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.