Des: Tunes from the Countryside

by Rajan P. Parrikar
First published on SAWF on October 1, 2001

Rajan P. Parrikar in Biloxi, Mississippi (1989)

Rajan P. Parrikar in Biloxi, Mississippi (1989)
Photo by: Dr. Anand Bariya

Namashkar.

We open this feature with a salute to the matrubhoomi.

 

Vande Mataram

 

In the heyday of radio, Indians arose every morning to Bankim Chandra Chatterjee‘s Vande Mataram broadcast nationwide by All India Radio. Our national song has been matched to several other tunes but the impress of the Raga Des version has been the most lasting, unmatched in its sweetness.  That is no coincidence. Des, arising from the soil of the land, is a raga of prodigious seductive power.

Throughout the discussion, M = shuddha madhyam and m = teevra madhyam.

 

Raga Des

Raga Des falls to the Khamaj that and has the following aroha-avarohana contour:

S R M P N S”::S” n D P M G R, S

The gandhar and dhaivat are varjit (absent) in arohi movements (although in some older compositions the gandhar is occasionally discerned in aroha), the avaroha is sampoorna.  The shuddha nishad is employed in aroha and the komal nishad in avaroha; this hews to the line of the well-established aesthetic principle in Indian music where the higher shade of a swara prevails in ascent. The enchanting ambience created by Des lies in its special swara prayogas, in particular the potent role assigned to rishab.  The definitive gestures are now addressed:

R M P D–>M–>G–>R, P M G R
The rishab serves not only as a location of nyasa but also as a centre of melodic gravity, the point where forays often originate from, point to and terminate at.  The D–>M–>G–>R intonation is crucial, pregnant with a meend from M to R grazing G en route.  It is this subtle, seemingly innocuous, touch of the gandhar that has turned Des into a horse of a different colour and hastened the demise of its progenitor, Raga Sorath (to be addressed shortly).

R n D n D P, R M P N, N, S”, R” n D P, D–>M–>G–>R
The first cluster shows a quaint Des artifact, namely the jump from R to n. The elongated N in the second sub-group is standard Des issue for the uttaranga launch. Notice the langhan (skip) of the tar S” on the way down via R” n D P.  A straight trajectory along S” n D P M G R is also customary.

S R M P n D P, R P M–>G–>R, (R)G, N’ S
This prayoga illustrates another key G-laden cluster, to wit, (R)G, N’ S.  The coupling between R and P is vital.  The role of G cannot be overstated: it is not a nyasa sthala but its mediation along the M–>R locus makes for Des’s lifeline.

Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang (© Rajan P. Parrikar)

Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang
(© Rajan P. Parrikar)

Like Khamaj, Des is a kshudra prakriti raga and is often subjected to variations drawn from other ragas.  The fund of melodic variety brought into play will be evident in the audio banquet. The komal gandhar is occasionally recruited in a vivadi swaroopa, especially in the tar saptak.  Elements of Malhar (M R P or the chromatic slide from n-N or N-n) are sometimes woven into Des and the melody then branded as ‘Des Malhar.’

Pandit Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang” initiates a masterful inquiry into Des, illustrating its underpinnings and essence.

Des is a strong presence in virtually all musical genres and the amount of available material is voluminous.  Although several estimable items have had to necessarily sit out, our panoply gathers the finest cuts available, many of them hitherto unpublished. As a kshudra raga, much of the expression of Des takes place in a non-khayal setting, through thumri, hori, geet, ghazal, sadra and so on.  The full spectrum of Des will be surveyed in this report and the pace onward will be brisk, the commentary terse.

The first few selections are culled from the ‘light’ arena and they are a rich source of variations purchased through creative license with the raga structure.

Asha Bhonsle‘s Guru Vandana warms up to the Des theme.  The music is composed by Mr. Alubhai Khan, the (naked) Emperor of San Rafael and a great afficionado of cheej pijja (ethnopimps in Canada and America may now write a thesis on Italian influences in Indian music): Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnu Gurur Maheshwara.

Kundan Lal Saigal

Kundan Lal Saigal

Lacchiram‘s composition for the movie MAIN SUHAGAN HOON (1964) is textbook Des. Mohammad Rafi ends up sounding like a rookie in the face of Asha Bhonsle‘s phirat: gori tore naina.

Another romp by K.L. Saigal and Suraiya to Lal Mohammad‘s tune in TADBIR (1945): milne ka din aa gaya.

The extraordinary Saigal-sahab turns the mood around in this haunting masterpiece from DEVDAS (1935) tuned by Timir Baran: dukha ke aba dina bitata nahin.

Lata Mangeshkar and the gifted tunesmith Anil Biswas combine to create a memorable melody for MAAN (1954): mere pyar mein.

G.S. Kohli‘s elegant composition in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBINHOOD (1965).  This time Mohammad Rafi rises to the occasion: mana mere haseen sanam.

From ANUBHAV (1971), composer Kanu Roy‘s baby is delivered by Manna Dey: phir kahin ko’i phool khila.

Anil Biswas

Anil Biswas

Shubha Mudgal is primarily known for her vocal talents. Not as widely known are her skills as a composer. She has tuned the verses of the 17th century poet Rasleen in this steely rendition: bajata nagare ghana.

Lakshmi Shankar‘s plaintive plea …

… is formally elaborated upon by Malavika Kanan through the parent bandish: Eri beeti jata barkhartu.

The ghazal expert from Pakistan, Mehdi Hasan: umada ghumada.

It is not often that one hears a vilambit khayal in Des. Roshanara Begum offers one.

The sonorous tones of Z.M. Dagar‘s rudra beena.

K.G. Ginde wields Des through his guru S.N. Ratanjankar‘s composition.  Notice the subtle drop of vivadi komal gandhar in the tar saptak just past 0:56 into the clip.  The reader is urged to smoke it out in the other clips: eri bansuri kauna kiyo tona.

Acharya S.N. Ratanjankar himself steps up to the plate with another splendid composition of his own making, a brisk Hori: hori khelana ko chale Kanhaiyya.

The komal gandhar is even more subtle in this popular chestnut.  Shaila Datar: piya kara dhara dekho dharakata hai.

Z.M. Dagar

Z.M. Dagar

Pushparaj Koshti, a student of Z.M. Dagar, plays sitar in the been baj of his guru in this dhamar performance.

The next serving is decidedly the pièce de résistance of this feature. Mallikarjun Mansur on two unpublished occasions, the first in Ichalkaranji in 1979, the second in Calcutta in the 1980s.  In some commercial releases the rendition of this bandish carries “Raga Sorath” for its label.  However, Mallikarjun clearly paints the lakshanas of Des through the very devices calculated to keep the two ragas apart, namely the uccharana of the gandhar-laden sequences in Des.  In my considered opinion, there is no better Des than Mansur’s: nahin bane.

Mansur, Des – 1.

Mansur, Des – 2.

Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, accompanied by his son Munawar Ali: kAri ghaTA.

Faiyyaz Khan‘s hori set in dhamar tala: aaja hori khelata.

A traditional cheez by Ulhas Kashalkar: ghana gagana ghana.

Mallikarjun Mansur

Mallikarjun Mansur

Among the most influential Agra figures of the second half of the last century, Khadim Hussain Khan studied under his father Altaf Hussain and uncle Kallan Khan.  Commercial recordings of Khadim Hussain are hard to obtain and private recordings are few and far between.  We are pleased to offer this engaging mehfil: neendiya bairana bhayi.

The Gwalior doyen, Krishnarao Shankar Pandit.

Khadim Hussain Khan

Khadim Hussain Khan

We wind down the Des banquet with a tarana by Nissar Hussain Khan.

 

Raga Sorath

This raga is virtually extinct today.  Which is ironic since the two – Des and Sorath – are joined at the hip and the hugely popular Des derives all its genetic material from Sorath.  The gandhar in Sorath is very weak, hidden in the D–>M–>R sangati, to the point of not being explicitly intoned.  This is a splendid example of a seemingly trivial tweak setting off a chain of unexpected returns.  The increase in gandhar‘s strength imbued Des with so great a melodic appeal that it put paid to Sorath’s days in the ring.  The rest of the lakshanas coincide with Des’s.  Some few accept a stronger role for dhaivat in Sorath as another point of departure from its ‘Des’cendent.  We examine a couple of recordings in this raga.

Z.M. Dagar‘s rudra beena walks the tightrope steering clear of Des.  The reader is urged to flesh out the difference(s) by comparing this to his earlier clip of Des, in particular by examining the treatment of the gandhar.

S.N. Ratanjankar

S.N. Ratanjankar

S.N. Ratanjankar brings his own compositions.

 

Raga Tilak Kamod

Nomenclature in Hindustani music can be misleading for there is neither hide nor hair of Kamod in Tilak Kamod.  Tilak Kamod works with the same raw material used to fashion Des.  The resulting dichotomy resoundingly demonstrates the signal possibilities in the very notion of raga: a chalan-bheda within a swara-set may lead to a radically different melodic organism of equal or more beauty.

The essence of Tilak Kamod’s poorvanga is encapsulated in the following tonal sentence:

P’ N’ S R G S N’, S R P M G, S R G S N’…
The nyasa on mandra nishad is a key lakshana.  Take stock of the relative weight accorded shuddha gandhar here vis-à-vis Des.  The rishab is now relegated from the powerful station it occupied in Des.

The uttaranga markers are embedded in the next cluster:

S R M P N S”, S”–>P, D M G, S R G S N’…
The arohi launch is Des-like but the nishad is rarely elongated.  The swoop from S”–>P is characteristic of Tilak Kamod. Oftentimes the shuddha nishad is skipped in aroha as in M P S”.  Attention is also drawn to a mild Khamaj chhaya via D M G.  The departure from Des ought to be abundantly clear at this point.

The komal nishad is not deemed necessary in Tilak Kamod but when it occurs an avirbhava of Des obtains.  To wit: S R M P S”, S”–>P, P n D M G, P M G, S R G S N’…

Once again we pick Jha-sahab‘s brains and have him dwell on the vitals of Tilak Kamod.  There is only one soul alive in the Hindustani parampara today who has what it takes to bring to the topic the depth and certainty of knowledge, and the precision and verve in expression: Pandit Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang.”

Jaidev

Jaidev

We inaugurate the Tilak Kamod fest with a well-known Lata number from PREM PARBAT (1973).  The composer, Jaidev, was among the very best we’ve had in recent memory: yeh neera kahan se barse.

Salil Chowdhary, indisputably the finest bong musician-composer ever, (and incidently the only bong musician to be considered seriously outside Bongland) extracts an inspired performance from Asha Bhonsle in this gem from JAAGTE RAHO (1956): thandi thandi sawana ki.

Ravi Shankar‘s creative faculties sparkle in the Mukesh number from GODAAN (1963): hiya jarata rahata dina-raina.

Dinanath Mangeshkar

Dinanath Mangeshkar

Tilak Kamod is much loved in Goa, Maharashtra and in a few other areas lying below the Tropic of Cancer (i.e. the last remaining civilized regions of India).  Dinanath Mangeshkar‘s classic ravi mee is all too familiar.  Presented here is another Dinanath beauty, from the Marathi drama RANADUNDUBHI: vitari prakhara tejobala.

That natyageeta was much later parlayed by Dina’s son Hridaynath and then handed to Lata: gagana sadana tejomaya.

Mehdi Hasan‘s rich voice embellishes a traditional bandish composed by “Premdas”: kase kahun more sajani.

Among Jha-sahab‘s personal favourites is his suite of compositions in Raga Tilak Kamod.  He had passed them on to Jitendra Abhisheki to whom they were very dear.  The prasang in the text is that singular episode in the Mahabharata – Draupadi’s vastraharana (disrobing).  The vilambit Roopak composition expresses with striking economy of verse and melody Draupadi’s predicament and her call to the Lord, stunned that she is at the sight of her supine, helpless husbands and other apathetic elders in the assemblage over Duhshasana’s outrage.  It can be an unforgettable experience, hearing these compositions pratyaksha from Jha-sahab.

Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang"

Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang"

mero pata rakho Murari
Bheesham-Drona baithe panwara vhai
soora sabha saba kroora vhai baithe
“Ramrang” baithe pati Parath pathara vhai

Sri Krishna responds with alacrity.

begi-begi aaye Hari
arata suni bani dhaye paga ughare
deenanatha anatha ki pata rakhi
“Ramrang” jana hita basana-roopa dhare

Jha-sahab concludes with a tarana.

The traditional composition of “Manrang” – teeratha ko saba karein – is dealt by two masters.

Ramkrishnabuwa Vaze.

Bhimsen Joshi.

The astounding beauty of Tilak Kamod unravels in this moving rendition by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan: tana-mana-dhana tope vara.

D.V. Paluskar: koyaliya bole ambuva.

A sprightly dhun, the kind that is right up Bismillah Khan‘s alley.

The Atrauli-Jaipur vision of Tilak Kamod resides in the composition conceived in the supremely original mind of Alladiya Khansahab and vouchsafed to Kesarbai Kerkar.  The structure of the bandish and its organic evolution in Kesarbai make for an arresting session: sura sangata raga vidya.

Alladiya Khan

Alladiya Khan

The same composition, passed through the filter of Alladiya’s son Manji Khan, acquires a few quirks as witness this treatment of Mallikarjun Mansur.

Faiyyaz Khan‘s felicity in the auxiliary genres is evident in this dadra.  Liberties are taken with the raga structure but judiciously so.  The fly in the ointment is the uninspired violin accompaniment which fails to duplicate some of the Aftab-e-Mousiqui’s delicate graces (the sole suspect that comes to mind is V.G. Jogstermeister): more jobana pe aayi bahar.

 

Raga Jaijaivanti

This raga comes in two versions, the Des-anga Jaijaivanti and the (mistakenly called) Bageshree-anga Jaijaivanti.  The former type is dominant and hence will be taken up for discussion of the lakshanas.

Two special sancharis give Jaijaivanti away: S N’ S D’ n’ (G)R…
A small variation on the above is sometimes observed.  As a sidelight, it is interesting to note that an appropriate graha bhedam on this cluster yields intonationally and scalically a seminal phrase of Raga Hameer: P m P G M (N)D.

P’ (G)R…
This leap from mandra pancham to rishab is a Jaijaivanti marker.

The Des influence, with its special approach to and attack on rishab, is characteristic of the raga’s structure.  The rishab lords it over as the following tonal sentences illustrate:

R G M P N S”, R” n D P D M G R
N’ S R G M G R, R P M G R

Bade Ghulam Ali Khan

Bade Ghulam Ali Khan

Variations of these may prevail.  Needless to say, it is not possible to capture every nuance and detail on paper.  Almost always the above phrases are concluded with another Jaijaivanti artifact: R g R S.  The komal gandhar has no independent existence and is always sandwiched between rishabs.  Some versions of Jaijaivanti drop komal gandhar completely (S.N. Ratanjankar has written a composition for this type).

The heroic role awarded to rishab will be apparent as soon as we set up the audio buffet. Jaijaivanti carries chhayas of two other ragas besides Des, namely, Gaud (S, R G M) and Bilaval (P D G P M G etc).

The Bageshree-anga Jaijaivanti and the Des-anga Jaijaivanti differ primarily in their uttaranga launch.  The Bageshree-anga Jaijaivanti takes off via G M D n S” and sometimes also via G M D N S”.  The Bageshree label is a misnomer – the justification advanced is that the chalan, if not the notes, follows a Bageshree-like contour.  Pandit Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang” makes a compelling case that it is in fact Raga Gara (not Bageshree) that furnishes the basis for this type of Jaijaivanti.  We go straight to Ramrang‘s briefing.

Amir Khan

Amir Khan

Lata Mangeshkar‘s invocation of Shri Rama’s name coincides with the P’–(G)R signpost of Jaijaivanti in this Tulshidas bhajan.

The composer duo of Shankar-Jaikishan were known to whip up tunes in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.  Their recourse to ragas often produced pleasant surprises.  Take, for instance, this Jaijaivanti corker by Lata Mangeshkar in SEEMA (1955): manamohana bade jhoote.

Shankar-Jaikishan again, in TEESRI KASAM (1966), a flippant, folksy tune that filches Jaijaivanti’s signature cluster for its mukhda: mare gaye gulfam.

We now repair to the classical lounge.  Unless otherwise stated the Jaijaivantis portrayed are of Des-anga.

N. Aminuddin and N. Moinuddin Dagar‘s clip begins with forceful gamaka-laden alapi and culminates in a dhamar.

Amir Khan‘s stately performance.

A peek at the Bageshree-anga Jaijaivanti via an old Gwalior bandish, treated with relish by D.V. Paluskar: achala raho raja.

Vinayakrao Patwardhan

Vinayakrao Patwardhan

The Agra view is presented by the Atrauli-born Sharafat Hussain Khan (1920-1985).  Sharafat Hussain learnt from his father-in-law Vilayat Hussain Khan (“Pranpiya”).  Most Agrawallahs are wont to sing the Bageshree-anga Jaijaivanti.  A vigorous round of nom-tom alapi is followed by the very popular cheez composed by Aftab-e-Mausiqui Faiyyaz Khan “Prempiya.”  Recall that Jha-sahab recites it in the Jaijaivanti-speak clip to strengthen his point concerning Gara’s influence: more mandira aba.

Sharafat Hussain Khan

Sharafat Hussain Khan

Aftab-e-Mausiqui Faiyyaz Khan cuts to the bone in a riveting display.

Vinayakrao Patwardhan is full of beans in this Bageshree-anga Jaijaivanti: sundara Shyam dekhana ki asha.

The Atrauli-Jaipur trio of Kesarbai, Mogubai and Kishori represents the acme of musical achievement.

Kesarbai Kerkar makes navigation in ragaspace look like duck soup.  This is vocalism at its jaw-dropping best: jiyara tarase.

Another Atrauli-Jaipur legend, Mogubai Kurdikar.

Mogubai’s daughter Kishori Amonkar rounds off the Atrauli-Jaipur feast.

Mogubai Kurdikar

Mogubai Kurdikar

Krishnarao Shankar Pandit‘s rendition illustrates the diversity of treatment within the larger Gwalior family.  His is a Des-anga Jaijaivanti.

A syncopated tarana by Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang.”

The final act – Bade Ghulam Ali‘s classic recording of his self-composed bandish: binati ka kariye.

 
 

Acknowledgements

My heartfelt thanks to Romesh Aeri for his unstinting support to this entire series and for making available a large number of rare recordings from his vast personal collection.  Additional support from Ajit Akolkar, Ashok Ambardar, Vish Krishnan, V.N. Muthukumar and Ajay Nerurkar is gratefully acknowledged.  And as always, Anita Thakur remains the custodian and gateway to SAWF‘s musical kingdom.

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