Reflections on Raga Hameer

by Rajan P. Parrikar
First published on SAWF on April 17, 2000

Rajan P. Parrikar

Rajan P. Parrikar

Last year (1999) I had posted a commentary on Raga Hameer on the Usenet newsgroup rec.music.indian.classical (RMIC) dotted with representative sound clips that, at the time, were prohibitively large for most readers to download.  That logjam has now been overcome with the advent of streaming audio.  Much of the material has been re-arranged and augmented.  

Throughout this causerie, M = shuddha madhyam and m = teevra madhyam.

Raga Hameer belongs to the class of ‘big’ ragas and is known to project a vigorous, dramatic mien. It is occasionally referred to as Hameer Kalyan (not to be confused with Hameer Kalyani of the Carnatic paddhati, which is the equivalent of the Hindustani Kedar).  As a traditional Hindustani denizen of considerable heft, one finds in Hameer a variety of old dhrupad, dhamar and khayal compositions.  Just as Raga Nand is a staple of the Agra/Atrauli diet, so it is with Hameer and the musicians of the Gwalior gharana.

Raga Hameer is nominally assigned to the Kalyan that and employs all the shuddha swaras plus the teevra madhyam.  However, closer examination of the raga’s internal structure reveals a significant presence of the Bilawal anga. Reliance on the taxonomical scheme of thats alone can be misleading.

Hameer is of vakra build; the arohana-avarohana set serves to provide no more than a silhouette.  It must be underscored that the aroha and avarohana follow from the raga-lakshanas and not the other way around.  The aroha-avarohana set merely indicates the swaras deployed and their approximate sequence. It is not a statement or even a précis of the constitution of a raga.  The most that can be said for aroha-avarohana is that a careful recitation can provide a quick & dirty handle on raga highlights.

Nominally we may define the aroha-avarohana set of Hameer as follows:

S, R G M (N)D, N D N S”::S” N D P, m P G M R, S

The essence of Hameer lies in the curvature of its arohi prayogas and the crucial role accorded the dhaivat.  It falls to the class of abstract ragas such as Kedar, Gaud Sarang, Nand and so on.  By “abstract” we mean that it is not a scalar raga, amenable to reconstitution with up-and-down aroha-avarohi phrases, that there is more to it than a chaining together and summing up a group of linear tonal clusters.  The happy marriage of swara punctuation and enunciation – known as ucchAraNa - necessary for effective expression of abstract ragas is attained to by taleem and self-reflection (chintan-manana).  We shall now examine the lakshanas of Hameer and these pointers in concert with the attached sound files should help clarify the overall picture.

The key idea in here lies in the periodic build-up of melodic stress and its release.  The arohatmaka attack on the dhaivat tugged with the nishad inscribes the Hameer signature.  To wit,

G M (N)D, (N)D m P
The dhaivat is powerful, a nyasa swara and central to the raga’s veera rasa.  The pancham is also a nyasa sthan but it serves as a point of repose, a station for dissipation of the ‘tension’ built up on the dhaivat.

G M (N)D, D N D P m P, P G M R,  P G M R S S
Notice the approach to the dhaivat via the nishad.  Sometimes an unornamented linear G M D generates a pleasing contrast.  The D-R ‘consonance’ is often exploited by alternating tonal activity around these two endpoints. The rishab is rendered deergha in avarohatmaka prayogas and is sought frequently for bringing to conclusion a melodic thought in the poorvanga region.

G M (N)D N S”
PDPP S”, S” (N)R” S”
mPDNS”, S” R” S”

These are some of the prescribed modes for an uttaranga launch and it is here that the Kalyan anga is sensed.

S”, S” (N)D, (N)D N m P, S” (N)D P m P G M R
This is an example of an avarohi prayoga.

The above ideas are now tied together to yield the chalan of Raga Hameer:

G M (N)D, P, G M D N S”, S” N D P m P G M R, P G M R, S

Obiter dicta: The teevra madhyam remains confined in the shadow of the pancham and seldom has an independent existence. Some treatments explicity seek the Kalyanic cluster m D N D P thus strengthening the case for “Hameer Kalyan.”  The reader is encouraged to reflect on the Bilawal and Kalyan angas and their interaction in the context of Hameer.  In some renditions, we also sense an abhasa of the komal nishad as a vivadi swara in a Bilawal-like prayoga.

This completes our prelude.  In a short essay of this type, ancillary details that round off the raga swaroop have to be left out.  Furthermore, the subtleties of uccharana can scarcely be conveyed through the written word.

Raga Hameer is represented in the popular Indian consciousness by the alltime classic from KOHINOOR (1960) where the formidable talents of master tunesmith Naushad, lyricist Shakeel Badayuni, and the voice of Mohammad Rafi come together in a celebration of Shri Krishna’s Leela:  Madhuban mein Radhika nache re.

The movie BHARAT MILAP (1942) carried Tulsidas’s famous bhajan, Shri Ramchandra kripalu bhaja mana. Although Shankarrao Vyas scored the music for the film, the tune for this bhajan was composed by his guru Vishnu Digambar Paluskar. It is set to Tevra-tala of 7 beats.

The sincerity in Mukesh‘s voice immediately lends credibility to the bhava of the lyric, set to music by Naresh Bhattacharya: sur ki gati main kya janu ek bhajan karna janu.

To complete the ‘light’ segment we have the Marathi natyageeta from VIDYAHARAN, vimala adhara nikati moha, made popular in an earlier era by Suresh Haldankar (1926-2000) of Goa. This brilliant musician, consigned to a life of obscurity for much of his adult life, shone but briefly in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  He and my father were great childhood friends.

The version of Suresh-bab’s student, Prabhakar Karekar, (whose nasal twang gives his Marathi a Konkani flavour) is very popular.

We now repair to the classical lounge.

A stalwart among the Gwalior musicians, Krishnarao Shankar Pandit‘s name cannot be omitted in any discussion of Hameer. This recording was made in the final years of his long life and, lapses aside, it is hard to miss the assurance of his swara-lagav. He presents the well-known khayal of ‘Sadarang’: mora albela re.

Another Gwalior alumnus Narayanrao Vyas wields a composition of his guru Vishnu Digambar Paluskar: karana chahoon Raghupati.

Kumar Gandharva‘s 1982 Hameerfest opens with the traditional khayal composition in vilambit Jhoomra, chameli phooli champa. Although this bandish has an awkward placement of the sam on the “cham” syllable, Kumar manages to make it sound less obscene than it really is.  But even he cannot make up his mind initially just where to locate the sam.  The very first attempt crashes in no man’s land, another one on “pa” and so on.

Note that Kumar offers an idiosyncratic surprise in the poorvanga treatment with his repeated utterance of GMRG, R instead of the customary approach to R.

Kumars’ is a splendid exhibition of the ‘tension and release’ character of Hameer.  Observe his delightful lark when he treats the teevra madhyam in an explicit Kalyan-like cluster of the type: G M D m D NS” NDNDP.  This is seen in his own cheez: ajaba duniya.

Shubha Mudgal‘s forceful voice is especially well suited to Hameer.  She sings the same chameli phooli composition emended appropriately to relocate the sam to “pa“.

Shubha also serves up a sprightly cheez composed by Vinaychandra Maudgalya: patiya piya ki.

Ulhas Kashalkar fails to generate the required propulsion in this old Gwalior tarana.

Another Gwalior snapshot in D.V. Paluskar‘s classic rendition: surajhaya rahi.

The ho-hum Mishra brothers are summoned here faute de mieux since I could not locate a worthy representative of this Hameer chestnut: langarwa kaise ghar ja’oon.

Changing into the instrumental lane, we hear Ravi Shankar extract the distillate of the raga with a striking economy of swara, a characteristic of that brilliant musical mind.

Hameer is primed for dhrupad gayaki and the Dagar dudes sing it very well.  They insert their own spin – an explicit use of the Kalyan-inspired sentence S R G m P.  This gambit is heard at 5:25 into the clip  in the dhamar by the Gundecha brothers: abira gulala lala kesara ranga chhirakata.

Salamat Ali Khan‘s marvellous Dhamar rendition is laced with a gentle caress of the komal nishad in a vivadi role – around 1:57 into the clip – alluded to earlier: suno mori bata Khwaja.

Enter Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.  This unpublished mehfil of the great man begins with shoptalk where he outlines the chalans of Kedar and Hameer.  Then follows the well-worn traditional Punjabi bandish: mendera yar avi.

A rare glimpse of Faiyyaz Khan in this raga.

We conclude these reflections with a suite of compositions of Pandit Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang,” the greatest living Hindustani vaggeyakara.  Take measure of the design of the vilambit bandish set to Roopak, of the melodic build-up and its effortless resolution: tu kaun kahan.

In the matching druta Ektala composition, the scramble back to the sam injects a fair bit of action: albeli naveli re.

Finally, Ramrang’s delectable bandish peppered with impromptu remarks on its sahitya: chunariya la de re more saiyyan.

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