The first rains of Bombay happened last evening and my friend & me were lucky enough to get caught in it. Though it also brings memories and fear of troubled times (26/7, as branded by the media), all were happy and smiling, including the leaves on the trees, which got a wash. And in my mind I was elated that the rains responded to my invitation. I had invited them by playing (on my music system) 3 kinds of ‘Malhar’ the previous evening. Sur Malhar by Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Gaud Malhar by Pt. Jasraj and Megh Malhar by Rashid Khan.
One of the most unique characteristics of Indian music is the assignment of definite times of the day and night and seasons for performing Raga melodies. There are some Ragas, which are very attractive in the early hours of the mornings, Bhairav or Lalit for example; others, which appeal in the evenings e.g. Yaman & Khamaj, yet others, which spread their fragrance only, near the midnight hour, like Malkauns & Bhopali. Then there are certain Ragas like Malhar and Bahar which invoke the season or the sentiments of that season in the listeners / musician’s mind. No other culture in the world can boast of this kind of richness and depth in the construction of their music.
Now, Raga Malhar comes in various kinds. Slight change in one note here and there in the basic scale of Malhar can turn it into a Sur Malhar or Miyan Ki Malhar. According to the legend, when the summer heat would get beyond tolerance levels of human beings, Tansen, the court singer would sing Miyan ki Malhar (the most famous type and constructed by Tansen himself))…the heat would get drowned in the heavy showers and the great Monsoons of India would announce itself. The same happened last evening bacause of the music by the modern day Tansens (though Rashid Khan doesn’t deserve this adjective). Thats how I the romantic in me choses to look at it.
Coming back to the last evening…cars started honking in gay chaos of the moment, people started running half-heartedly towards the nearest shelter, my leather sandals got wet and amidst all this that special smell arose from the earth…that smell of rains making love to the earth after a gap of one full year!
Then we got into a theater to watch a decent effort by adman Balki, called ‘Cheeni Kum’. The gentleman sitting next to me kept laughing and commenting loudly on every little joke/unjoke of the movie. Reckon the movie is doing good business!
My latest trip:
The two songs I have been listening to almost everyday for the last fortnight. Both are by CSN, both are from their self-titled first album (1969) and both are a trip.
1. Wooden Ships (co-written by Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane and hence appears in their first album too): The song as one of the best opening lines in rock history, “If you smile at me I will understand, that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language"
2. Long Time Gone: This song was written as a response to Robert Kennedy’s assassination