Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Practical Introduction to Indian Classical Music

Kartikey Sehgal

(Based on a talk by the author)

 So Indian classical music has taken a beating, you say. What is it’s use, you say. You don’t understand it, or don’t want to. Here is an introduction of how super it is - And important for you to be able to appreciate music and poetry. [photo source]

And joining me is the king of ghazals, Mehdi Hassan, who departed recently so as to sing with Mr. God. But as per the Sanatana Dharma, his soul stays back among us.

Now that Mehdi Hassan is no more, people can go about their business. Epitaphs have been written, tributes are done away with. Newspaper-wallahs await another death of another cult personality.

Let us, you and I, the champions of art and culture, see what Mehdi has given us.

He has given us ‘classical ghazals’ - classical poetry + classical music. Mehdi has given us demonstrations of the use of the raga in his compositions. He has, time and again, explained to the audience of what he is doing, and how he has composed the poem. He has described his variations and rightly boasted of how he is so cool as a singer and composer.

On to the example.

In this video - and you better watch it fully, with the introduction - he tells you about what went into composing one of the most powerful compositions. He employs raga Mian ki Malhar to tell you that ‘if the destination itself walks to me only then (i might reach)
(for) the desire for the destination is no more and has become (or made me) immobile’ [source: Meenakshi Madhur]

This raga is often hailed as the raga of the rains. You may have heard this popular song from a Hindi film;
‘Bole re Papihara’. It is also set in the same raga. Mian ki Malhar.
Malhar is the original raga. Mr. Tansen’s variations give it the polite prefix ‘Mian’ (from Mian Tansen).

Before getting the feel of the raga, read the translation of the poem Mehdi sings. This is by a user from the website ExperienceProject.

The first couplet of the ghazal translated by this unknown user:

Ek Bas Tu Hi Nahin Mujhase Kafa Ho Baitha
Mainne Jo Sang Taraasha Tha Kuda Ho Baitha....!!!

*so now you are angry with me as well.....i have no complains because you are not the only one who have complains.......!! whoever i have chiseled on the anvil of love becomes God and thus gets beyond the reach of my mortal hands....!!!!! .

You are angry but I have no complaints, coz that’s how you are. That’s life. That’s my fate. I do nice things but stone turns to dust. Now listen to Mehdi sing it out. See how the tune goes.

He first explains to you the raga, sings the swaras associated with the raga, a short aalap. Then tells you how cool he is in singing a note not present in the harmonium.

Have you listened to classical musical performances? They have long, long aalaps (introductions). Consider this as a short aalap. And be glad he tells you about it.

Now go to the website and see the translation for the other couplets. Then come back to the video.

This is one among many of Mehdi’s ghazals where he brings out the importance and beauty of classical music. Some other time, it should be possible to discuss his singing prowess.

Listen post 6:00 mark in the video to see his variation. Here is a man who knows the swaras, can combine them artfully, can bring variety - variety in the combination of swaras set over the same line.

So what all you know from this ghazal:
Raga Mian ki Malhar + its swaras-how it sounds + the meaning of the poetry + using the raga to bring out the meaning.

You have stated that you find pride in this ghazal, a sense of complaint, plus the way he sings makes him appear angry and bashful about life and people. You have also stated that the ghazal is sung as an advice/ wisdom lessons to people.

As per your life experiences, you will interpret the mood variedly. Art has done its job.

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