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The reign of Malhar

MANJARI SINHA

It has been raining music in the Capital, and Malhar is the flavour of the season.

Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Musical feast Pandit Ramashreya Jha.

Think of the rains, and you automatically think of Malhar, the oldest and one of the most melodious ragas of Hindustani classical music, with its innumerable varieties attributed to nature’s gift of the rainy season. The D.D. Classical Music C lub in collaboration with the India International Centre presented ‘Feast of Malhaar’ by Pandit Ramashreya Jha of Allahabad at the India International Centre auditorium this past week. The concert was preceded by a short lecture on the present-day scenario of classical music, by Ashok Bajpai, Chairman, Lalit Kala Academy.

Pandit Ramashreya Jha, who also composes under the pen name Ramrang, presented many of his own beautiful bandishes (compositions) in multiple varieties of Malhar. He opened his vocal recital with Ramdasi Malhar, known as a sankeerna raga, a rare combination of Miyan-Malhar Gaur and Shahana. As Miyan Malhar itself is a combination of Kanada and Malhar with a dash of Sarang in the Uttarang, one has to be very careful while delineating Ramdasi Malhar, manoeuvring through the congested lanes of its various components, and the veteran did it exceptionally well, through a slow and a medium tempo composition set to vilambit Ek tala and Teen tala respectively.

Megh-Malhar came next with the popular Sadara “Garaj ghata ghan…” set to Jhap tala of 10 beats, and a chhota khayal in Teen tala “Savan dulha aayo”, his own composition depicting Savan (the monsoon) as a bridegroom who has come to marry the beautiful bride Barkha Ritu. One could savour both Megh and Malhar in the judicious treatment of this raga, with the specific use of the Rishabh, Madhyam and the komal Nishad. Tilak Malhar, that came next, was a lovely combination of raga Tilak Kamod and Malhar with two of his own compositions set to slow Teen tala and drut Ek tala respectively. Tilang Malhar was another rare variety where raga Tilang and Malhar joined hands in his own composition “Barkha ritu aayi…” set to Teen tala, before he concluded the feast with Chandra Malhar, the rarest of them all, served as a sweet dish.

Ghulam Sabir on the sarangi, Mehmood Dhaulpuri on the harmonium and Akram Khan on the tabla provided him inspired accompaniment. The concert had an old world charm of an informal intimate mehfil, with Pandit Jha establishing an instant rapport with his audience.

To celebrate Guru Purnima, the Amir Khusro Institute of Music presented yet another bouquet of Malhars at the Triveni auditorium the very next day. Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan, the head (Khalifa) of the Dilli gharana, offered the choicest gems from gharana’s rich repertoire, as a tribute to his gurus along with his own disciples Anees Ahmed, Farid Ahmed and Tanvir Ahmed.

Striking bandish

The traditional bada khayal “Karim naam tero…” in raga Miyan Malhar came as an auspicious beginning, preceded by an imposing auchaar (introductory alap) to create the atmosphere of the profound raga. The gradual progression during the alap badhat of the slow composition saw a systematic handling of the raga created by the legendary Miyan Tansen. The unique chhota khayal was a ‘domuhin bandish’ spread over two avartans (rhythmic cycles) of Teen tala, hence having two sam-s in one line of lyrics. There was another striking bandish of Mamman Khan Katthak in the main raga adorned with a variety of taans.

Megh Malhar was rendered next, with the famous composition of Nyamat Khan, “Garaj ghataa …’ set to Jhap tala. There were lovely compositions in Surdasi Malhar, set to Ada Chau tala and Teen tala followed by Gaur Malhar, which had a Kunvar Shyam composition, a bandish ki thumri and a tarana composed by Amir Khusrau with a joda bandish of Mamman Khan to match it. There was a rare ‘Paalki ka Khayal’ in Pilu Barva Malhar set to Sitarkhani theka, and a rare Naqsh-O-gul of Amir Khusrau, before Khan Saheb concluded with a drut Ek tala composition in Charju Ki Malhar, yet another lesser heard variety of Malhar. He had excellent accompaniment on the harmonium by Mehmood Dhaulpuri and on the tabla by Chandra Mohan.

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