HINDUSTANI MUSIC - KEY CONCEPTS
THE RAGA SYSTEM
music, there are seven main swaras or notes and they are Shadj (Sa), Rishabh (Re), Gandhar
(Ga), Madhyam (Ma), Pancham (Pa), Dhaivat (Dha) and Nishad (Ni). The entire group is known
as Saptak (Sapta = Seven).
The Hindustani Raga
Before going into
the melodic structure of the Hindustani raga, it is important to understand the concept of
That, which is the parent scale from which the raga is derived. The term That
refers to the basic patterns in which the seven notes of the Saptak are arranged.
The That can be considered a format for the raga, a classification scheme, that
allows one to group several ragas under a That. In every That there is
one raga that usually has the name of the That and others, which are derived from
that That, by dropping one or more notes from the parent scales. Since the Thats
are fixed arrangements of the given seven notes, one can calculate the total number
of Thats by arranging the notes in different combinations according to the
specified rules. One is that the That must necessarily have seven notes in a
sequential order. Besides, a That does not have separate ascending and descending
lines like a raga. The prevalent listing of the Thats and the classification of
the ragas within them is the contribution of Pandit V N Bhatkhande.
The potentiality of a raga in
Hindustani music is highlighted by giving prominence to a particular note in preference to
others. The note receiving such prominence is called Vadi.
|Tan (pronounced as
Taan): Of all melodic figures, the most significant one is the Tan. A Tan
can be termed as a group of notes employed for exposing or expanding the raga. They are
usually sung at a faster speed compared to the basic tempo of the piece. The essential
feature of the Tan is that the notes must be in rapid succession. The term Tan
arises from the root verb, Tanana, meaning, 'to stretch'. Tans are most
often used in the Khayal style of singing and this is supposed to have added to its
popularly as compared to the Dhrupad style, which does not have the same freedom.
There are various types of Tans depending on the manner in which they are constructed. These can be categorized on the basis of melodic structure, vocal technique, ornamentation used and rhythmic structure. The Tan can have a melodic structure that is straight (Sapat), convoluted (Vakra), patterned (Alankar) or can be a mixture of these.
The Sapat Tan is a straightforward one and has a series of ascending or descending notes without any twists. It must, however, follow the rules of the raga and hence only notes permitted in the aroha (ascent) and avaroha (descent) can be used in it. The Vakra Tan moves upwards and downwards in total contrast to the Sapat Tan. However, this must also adhere to the outline of the raga as given by the aroha and avaroha.
Tans involve repetition of certain notes through the different octaves. They are thus
similar to scale exercises. Of these, Chhut Tan, a Tan that jumps, is
used in vocal as well as instrumental music. In this, short straight Tans are
separated by gaps. Another mixed type that is encountered is the Phirat Tan, in
which improbable combinations are displayed with many alternating ascending and descending
Gamak or Ornamentation
|There are a number of
ornamentations that embellish notes and add to the appeal of the raga. The term gamak
refers to ornamentation techniques in general. The term also denotes a specific shaking
note in which the shake is heavy or fast, or from the same note or different note. This is
found in both vocal and instrumental music. The important gamaks in contemporary
Hindustani music are:
Meend / Meedh: This is an ornament that is used both in Dhrupad and Khayal singing. The Meend is a slow glide connecting two notes, both of which are equally expressed.
Kana: This term refers to a grace (or shadow) note, having a duration (and also intensity) less than that of the note being ornamental, and can lie above or below the decorated pitch. It is produced by the inflection of voice in vocal music.
Murki: This is a fast ornamentation around the principal note and consists of a number of swaras. It refers to a short, sharp figure of two or three notes so uttered that it occurs within a short span of time, wrapped around the central note. It can be described as quivering notes, including microtones. When a series of Murkis are performed in quick succession, they lead to the Zam-Zama, which is like a spiraling zigzag Tan. This is more characteristic of Sitar.
Khatka: This is similar to both the Murki and the Kana. The Khatka is a faster improvisation of the principal note. The speed of execution gives it a jerky movement.
Kampan: In this, the frequency of oscillation is faster and this results only in a slight alteration of pitch.
Andolan: The frequency of oscillation here is lesser and has a greater amplitude of vibration, thus extending as far as the next note. This can be described as a gentle oscillation between notes.
Related links: Raga System in Carnatic music
|The Javanese Gamelan|