Ever woken up to the scent of incense early in the morning? Listening to Pundit Jasraj singing the Vilambit Ektaal composition “Rasia Mhara” in Ahir Bhairav in his heady Mewati style has that effect. The Mewati style or gharana, as the name suggests, originated from the Mewar region in Rajasthan and co-founded by Ustad Ghagge Nazir Khan and Ustad Wahid Khansaheb. While the Mewati style of singing closely mimics the older Gwalior musical tradition it bares a composite of some truly inimitable elements. Combining the dual divinity of ‘Kitankari’ and Sufi influences, its sargam-dominant filigreed approach is among its chief highlights, to be acquired after years of rigorous practice.

Personally speaking, Ahir Bhairav has remained a favorite for years. That’s because I can identify with its character- maverick and rebellious, refusing to be pinned down to specifics. Pt. Bhatkhande, the foremost grammarian of Hindustani classical music, had the hardest time in the world trying to fit this radicalist into his inexorable thaat framework.  Like most north Indian ragas, Ahir Bhairav too has a Carnatic equivalent or counterpart. In the present case it is Raga Chakravaka. In an interesting aside, Chakravaka is also the name of a bird, a ruddy goose, referenced in ancient texts including the ‘Sundara Kand’ version of Valmiki’s Ramayana. Just witness a portion of the passage highlighting Hanuman’s surreptitious visit to Lanka: “And of some other women, necklaces made with cat’s eye gems resembled birds called kadambas and for some others golden chains were like Chakravaka birds…”

Chakravaka birds symbolize lust in the mythical context, yet there is nothing remotely lusty about Ahir Bhairav as it signifies Bhakti or spiritualism. A raga of sunrise, it works great for meditation and yoga practitioners.

The next composition in Alhaiya Bilawal in this melody-scape is a masterly stroke. The most widely performed raga in the sprawling Bilawal family, it is a typical breakfast melody to be heard or rendered at 9 am, just after Ahir Bhairav. Like your morning coffee it is heady, strong, and aura-filled. Ghazal aficionados are not likely to forget the soul-stirring nazm by Jagjit Singh, Baat niklegi to door talak jayegi… set to the mellow tones of Alhaiya Bilawal.

Let it also be known that the Indian national anthem is based on Alhaiya Bilawal whose genesis, like Ahir Bhairav, is shrouded in ambiguity. With its lineage established in Bilawal the raga’s kinship to the now-extinct Alhaiya remains, at best, a clouded memory.

Ebullient tans and evocative sargam alaaps punctuate the compositions in the grand Mewati style, the hallmark of the great maestro. The album produced by RPG, Morning to Midnight Ragas, is an indulgence to the ears.

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25 responses »

  1. nadi says:

    thank you, Indrani.
    please please write about Music regularly.

  2. Indrani Talukdar says:

    Oh yes, I used to sing during college festivals. Shardendu’s from my college and I was replying to his message. It sounds like a nice idea, all of us getting together.

  3. shardendu says:

    It was really wonderful reading. I did not know your amazing writting skill. Your contribution in the field of music by writing this kind of article will be acknowledged in times to come . Excellent work and keep doing good jobs.

    • Indrani Talukdar says:

      Thanks Shardendu. You do remember me singing during festivals don’t you?

      • Dear Indra,

        You used to sing during festivals? That’s some very nice news. Maybe, sometime in the near future, if and when all of us are able to have a get-together somewhere, we shall sit down to hear some melodious notes from our very own Indrani:)

  4. sonal shree says:

    My general knowledge has improved after reading this blog. I had never bothered to think about the National Anthem being based on some raga(of course, every song is based on a raga but somehow National Anthem had been only one thing for me- a National Anthem!)
    Now I know it, thanks to you. Will put up this question before some people in my family and see if they can answer it 😉

  5. beyniaz says:

    Very nice one, Indrani. Am a lot more knowledgeable after reading this.

  6. Dear Indra,

    I would have expected nothing lesser than this…

    Your write-up reveals your knowledge, interest and passion for music. I listen to music off and on – all kinds actually but cannot claim to be a specialist (even while listening) of any one. So, I appreciate your post greatly much more for this…

    Cheers.

    • Indrani Talukdar says:

      Thanks Shail, for your lovely comment Like I told shernaz, appreciation is the main thing. You would notice that i do not introduce too many technicalities wanting to make music reachable to all.

      • Dear Indra,

        I know it. That’s why when you said you wanted to write a musical review I was all for it. Because I know you will make it ‘reachable’ as you said to the aam aadmi/aurat or even the non-musical kind.

  7. Shernaz says:

    I am not much into classical music and would be totally at sea(knowledge wise), but do appreciate Pandit Jasraj and listen to him sometimes. This is a very educative write-up for an ignoramus like me. Greatly appreciate it and will look forward to more.

    • Indrani Talukdar says:

      You know Shernaz, appreciation is good enough. it means your mind’s working right, honestly. I once spoke to Pt. Jasraj over the phone- it felt great!

  8. Geetashree Chatterjee says:

    Indrani, absolutely divine. Intrigued by your note on “Raag Alhaiya”. I did not know that it is one of the “lost’ ragas. I am a die hard fan of Pundit Jasraj. His ‘thumri ang gayaki” adds an indescribable dimension to all his classical renditions. I would request you to write a review sometime on his Haveli Sangeet also that is if it is okay with you.

    • Indrani Talukdar says:

      Thanks Geetashree. Alhaiya, for that matter Abhiri, the (alleged) progenitor of Ahir Bhairav, are both unknown. I t’d live to write about haveli sangeet sometime, surely.

  9. Mira Pawar says:

    Great piece Indrani! I was not aware of the morning raga…..very enlightening!! While reading, it seemed like i was traveling to another planet…..Really enjoyed reading.

  10. Indrani Talukdar says:

    Thanks Vimala and a Happy New Year! It seems you understandCarnatic music rather well, do you?

    • vimalaramu says:

      Well, I have been trained in South Indian Classical music for 10 years like any south girl. I do understand it very well though I cannot produce/reproduce as well as the maestros. But then they say, to say whether an egg is good or bad, you need not lay an egg yourself !!!

  11. vimala ramu says:

    A very interesting, informative write up, Indrani. I love reading your articles about music. I have heard Pt. Jasraj quite a lot though I don’t understand the North Indian style so well.

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