Ragamala Vol. 6: Bhimpalasi

F1991.1

Way back in 2013 I began this Ragamala series.  I wanted to collect a variety of tracks from diverse genres that were based upon or direct interpretations of particular ragas.  I have to confess that despite many years of listening to South Asian classical music my ear is still as wooden as when I began to seriously pay attention to khyaldhrupad and other forms of classical music.  I think I can identify Malkauns but that’s about it.

I feel terrible about this. Surely, I should be more competent and clever. But each time I try to read anything about the structure of ragas the better to tune my ear, my eyes glaze over and my mind closes up shop.  There is simply too much new vocabulary to learn and I’m not sure how much such knowledge would increase my listening pleasure.

Of more interest to me is the mood each raga attempts to induce in the listener. I like to see if it works on me, and I’m happy to report that Bhimpalasi does.

Bhimpalasi is an afternoon to early evening raga. A time of day that for most modern families is stressful. Kids back home from school. Commotion all over the place and pots and plates banging in the kitchen.

They say this raga speaks to the melancholy, sad aspects of the human soul. And in so doing, is effective for the release of stress and anxiety. Some recommend Bhimpalasi as part of the treatment for depression.

I began this weekend listening to Ali Akbar Khan‘s interpretation from his Bangla Desh album (1972).  I’ve since listened to it a couple more times and this afternoon let Saskia Rao’s doleful cello sink slowly beneath the skin.   And I am proud (and surprised) to report I feel absolutely peaceful, light and relaxed.

There are some very nice interpretations here.  Lata sings two film songs (one composed by SD Burman, the other by Madan Mohan) including one of my all-time favorites, Khilte Hain Gul Yahan. An enigmatic early fusion/jazz group from the UK give us Bhimpalazi (1969) and Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan contribute two straight-ahead versions on sitar and sarod, respectively. The Dutch cellist Saskia Rao shows how beautifully that instrument fits into the Indian soundscape and finally, Mehdi Hassan gives us a filmi ghazal from Azmat (1973).

PEACE. SUKOON. SHANTI.

Bhimpalasi

Track Listing:

01 Raga Bhimpalasi [Ali Akbar Khan]

02 Nainon Mein Badra Chaaya [Madan Mohan and Lata Mangeshkar]

03 Bhimpalazi (Looking Eastward to the Blues) [Indo-Jazz Ensemble]

04 Raga Bhimpalasi [Ravi Shankar]

05 Khilte Hain Gul Yahan [SD Burman and Lata Mangeshkar]

06 Bhimpalasi Alap Jod Jhala [Saskia Rao]

07 Zindagi Main To Sabhi Pyar Kiya Karte Hai [Mehdi Hassan]

++^^%

Jewel of India: Ustad Bismillah Khan

 

Ustad Bismillah Khan

Ustad Bismillah Khan

Ustad Bismillah Khan though no longer among us , continues to hold a position of rare stature and respect among music lovers in South Asia and across the world. The honors bestowed upon him are also rare. One of only three musicians to be awarded the highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna, by the government of India (the other two: Ravi Shankar and M.S. Subbalakhsmi). When he and the country were very young, he was invited to play his shehnai, at the Red Fort to mark the occasion of Independence from Britain. He maintained this honour for decades, delighting fans each August 15 with a live concert, broadcast throughout the country.

Born into a family of court musicians in Bihar Bismillah Khan nearly single handedly transformed the Indian oboe, shehnai, from a folk and ceremonial instrument into a full fledged member of the Hindustani classical orchestra. During his career he travelled far and wide promoting not just the shehnai, or Indian classical music, but inter-communal harmony and the transcendency of music generally.   In 1986 I had the pleasure to hear him in a concert in Lahore’s Alhamra Art Center, a concert I will never forge

The wonderful album we share today is from a performance in the UK. It is simply intoxicating in its beauty and completeness and balance between shehnai and accompanists.

Bismillah Khan Bismillah Khan_0001

Track Listing:

01 Raga Shuddh Kalyan [Alap]

02 Raga Shuddh Kalyan  [Gat in Vilambit Ektaal]

03 Raga Shuddh Kalyan  [Drut Teental]

04 Raga Shankara [Alap]

05 Raga Shankara  [Gat in Ektal]

U B K

Voice in Paradise: Kishori Amonkar

Kishori Amonkar

Kishori Amonkar

Dear readers and friends,

I find myself in Suva the capital of the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific. Business has been the reason but the weather has been absolutely stunning. Clear blue skies, sparkling and bobbing bougainvillea of all hues, glimmering seas lapping against green mountains and temperatures that never dare reach above 24C.

While I am heading home to my family tomorrow morning early, I find I do not want to leave, for this is truly a little bit of Paradise.   Alas…

The only singer who can match the beauty of this place at this moment in time is the wondrous Kishori Amonkar.  I’ve raved about her voice (as have many many others) in other places and so will not repeat those things.  And indeed, a voice and vision such as this is not enhanced by flowery words. Rather one needs but silence and letting go to feel the full force of her genius.

Bula!

cover

Track Listing:

01 Raga Bhoop – Khayal Vilambit Teentaal – Prathama Sur Saadhe

02 Raga Bhoop – Khayal Drut Teentaal – Jabse Tumeesana Laagalee

03 Raga Binna ShadJa – Khayal Vilambit Teentaal – Odd Jaa Re Kaagaa & Drut Teentaal – Anganaa More Aajaa

+++

The Twain Meet: Ravi Shankar and Zubin Mehta

Pandit Ravi Shankar

Pandit Ravi Shankar

I’m off again on an overseas jaunt and not sure what I’ll find in terms of time and internet connectivity, so before I board those silver wings, I’ll share a thirty year old record.

 

Ravi Shankar, who passed less than a year ago, was not just an Ambassador of Indian music to the rest of the world, he was an artist of never-ending creative curiosity.  He collaborated with jazz and rock musicians as well as a number of western classical icons.

 

Zubin Mehta, the Indian born conductor extraordinaire, grew up in a musical environment that included his father Mehli, sitting in with many Indian and international jazz musicians in Bombay, when that sit on the Arabian Sea was a global haven for hot jazz. His father also doubled as the conductor of the Bombay Symphony Orchestra and it was in that atmosphere that Zubin fell in love with western classical music.  Currently, he heads the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra as well as serving as musical director of a number of Music Festivals in Europe.

 

This 1981 collaboration saw Shankar compose a Concerto in four parts, each of which was based upon the structure of a particular raga.  The result is quite different from his other famous collaboration with violinist Yehudi Menuhin which in essence had the two classical traditions playing side by side, but not as one.  Here, Shankar’s guitar is the soloing instrument within the context of the New York Philharmonic and as such it is a much more integrated piece of music.

 

Thoroughly enjoyable!

Ravi Zubin front Ravi Zubin back

Track Listing:

  1. Lalit (Presto)
  2. Bairaji (Moderato)
  3. Yaman Kalyan (Largo Moderato)
  4. Mian ka Malhar (Allegro)

♪♫

 

Evening Melody: Ustad Vilayat Khan

batik-painting-CH22

 

Ustad Vilayat Khan was not a man to randomly or on a whim create new ragas. The thing (and the word classical musicians use to refer to the raga is the Hindi word for ‘thing’, cheez) was to be given the deepest respect. Interpretation could only come from understanding, and understanding came hard and slow.  There are ragas that it takes half a lifetime to master. Or, put it another way, one could spend half a lifetime interpreting just a handful of the great ragas.

 

This was Khan sahib’s preference. Better to make a smaller number of cheez sing beautifully then try to hastily introduce more ragas into the world.  So I was surprised to discover that there are a number of ragas in fact, that Ustadji did create.  And tonight we focus on one of these, the beautifully named Saanjh Saravali (Evening Melody).

 

The story of how this raga came to be is told by Deepak Raja, convenor of a very informative blog on north Indian classical music.

 

I hope you enjoy this sparkling unique gem.

The Genius of Ustad Vilayat Khan

Track Listing:

Raga Saanjh Saravali

Raga Nand Kalyan

 

++**