Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dover Lane Music conference and Indian Classical music

I have been fascinated by Hindustani classical music. When I was only 8 years old I used to learn drawing, poetry and Tabla from Bani Chakra, opposite Deshapriya Park, with the insistence of my mother.

Later with the insistence of Mainakda, my maternal cousin, I started learning Tabla from Shri Anil Palit (Mainakda is also a disciple of Guruji) , disciple of Pt Kishen Maharaj, legend of Benaras Gharana. He is a recipient of highest civilian award Bharat Ratna. He fled his house at a young age to be trained under Pt Kishen Maharaj at Benaras. After entering the class I was suppose to do Pranam/blessing by touching his feet (which I used to dislike and often avoided it, until I am reminded by him to do it!!!) and buy Pan for him (which I rarely did!!!) .

In fact Didi (my sister) , Mita(my cousin) and Bubludi (our neighbour) , later , used to learn classical vocal music from Deoshankarji ( closed friend of Anil Palit ) , because of insistence of Chorda (Supriyo Datta - another cousin , Professor in Engg. of Purdue University ,USA and a great lover of music. Every year he used to come to Calcutta during winter holidays. Since we also used to idolize him, Didi and Mita (di) could not refuse him. He is an authority on Nano Technology in all over the world. I have been told, he might even get Nobel Prize for his seminal work). Anil Palit used to play Tabla in the class (like all Ustads his knowledge of vocal was also very good and used to supplement Deoshankarji when he was absent). Didi, Mita and Bubludi sometimes used to come to our house for reyaz (practice) in the afternoon under the guidance of my mother. Every year on an auspicious day we used to have Guru Purnima , where he had to worship him and all other gurus of Benaras Gharana( or Benaras school of music) like Kanthe Maharaj, Kishen Maharaj and of course Anil Palit. In the evening of Guru Purnima, we used to go Lake Road (Kolkata- 29) to Sanghamitra Gupta's house for an evening soiree. There I saw Anil Palit playing some amazing Tabla - often one hand. He used to utter words like "Ki Vichitra....." and then play it in Tabla.

Anyway, my talent of music was extremely poor and could not progress much. After some Didi and Mita stopped going to the class. But I became attracted to Hindustani Classical music thanks to some captivating records of Nikhil Bannerjee (Malkauns) and Shiv Kumar Sharma (Malkauns and Chandrakauns). My knowledge of its grammar is rather limited.
I also became fan of Western Classical music thanks to an enchanting record "Joy" featuring Mozart ( 9th symphony) , Beethoven, and Bach......

We first went to see a live classical music programme at Dover lane music conference (at Vivekananda Park) with Naba, Mita, Didi and Debashish (our neighbour). Jethu (uncle - Anindya Datta, who was professor of Economics, New Hampshire, USA) sometimes used to come to Kolkata and he gave us money to purchase ticket to see the Dover lane music conference. It is regarded as one of the most famous conferences in India. It is every artists dream to come to Dover lane music conference and that TOO IN KOLKATA. In fact almost all the artists respectfully acknowledge this before starting the programme. The Dover Lane Music Conference held every January celebrates the tradition of Indian Classical music. It is also said that Kolkata has the finest connoisseurs of Western classical music in India. After the programme we went inside Green room to take the autograph of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. He autographed in Bengali. Later some other day Didi and Mita also took the autograph of Ustad Zakir Hussain(Punjab Gharana) and became fan of Zakir due to his charismatic character and also interacted with him.

That is how my association with Dover lane music conference started. I can safely say I am going there for last 20 years (although not every year - because I was out of Calcutta for quite some time). It is like going to Woodstock. Every year I try to go there, whether tickets are given by Jethu (Anindya Datta) or standing in front of Nazrul Mancha (place where Dover Lane conference is being held) at 10.30 pm. Normally it starts from 8 p.m. and ends at 6 a.m. .It goes on for 3-4 days. Many people (mostly from organizers) sell the ticket in black market in front of the hall. I invariably target those who come out of the hall after attending 2 and half hours programme!! Most of the time, I buy the ticket from them at a cheaper rate (say Rs. 80- Rs100). Some kind soul sometimes gives it for free!! (Actually due to my active life, it is quite difficult to tell when I will be free to see the programme. This seems to be a better option for me). Once (2006 or 2007) we (Ma and me) got a VIP ticket and I sat in the front seat, just beside Governor of West Bengal, Gopal Krishna Gandhi!

This year, Anindya came all the way from Siliguri to see the Dover Lane music conference. I was also there as usual. But this year is special!

Today I have been able to enter the greenroom and got some photos and videos of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Ustad Rashid Khan with my spy camera!


Just before the start of his(Amjad) programme at 2.55 a.m.; Rashid Khan has just finished his song.


Amjad Ali Khan practising in the greeroom with Tanmoy Bose and Samir Chatterjee at 2.30 a.m. Rashid Khan was singing at this point of time.


Anindya touching the feet of Rashid Khan and Amjad Ali Khan after the end of the programme at 6 .30 a.m.

Rashid Khan at 3.05 a.m. in the greenroom on 26th Jan 2009. Anindya taking blessing of Rashid Khan.

Some of my favourites Ragas are:
1. Malkauns - I can probably listen to them non stop for 365 days!
a) Sitar: Nikhil Bannerjee

b) Sarod: Amjad Ali Khan
c) Senhai Bismillah Khan
2. Chandrakauns
a) Santoor etc. : Indus
b) Flute: Hariprasad Chaurasia
c) Jaltarang:Milind Tulankar
d) Sitar:
e) Sitar: Habib Khan
3. Darbari Kanada
a) Sarod: Amjad Ali Khan
b) Sitar: Vilayat Khan and Kishan Maharaj
Vilayat Khan
4. Asavari:
a) Sarangi : Surjit Singh
5. Bhairavi:
a) Sitar : Nikhil Bannerjee
6. Madhukauns
a) Sarangi : Md. Aslam Khan
Ravi Shankar with George Harisson:

I recommend beginners should start with these Ragas only. The collections here are handpickedand lot of thought has been given to it. They are probably the most popular Ragas too. In fact most of the religious songs have their genesis in Raga Malkauns.

Time of playing different important Ragas:

1. Raga Ahir Bhairav (daybreak) (tintal)
2. Raga Alhaiya Bilaval (late morning) (tintal)
3. Raga Asavari (late morning) (tintal)
4. Raga Bageshri (midnight) (tintal)
5. Raga Bhairav (daybreak) (tintal) Hariprasad Chaurasia (tintal)
6. Raga Bhimpalasi (early afternoon) (tintal)
7. Raga Bhupal Todi (morning) (jhaptal)
8. Raga Bhupali (early night) (ektal)
9. Raga Bihag (late night) (tintal)
10. Raga Bilaskhani Todi (morning) (tintal)
11. Raga Chandrakauns (late night) (tintal)
12. Raga Darbari Kanada (midnight) (tintal)
13. Raga Desh (late night) (tintal)
14. Raga Durga (late night) (tintal)
15. Raga Hansadhvani (early night) (tintal)
16. Raga Hindol (after midnight or early morning) ( dhamar tal)
17. Raga Jaijaivanti (late night) (tintal)
18. Raga Jaunpuri (late morning) (tintal)
19. Raga Jhinjhoti (any time; late night) (tintal)
20. Raga Jog (late night) (tintal)
21. Raga Kafi (any time; midnight) (addha tintal)
22. Raga Kedar (early night) (tintal)
23. Raga Khamaj (late night) (tintal)
24. Raga Kirvani (night) (tintal)
25. Raga Lalit (before sunrise) (ektal)
26. Raga Madhuvanti (late evening) (tintal)
27. Raga Malkauns (late night) (tintal)
28. Raga Maru Bihag (early night) (addha tintal)
29. Raga Marva (sunset)(ektal)
30. Raga Megh (any time Rainy season)(jhaptal)
31. Raga Miyan Ki Malhar (any time Rainy season; midnight) (tintal)
32. Raga Miyan Ki Todi (late morning) (tintal)
33. Raga Pilu (any time) (addha tintal)
34. Raga Puriya (sunset) (tintal)
35. Raga Puriya Dhanashri (sunset) -(tintal)
36. Raga Puriya Kalyan (evening) (tintal)
37. Raga Shri (early evening in Winter season) (tintal)
38. Raga Shuddh Kalyan (early night) (tintal)
39. Raga Tilak Kamod (late night) (ektal)
40. Raga Yaman (early night) ( tintal)

One of the unique characteristics of Indian music is the assignment of definite times of the day and night for performing Raga melodies. It is believed that only in this period the Raga appears to be at the height of its melodic beauty.

There are some Ragas which are very attractive in the early hours of the mornings; others which appeal in the evenings, yet others which spread their fragrance only near the midnight hour.
There are Ragas associated with the rainy season (Raga Megha and Raga Malhar), the autumn season (Raga Basant) and the spring season (Raga Bahar). Seasonal Ragas can be sung and played any time of the day and night during the season allotted to them. The obligation of time in case of such melodies is relaxed.
This connection of time of the day or night, with the Raga is based on daily cycle of changes that occur in our own moods and emotions which are constantly undergoing subtle changes in that different moments of the day arouse and stimulate different moods and emotions. The mental and emotional responses in the autumn or winter or during the rainy season are different from the spring. Each Raga or Ragini is associated with a definite mood or sentiment that nature arouses in human beings.
In the beginning, music was confined to rituals, worship and prayers. As specified seasons and hours of day and night were fixed for different religious rites, music relating to them came to be associated with such time and later on these times were crystallized into rigid rules. In time, music ceased to be confined to religion, and with the patronage of kings it took its home in the royal courts. From here, the original rules of time were slackened and revised by the order of those kings.
Ragas having their Vadi/King/ main note in the Poorvang region (Sa - Pa) are usually played during evening and Ragas having their Vadi note in the Uttarang region (Pa - Sa) are usually performed during morning.

Ragas to be performed during the hours of twilight and dusk, when neither the day, nor the night dominate, are called Sandhi Prakash Ragas. The approximate allotted time of such melodies is between 4 and 7 in the morning or evening.

The 24 hour period is divided into 8 beats each three hours long, as follows:
• 1. 7 a.m. - 10 a.m. first beat of the day. Daybreak; Early Morning; Morning;
• 2. 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. 2nd beat of the day. Late Morning; Noon; Early Afternoon;
• 3. 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. 3rd beat of the day. Afternoon; Late Afternoon;
• 4. 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. 4th beat of the day. Evening Twilight; Dusk (sunset); Early Evening;

• 5. 7 p.m. - 10 p.m. first beat of the night. Evening; Late Evening;
• 6. 10 p.m. - 1 a.m. 2nd beat of the night. Night; Midnight;
• 7. 1 a.m. - 4 a.m. 3rd beat of the night. Late Night
• 8. 4 a.m. - 7 a.m. 4th beat of the night. Early Dawn; Dawn (before sunrise); Morning Twilight;

Tansen or Miyan Tansen or Ramtanu Pandey (born 1493 or 1506 at Behat near Gwalior, India) is known as the Sangeet Samrat - meaning the Monarch of Indian Music who holds the most distinguished position in the arena of Indian cultural tradition. He was the foremost musician of the Royal Court of Akbar. Known to have created many ragas, which now hold prominent position in Hindustani music, Miyan Tansen left a treasure-house of music as his legacy. He is amongst the greatest composer-musicians. The son of Makrand Ram Pandey, a poet, gifted musician and a temple priest in Varanasi, he improvised and popularized rabab, originating from Central Asia.

Tansen, one of the Navaratnas (nine jewels) in the famed court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, was conferred the title Miyan, an honorific title that means a learned man. Muhammad Ghaus became his spiritual master and Tansen’s name finds mention in the Shuttari Tariqat, the lineage founded by the master. He married Husseini. He is supposed to have died in 1586 or 1589. His final resting place is Gwalior at the mausoleum complex of Shaykh Muhammad Ghaus, his Sufi guru, indicating that he was a prominent disciple.

Fusion of Music

Tansen influenced the fusion of Central Asian and Persian ornamentation with Indian classical music creating the texture that is Hindustani classical music, which were further enriched by Tansen’s disciples. Most Gharana claim some connection with Tansen lineage.

His raga compositions in the Hindustani tradition usually had ‘Miyan ki’ (of the Miyan) prefixed such as Miyan ki Malhar, Miyan ki Todi, Miyan ka Bhairav (known today as Bhairav), Miyan ka Sarang, Miyan ki Malhar, and Miyan ki Mand. He created major ragas including Darbari Kanada, Rageshwari and Darbari Todi. He authored the important documents on music namely Rajmala and Sangeeta Sara.The Dhrupad style of singing was formalized mainly through the practice of such composers as Tansen, Haridas and Baiju Bawra, a contemporary.

Sarod (Persian word) emerged from the infusion of the ideas of Tansen on the rabab to the veena. Sarod which does not have frets has become very popular today. The famous qawwals is said to belong to the lineage from Miyan Tansen. Legends abound about his melodious voice that he could make it rain with Raga Megh Malhar or light fires with Raga Deepak.

Singers are always accompanied with the tanpura or the harmonium.

Indian Classical music is mainly divided into two branches, North and South.

A music, which follows certain characteristics are called classical - in opposition to Western classical music, where classical means belonging to a period of time (approximately from 16th to 17th century). All classical music follows this rule even if some completely different styles exist side by side.

Indian classical music has 7 basic notes, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni, with five interspersed half-notes, resulting in a 12-note scale. Unlike the 12-note scale in Western music

Another division of ragas is the classification of ragas under five principal:

1. Hindol,
2. Deepak,
3. Megh,
4. Shree
5. Maulkauns

From these five ragas, other ragas are derived. Each of the five ragas has five raganis under them. There are 25 raganis for the above five ragas.
Further derivatives from these raga and raganis resulted in attaching to each principal raga, 16 secondary derivatives known as upa-raga and upa-raganis.
All the ragas are supposed to have been derived from their thaat.

Every raga has a fixed number of komal (soft) or tewar (sharp) notes, from which the thaat can be recognized.

In other words, a certain arrangement of the 7 notes/Surs with the change of shuddh, komal and tewar is called a thaat.

About Thaat or Scales

The set of Seven Notes or Scale which can produce a Raga is called a Thaat in Urdu or Hindi and raga produces a Song. In other words a thaat is defined as that set of seven notes from which a Raga can be made.
The system of classification for the ragas, in different groups is called a thaat.
There are again several systems of classification of the raga. Presently in Indian or Pakistani Classical Music the 10 Thaat (Scales) classification of raga is prevalent.

If you want to learn how to play keyboard or harmonium, the practice of thaat is important.
If you want to bring beauty in music , then raga practice is important.
If you learn one thaat or scale then you can play many songs in that particular thaat or scale.

There are certain rules for these that:

Thaat must have seven notes in ascending order.
• Thaat has only one Arohan (or Arohi) or Ascent.
• Thaat are not be sung, only played, but the ragas produced from Thaat are sung. You can play music of film songs with thaat.
Thaat are named after the popular raga of that Thaat.
e.g. Bhairavi is a popular raga and the thaat of the raga Bhairavi is named after the raga.

Raga - Thaat

Piloo - Kafi
Kafi - Kafi
Mand - Bilawal
Dhani - Kafi
Bhairavi - Bhairavi
Gaud Malhar - Kafi
Miyan Malhar- Kafi
Ahir Bhairav - Bhairav
Bairagi - Bhairav
Basant - Poorvi
Bhoopali Todi - Bhairavi
Bhatiyar - Bhairav
Bilawal - Bilawal
Bilaskhani Todi - Bhairavi
Bhairav - Bhairav
Desi - Asavari
Gurjari Todi - Todi
Nat Bhairav - Bhairav
Lalit - Poorvi
Jaunpuri - Asavari
Hindol - Kalyan
Todi - Todi
Poorvi - Poorvi
Madhuvanti - Todi
Bhimpalasi - Kafi
Multani - Todi
Bhoopali - Kalyan
Kamod - Kalyan
Desh - Khamaj
Yaman Kalyan- Kalyan
Hansadhvani- Bilawal
Khamaj - Khamaj
Yaman- Kalyan
Shuddh Kalyan- Kalyan
Maru Bihag - Kalyan
Puriya Dhanashri- Poorvi
Puriya - Marwa
Pahadi - Bilawal
Marwa- Marwa
Shree - Poorvi
Bahar- Kafi
Tilak Kamod - Khamaj
Bageshri - Kafi
Malhar - Kafi
Raageshri - Khamaj
Nand - Kalyan
Malkauns- Bhairavi
Shivranjani - Kafi
Jhinjhoti- Khamaj
Kedar- Kalyan
Darbari - Asavari
Durga- Bilawal
Jaijaiwanti - Khamaj
Hamir - Kalyan
Bihag - Kalyan

What is a Raga?

The combination of several notes woven into a composition in a way, which is pleasing to the ear, is called a Raga or Raag. The raga is an Indian scale which utilizes varying ascending and descending patterns – certain notes on the way up and certain notes on the way down – but always in the set sequence. The raga never has less than five notes - the minimum required for a tune. Each raga creates an atmosphere, which is associated with feelings and sentiments. Any stray combination of notes cannot be called a Raga.

We can ascribe to a raga certain meta-characteristics that define a Raga:

. Every raga is said to be born/derived of a Thaat which is its parent. Every raga is composed of notes.

• A simple combination of notes is not a raga unless it sounds good. As mentioned earlier though, it is difficult to accurately define what sounds good.

A minimum of five notes are necessary in a Raga. Therefore a Raga can have five, six or seven notes.

• Every Raga has an Arohan (or Arohi) or Ascent and an Abarohan (Amrohi) or descent. The base note Sa cannot be absent from a Raga.

The notes Ma and Pa cannot be absent from a Raga at the same time.

A raga is also identified by a King/Vadi/ main note and a Queen/Samvadi/ second note. The Vadi is a note that is stressed the most in the raga. The Samvadi is stressed after that. Two Ragas can have the same set of notes but differing vadis and samvadis which then make them different ragas. For instance both the ragas Bhupali and Deshkar have the same set of notes and the same Arohan (or Arohi) or Ascent and an Abarohan (Amrohi) or descent but they have different vadis and samvadis which make them different ragas. Bhupali has a vadi ga and samvadi dha but Deshkar has a vadi dha and samvadi ga.

It has been said earlier that a Raga can have five, six or seven notes in the Arohan (or Arohi) or Ascent and an Abarohan (Amrohi) or descent. Based upon this a raga can be classified in to categories. A Raga sequence (arohi or amrohi) with five notes is said to be Odho (five). A Raga sequence with six notes is called Shadav or Khado (six) and a raga sequence with seven notes is called Sampoorn since seven notes is the maximum number that the raga sequence can have.
Raga is the basis of classical music. A raga is based on the principle of a combination of notes selected out the 22 note intervals of the octave. A performer with sufficient training and knowledge alone can create the desired emotions, through the combination of notes.

Ragas are placed in three categories (as mentioned above):

• Odho or pentatonic, a composition of five notes or
• Khado is hexatonic, a composition of six notes
• Sampoorn is heptatonic, a composition of seven notes.

1. In every raga, there is an important cluster of notes by which the raga is identified.
2. The ascent and descent of the notes in every raga is very important. Some raga in the same scale differs in ascent and descent. The principal/main note, ``KING" is the note on which the raga is built. It is emphasized in various ways, such as stopping for some time on the note, or stressing it. The second important note or the "queen" corresponds to the ``King" as the fourth or fifth note in relation to it.

Raga Melody:

Melody is based on our ability to hear and perceive changes in frequencies. Although it is more than just the pitch going up and down, but as the frequency goes higher, the note is sharper.In any octave(, ( the highest note always vibrates at the double rate from the lowest note. So an octave is the interval between one musical note and another with half or double its frequency.

After the unison, (two things vibrating at the same rate), the octave is the simplest interval in music. The human ear tends to hear both notes (upper and lower) as being essentially ‘the same’. For this reason, notes an octave apart are given the same name in Indian music.

The same is true for Western Music. And just like in western notation system, Northern Indian music recognizes 12 places in one octave as Notes. Most musicians use the same notes as we see them on a guitar’s fret or on a piano. But it hasn’t been always like this. In ancient times, Indian music was based on the ‘Sharuti’ system. The intervals were measured with sharuties.
Melody of Northern Indian Music is based on the ‘Thaat’ (parent Scale) and ‘Raga’ theory. Ragas have their minimum requirements of five notes in an octave. Based on that principle, 484 Ragas can be created mathematically from any given ‘Thaat’. Every Raga has its own personality. There are many special things about every Raga, which make it possible to separate one Raga from another.

Secret of Phrasing in Ragas

Even though many popular musicians do not study Ragas and most of the popular music is not even in any certain Ragas, there are many ‘phrasing’ secrets hidden in the Ragas, however. Ascending and descending do not make music. Whole art of music is hidden in phrasing. You must have listened to hundreds of songs composed in ‘C’ or ‘E’ major. They still sound different from one another. That is because music we hear affects us in phrases, not scales.
This theory (music in phrases) was the origin of Ragas. Ragas start with that in mind and grow from there. To learn a Raga you have to learn its ascending or descending etc., but you also must know its flow and important phrases. There are thousands of available lists of hundreds of Ragas everywhere, but they have no practical value as one will never know how to proceed from there. You will find yourself improvising in a certain Raga in no time by mixing and shuffling its phrases and flow.
Globally acclaimed instrumental virtuosos in Hindustani classical music like Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Radhika Mohon Maitra , Ajoy Chakarabarty , Ananda Shankar , Bismillah Khan , Enayet Khan and son Vilayat Khan , Imdaad Khan, Imaraat Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan ,Nasir Aminuddin Dagar , Asifuddin Dagar,Nikhil Banerjee , Amjad Ali Khan, Budhaditya Mukhopadhyay, Shahid Pervez, Anindo Chatterjee , Grammy Awardee Bikram Ghosh, Shankar Ghose, Kumar Bose,Pannalal Ghose, Tanmoy Bose, Gyan Prakash Ghose Louis Banks among others hail from Kolkata. Source:

1 comment:

famurattler said...

Hi Sourabh,

I know your uncle, Jethu (Anindya Datta Professor of Economics, New Hampshire) from Florida A & M University, Tallahassee, FL. Please tell him to contact Rebecca and Connie at


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