Raga Hamsadhwani, created by the eminent musician Ramaswamy Dikshitar (1735-1817), is said to be Lord Ganesha’s favourite raga. A Carnatic import, it sits comfortably in the Hindustani pantheon, like a well-adapted migrant. Given the raga’s propensity towards a sort of divine playfulness and merriness, it is easy to understand its inception in north Indian classical music inspired by Ustad Aman Ali Khan of the Bhendibazaar gharana. The latter, known for its stress on breath control and ‘open-voiced’ singing, is simply apt in terms of justifying the existence and popularity of the super-ethereal pentatonic melody.
A raga popularized by a Bhendibazaar exponent sounds no less exotic, though, in the full-throated rendition of the Patiala doyenne, Begum Parveen Sultana who, commencing her tarana in Hamsadhwani with a short insidious alaap, fills the senses with her crisp, filigreed singing. Her easy command over not three but five or six octaves makes the listening experience a truly magical one. The Patiala ornamentation, so obvious in her rendition, somehow, does not deter the discerning listener.
The tarana is the sort of gayaki that becomes a singer’s forte only after long relentless riyaaz. Begum Sultana sets the tarana rolling with some brilliant truly phrasings in the nom tom mode resembling alankaars. She gets the tempo going with the immediacy of a heart pang. The performance never sinks to the level of verbal juggelery or vocal gymnastics- usually a temptation for lesser artistes. The Begum is truly a queen!
Do log on to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piLxdDDNlSI and pay a tribute.