Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Discovery on a Cold Evening

Shankar Jaikishen was a duo of prolific and very talented music composers who composed for over 150 Hindi movies. At one point of time, they were the highest paid music directors in the circuit and a regular feature of all Raj Kapoor banner productions.

The small town evening was cold and dull with nothing much to do. Thinking that some good Shankar-Jaikishen melodies might just brighten things up, I pushed the music DVD of Raj Kapoor songs inside the player. Half an hour later, things did brighten up with an interesting discovery and the idea for this post started taking shape in my mind.

Raga Bhairavi belongs to the Bhairavi Thaat. It is a late morning Raga, and traditionally is the last raga performed at an Indian Classical session. Shuddh Bhairavi uses all the 6 full notes in the ascending and descending order with D & E and A & B being flat. Many Hindi film composers have used this evergreen Raga to make many beautiful songs.

Out of the 11 songs that played in that half an hour, 8 were based on Raga Bhairavi.

The 8 Bhairavi laced beautiful songs were:

Awaara Hoon (Mukesh, Awaara, 1951)
Mera Joota Hai Japaani (Mukesh, Shri 420, 1955)
Sab Kucch Seekha Hamne (Mukesh, Anari, 1959)
Ramaiyya Vasta Vaiya (Manna Dey, Shri 420, 1955)
Barsaat Mein Humse Mile Tum (Lata, Barsaat, 1955)
Hawa Mein Udta Jaaye (do)
Hoton Pe Sacchai Rehti Hai (Mukesh, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, 1960)
Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat (Lata, Aah, 1953)

The duo had a great penchant for the Raga and used it beautifully and differently in all the above songs. Later my father, an expert on the subject of Old Hindi Film music and Indian Classical music informed me that all the songs of the movie Barsaat(1955) are set on variations of Raga Bharavi. Astounding!

Why were the masters so much in love with one particular Raga? We will never be able to get their answer to this question. According to me, perhaps it’s the robustness of the Raga because of the usage of all seven notes. The last song in the DVD was ‘Jeena Yahaan, Marna Yahaan’ sung by Mukesh from the movie Mera Naam Joker (1970). Once again set to Raga Bhairavi!

In a similar manner, the great composer of yesteryears, Roshan (grandfather of Hrithik Roshan) had his muse in Yaman, another beautiful Raga.

Today, barring AR Rehman, no other musician has the sense or inclination to use Raga Bhairavi, in its pure form and beautifully. Try listening to the intense ‘Enge Enathu Kavithai’ sung by Chitra from the movie Kandukondein Kandukondein or the little known ‘Sabak Aisa’ sung by Saadhna Sargam from the movie, Tehzeeb or the popular ‘Jiya Jale na Jale’ sung by Lata from the movie, ‘Dil Se’.

ps: Im' not a fan of Raj Kapoor. Just felt like making that clear.

12 comments:

Smiling Dolphin said...

thank you for this breautifually evocative educational post. everytime you write about music, of which you are obviously a connoisser, or suggest a track ot me in your comments on my blog, i wish there was a way to upload audio content. that way, we can actually get to hear the stuff as well. haven't yet figured out how to audio blog on blogger but am sure you will in 2008. as to meeting, let's leave that to chance as well...that's always more fun and more spontaneous.

meraj said...

yeah Dolphin...in fact ive been asking some of my IT nerds on this and they will get back to me...so, perhaps 2008.

and even i am of the same opinion on the 'meeting' bit.

am glad you appreciated my post.

cheers!
m

Saman said...

hey bhaiyya..the moment i started reading this one...i felt that abbu has a major contribution in this...which u mentioned later... also i was wondering as to why u have just quoted Raj kapur's songs which is very unlike you..good that u also clarified on that..
Cheers and wishing your blog a very happy new year,,,here's to some more great writings ahead!!

alien said...

baba i tried to make out the similarities in teh songs that u have mentioned but found myself helpless in understanding why u mentioned that they are all based on the same raga, but you gave me a nice task to learn, and maybe i'll need some help of your to learn it.
Cheers!!!!

meraj said...

alien,
thats the beauty of SJ compositions...same Raga but very different sounding songs. it will be better if get all these songs, put them together and listen to them carefully.
cheers!
m

POOJA NAIR said...

Yeah Alien i know what you are going through. i learnt to recognize raag yaman in a similar way...
you have to keep pondering over the songs until it strikes you. atleast thats what worked for me.

Meraj can certify for me that i can now successfully resognize raag yaman. right Meraj?

It's going to be raag bhairavi next.. :)

meraj said...

right Pooja!
for Bhairavi, you can keep the tune of Mile Sur Mera Tumhaara song (used to come in DD long ago for National unity) in your head, to start with.

cheers!
m

Saman said...

Good gyan on ragas...looking forward to some more music leasons from this blog!

mr bojangles said...

hmm.. there is a variation to Bhairavi in which B is not flat na - which is that raga?

also, it's interesting that the natural minor scale has E,A and B flat - these notes must intrinsically have a certain winsome property..

..like cheese and wine!

meraj said...

that is Raga Bhairav, mr bojangles

or like Mehendi Hasan's voice and scotch, or like Winters and Garam Chai, or like Steinbeck and English language, or like Scorsese and DeNiro, or like music and love...

cheers!
m

Shamik said...

Beautifully evocative, yah, thats my take too.

On the subject of identification, though I am not at all anywhere in terms of understanding the intricacies involved in indian classical music, even with as much as just humming the first three songs (awara - sab kuch) and the next three songs (ramaiyya - hawa), can't you realize the similarity in the first few notes in them?

This gets us to another favorite subject of research among students of music, the theory of forms and groups. In this also the scientific mind hasn't stop any short of throwing in lots of maths. Check this out, I am as scared of it as any of you.

Western music has only the notion of scale and to a certain extent modes, which we call "thaat" here. After that the composer is free to do any permutation with the notes. Mind you, the concept of polyphony that western music is so championed about, is actually a straight forward result of the physics of sound waves and is in no ways perceptive. But unlike that, in Indian classical, along with the notes comprising the raga, there are also set rules for building the melody, ie, not only the aahroh and aavroh,but even things like which Swara (notes) should figure more and which notes should be used more sparingly, which notes may be sung with gamaka, phrases to be used, phrases to be avoided, and so on (Wikipedia). All that practically translates to probably just a few possible and melodic combinations, which hopefully goes on to justify the similarity that I pointed out. :)

But even with all this strictness and snooty, stuck-up critics, our musicians have continued to give us something new, with the same old tools at their disposal and such examples as that of the post, abound.

Forgive me for another "Indian" cliche, but the vision that the earliest composers had while putting down these ragas, still holds strong and it took the west millenniums and quite advanced maths, in fact of this century, to appreciate... Why are we, where we are?

meraj said...

shamik,
for somebody who claims to be ignorant of the intricacies of 'Indian Classical Music' you seem to know a lot ont he subject. Like the modesty!

on the subject of identifying the similarity from the notes of these songs, it may not be easy for everyone. everyone isnt gifted with a sharp sense of music (though it can be developed with time) pretty much like everyone isnt born with a talent to make good food. nothing big or small about it...its just that all of us are different.

the rule of the Swaras (notes) in the Indian Classical music which you have mentioend are there in Western Classical too but in a much sparing manner. Speaking basics, the free-flowing nature of th Indian Classical music viz-a-viz the structured and written representation of Western Classical (to be followed to the T) is the most important point of difference between the two forms. Jazz and Rock come close to our culture's music form that way.

thanks for once again making me think of writing a serious piece on the differences between the two form of music.

and many thanks for that enlightened piece of comment.

cheers!
m