music.

What makes me think so is the feelings created by these ragas. A common man is far from feeling these emotions and hence a raga portraying these emotions won’t come from him.

I think Jhinjhoti is such a Raga. I listened to it first time when I was a tenth standard student. I had purchased a cassette in which Pt. Kumar Gandharva had sung this Raga.

“Its so boring and sad kind of raga”, I had muttered and had almost concluded that I wasted my money on this record. Many of my friends who are learning Indian Classical Music often do not take troubles to listen to this Raga as it is utterly sad and boring.

I remember those days when I was a heavy meditator, somewhere around first or second year of engineering. I happened to listen to Rasdhara, an album where Pt. Shivkumar Sharma and Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia have played Raga Jhinjhoti together.

During those days, I had started to realize that I need to find my own way. Rather it was a beginning of the journey within. During those days, for the first time I had tasted the situation where one does not have any hopes. It was rather a state of hopelessness but quite different than usual hopelessness. The Jhinjhoti played by Pt. Shivkumar Sharma and Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia together was a perfect potion. I remember watching people running on a narrow street right from my balcony while listening to Jhinjhoti played by these two stalwarts I still remember the way I saw it- utterly mechanical, running blindly behind their hopes or even for satisfying others’ hopes. We are hopeless when some hope which we projected does not get fulfilled. Hope is the engine which keeps our lives moving. And when certain hope is not fulfilled or destroyed, we become hopeless. This hopelessness lasts until we find a different set of hopes.

The hopelessness which I faced at that time was quite different, it was a state where you realize this complete cycle of hope and hopelessness. At that time, you are totally stagnant- as the engine to pull you is missing. Raga Jhinjhoti rather sings out this state of ‘no hope’. Those who have not tasted this kind of hopelessness find it sad and boring.

Since that point, Jhinjhoti is not boring, but a companion on the way. I met many versions of Jhinjhoti so far, some resonating with my understanding and some not.

I could feel this flavor in the Jhinjhoti played by Pt. Nityanand Haldipur. It makes you silent- taking you away and making you a witness to your own mind and your own hopes. It rather reminds me of the sea outside Guruma’s house, having infinite turbulence and energy but still without any hopes.

Another Jhinjhoti, the one to which I am listening while writing this article is the one sung by Pt. Kumar Gandharva, the same which I had found boring a few years ago. At that time, I was certainly a guy who had many hopes and wanted to fulfill them. It is quite reasonable that I refused to enjoy Jhinjhoti at that time. I think the correct time had not yet come at that time.

I have listened to Jhinjhoti played or sung live by many great artists. Not all of them pitch the same flavor and I do not expect them to do so. But when I listen to any rendering of Jhinjhoti, I always see if this intangible ‘hopelessness’ pours out of it or not, but I certainly do not ‘hope’ that it should always exist.


Raga Shuddha Kalyan

Some memories have some Ragas associated with them. And same Raga when performed by different maestros creates memorable moments.

Raga Shuddha Kalyan is such a Raga, performed by different artists, by their beautiful styles, pouring out their elevated souls. I have been listening to this melodious Raga Shuddha Kalyan probably since I was in womb of my mother. It was Raga Shuddha Kalyan performed by Pt. Bhimsen Joshi in a very famous records series Maestro’s Choice. I have heard so many Shuddha Kalyan by various artists;but, this is the most touching one. Pt. Bhimsen Joshi sings two very profound compositions composed by Sadarang, in his crafted voice. One is very famous, Mundar bajo re and other, Ras Bhini Bhini. I am listening to this record for almost 21 years now, but still it has charm. It is still as magical as it was 21 years ago. This is real magic, which is alive eternally. I cannot forget Bhimsen Joshi for his Raga Shuddha Kalyan.

Pt. Jasraj has also sung Raga Shuddha Kalyan, which is very delicate and mesmerizing.  I have heard Ustaad Shujaat Hussain Khan performing live Raga Shuddha Kalyan in Pune. Such a huge man, holding a comparatively small Sitar in his strong hands  and playing it utterly delicately. Perhaps, this was the moment when Raga Shuddha Kalyan entered my soul and created a special place in my soul. Sitar is probably most feminine instrument. Ustaad Shujaat Hussain Khan has a heart which is very soft. His finger are more delicate than any woman here on the earth. Combination of all this creates Raga Shuddha Kalyan, which is beyond doubt unforgettable.