“Ramrang” – A Bouquet of Compositions

by Rajan P. Parrikar
First published on SAWF on May 1, 2000

[Update: Pandit Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang” passed away on January 1, 2009. He was 80 years old.]

This montage is in response to the rather strong demand for an encore of the files of Pandit Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang” posted awhile back on the Usenet group rec.music.indian.classical (RMIC). Many of the earlier clips are reprised and there are several new entries. The complete text of the composition is provided in some instances.

Before we partake of the audio banquet, a small digression is in order. A couple of earnest and well-meaning correspondents have referred to Jha-sahab as a “musicologist.” This is a big error. He is first and foremost a vaggeyakara (pronounced vaa-ggeya-kaa-raa), a term that circumscribes musicianship and musical ability. Jha-sahab’s signal contributions and life’s work lie in music proper – both in its performance and analytics – and have very little to do with “musicology” as commonly understood in the West.

Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang" at his home in Allahabad

Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang" at his home in Allahabad

The idea of a vaggeyakara is ancient and is dwelt upon by Pandit Sarangdeva in his treatise Sangeeta Ratnakara. The word itself is a sandhi of vaka+geya+kara, where “vaka is lit. speech and therefore by context implies the verbal text or the verbal structure of a musical composition; geyam is lit. that which is the object of singing, i.e. dhatu, the tonal rhythmic structure of melody.” Hence “vaggeyakara, one who composes the verbal as well as the tonal-rhythmic structure of the song.”

Sarangdeva enumerates the attributes that a good vaggeyakara ought to possess and, in keeping with the Indian penchant for classification, also lists the “qualities” of an “average” vaggeyakara, a “bad” vaggeyekara and an “unworthy” vaggeyakara. Incidentally, I myself had once devised a classification scheme for a good ethnopimp, a bad ethnopimp, an unworthy ethnopimp and a plain pimp. The lines distinguishing them were found to be invisible to the naked eye. For the benefit of the uninformed, “ethnopimps” refers to that despicable breed of men and women who call themselves “ethnomusicologists.” They are usually found loitering in the music departments of American, Canadian and Western European universities, collecting salaries without putting in even a day’s worth of honest work (not unlike many other humanities ‘professors’ at Western universities).

Sarangdeva assigns the following attributes to the “best” vaggeyakara:

– a thorough knowledge of grammar (indicative of the ability of the appropriate use of words)
proficiency in lexicography
– knowledge of prosody (differentiating among the various meters)
– proficieny in the use of figures of speech
– comprehension of aesthetic delight (rasa) as related to different emotive states of being (bhava)
– intelligent familiarity with local custom (necessary to grasp the intonation (kaku) peculiar to particular regions
– knowledge of many languages
– proficiency in the scientific theories of fine arts
– expert knowledge of the three musical arts (vocal music, instrumental music and dancing)
– a lovely tone quality
– good knowledge of laya (tempo), tala (musical time) and kala.
– discrimination of different intonations
– acquaintance with regional (desi) ragas
– a sense of propriety in expression and new melodic forms
– knowledge of another’s mind
– maturity in the understanding of different prabandhas
– ability to compose songs at short notice
– expert knowledge of composing different verbal structures for different melodic forms
– maturity in producing gamakas pervading the three registers
– proficiency in presentation of different alapa

The foregoing material is taken from the translation of Sangeet Ratnakara by R.K. Shringy and Prem Lata Sharma. Their work contains copious footnotes and cross-references amplifying on almost every feature cited.

We inaugurate our musical revelry with two compositions in Raga Ahiri Todi, both of them addressing Shri Krishna. The theme of the compositions has the gopis remonstrating to the Lord’s childhood friend and messenger, Uddhava.

Tala: vilambit Ektala –

chhora ahira ko jane kahan eri beera hama birahana ke hiya ki
preeta laga’i kubari doobari sanga
“Ramrang” kauna bulave banwari be-peera ko

 

Tala: druta Teentala –

tero gyana dhyana sikha bhave na
mere mana to ramey Hari charanana me
gyana dhyana dharana na jane “Ramrang” mana mero
Hari ke nama ki lagi raaana

Raga Bilaskhani Todi summons a sombre ambience. Both the vilambit and druta compositions of Ramrang’s are popular and widely sung.

Tala: vilambit Ektala –

dhana dhana bhaga tero ri ma’i suta taine payo jagata ke natha

 

Tala: druta Teentala –

Jagadambika Ambika
mardani amba Shumbha Nishumbha gale munaa malika
Durge Bhavani dani dayani
sura nara keenhe abhaya “Ramrang”
tero hi nama kalika

Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang"

Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang"

Ramrang has created a diverse suite of compositions in Raga Charukeshi from which this cheez is culled. The mukhda is at once distinguished by its syncopated design. The text speaks to the famous incident from the Ramayana – Shri Rama crosses the river and offers the boatman his due compensation. The boatman turns it down, saying: “My Lord, do not disgrace our common profession.” On being asked to explain, he continues, “Dear Lord, we are both boatmen. I ferry people across this river whereas you ferry them across the Ocean of Life.”

Tala: druta Ektala –

hamari tumari, Rajan, jata-pata kevata ki
vinati maniye
hama tuma natha ek biradari ke
utarayi deya jata na bigadiye

Jha-sahab is not one to suffer pompous fools gladly. This extended prelude from a September 1999 concert in Panjim, Goa, in reaction to a silly interjection by a self-styled “music expert” from Pune, shows Ramrang at his caustic best.

A course of 3 compositions in Raga Yamani Bilawal is now offered. The first two are offerings to Shirdi ke Saibaba. It is characteristic of Jha-sahab to preserve the continuity of textual sentiment in many of his vilambit and druta khayal composition pairs.

Tala: vilambit Roopak –

Sa’i tihare nama ki aasa lagi mohe
kara deejo beda para
sancha saheb tu mero Sa’i
“Ramrang” ki sab lehu sudhara

 

Tala: druta Teentala –

hamari sudha leeje Sa’i
deenanatha dukhahari
dani data dariya daya ke
“Ramrang” aayo sharana tihari
Shirdi ke Sa’i jana ke dukhahari

The third bandish has Miss Shabari (of Ramayana fame) for its protagonist.

Tala: druta Ektala –

aayi main tihari sharana
rakhiye krupa nidhana, nari hoon gaawari
japa tapa main kachu na janu
“Ramrang” bharose tero awadha bihari

Two beautiful gems in Raga Kukubh Bilawal follow.

Tala: dheema Teentala –

simhasana baithe aaja, biraje Siya-Raghuveera

 

Tala: druta Teentala –

sumirana kara le re mana baware
chara dina ko yaha mela khela jagata ko
tera mera saba jhootho nata
socha samajha nadana
“Ramrang” mein ranga le apno tana mana ko

Jha-Sahab is apprehended in a taleem session with Shubha Mudgal. This delightful composition in Raga Dhani is set to dheema Teentala.

Asthayi

Antara

la de la de chunara piya dhani ranga ki
manabhavani hulasavani
navarasasani saba gunakhani
la de chunara more meeta piyarava
pahira lagun tore garava
“Ramrang” angiya suhavani

Ramrang’s compositions in Raga Shree cut to the core of that profound, expansive melody.

Tala: dheema Teentala –

gyana na pave guru bina gyani

The druta cheez features what is called a ‘vi-sam’ where the accent is spirited away from the sam.

Tala: druta Teentala –

guru ke paga pariye dhariye dhyana mana nisi vasara
sumiriye nama pave gyana mana gunijana mein
agama apara nada veda, guru bina pave kabahuna bheda
“Ramrang” bhava bhagati kari dhyave aave jo sharana mein

The Shree tarana in Ada Chautala combines deft syncopation.

The text of the following cheez in Raga Yaman takes after symbolism found in Kabeer‘s poetry.

Tala: druta Teentala –

ranga de ranga de rangarejava
mori chunariya ranga sanwariya
guna manu tore more mitava
payana parun tore rangareja
“Ramrang” ranga de hamari angiya ko more mitava

Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang"

Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang"

Raga Yaman Kalyan is distinguished from Yaman by the judicious avarohi touch of the shuddha madhyam. Jha-sahab’s conception has an uncommon flavour thanks to his quaint treatment of that very swara; its weighted placement in the first line is particularly charming. Take stock of the overall blend of the melody and the sahitya.

Tala: dheema Teentala –

nirakha nirakha sakhi gagana mandala mein
anuja sahita Siya-Rama aavata awadha bimana chadhe
pavana-puta lai aayo sandeso
Bharata magana uthi aatura chale
“Ramrang” parijana payodha janu raka shashi son milana badhe

Raga Shuddha Kalyan: Jha-sahab likens the intonation of the S” N D and P m G meends to a sleepy yawn. The text appropriately assumes the form of a mother’s lullaby.

neendariya tu kahe na aave lalana ankhiyana mein
jo tu aave lala sulave guna manu tora
“Ramrang” guna ga’oon rakhoon naina mein

Raga Kesari Kalyan has been dealt with in a post some months ago. Savour the pleasing uccharana of the shuddha dhaivat, the flavours of Hamsadhwani and Shuddha Kalyan. The text (and the raga) celebrates Shri Hanuman (Kesari-nandana).

Tala: dheema teentAla –

pavana puta Hanumanta dayavanta
sankata harana dukha mochana jana ke
anjani lala doota bhalo Rama ke
Siya sudhi laye veera vara banke
“Ramrang” kapina unare balavanta

Raga Hamsadhwani: The vilambit Roopak bandish is well-known, available in commercial renderings by popular vocalists such as Ms Veena Sahasrabuddhe.

sakala dukha harana Hari ke charana sharana le mana
katata fanda-dvanda jagata ke
“Ramrang” harata chhina mein tapana

Tala: druta Teentala –

jaya jaya Ganapati deva
Gajanana gajakarna jaya trishula dhara
sumukha siddha ke data
jaya Gauri suta bighana harana
jaya jaya Vinayaka vardani
“Ramrang” jaya mangala karana bidhata

Among Ramrang’s personal favourites are the following two compositions in Tilak Kamod attending that singular episode in the Mahabharata: Draupadi’s vastraharana. Jha-sahab’s verbal recreation of the scene of Draupadi’s anguish and its resolution through Shri Krishna’s kindness was so riveting that I forgot to record the masterly histrionics on tape.

Tala: vilambit Roopak –

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

 

Tala: druta Ektala –

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

A quick sketch of a Chhayanat cheez follows. The text depicts a bashful, veiled Sita at her wedding, stealing furtive glances of Shri Rama’s visage reflected from her ornaments (bangles).

kara kanganawa nirakha Rama ko moorata Siya magana
daare ghoongata pata chitavata moorata
“Ramrang” rangi Siya tana-mana

Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang"

Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang"

A cheez in Raga Gaud Malhar: jhingura jhanana.

Raga Kirwani, two compositions. The druta bandish has an arresting spiralling tan leading to the sam.

Tala: vilambit Roopak –

sudha leejiye data mori
aana paryo tere dvara
saba taja aayo charana-sharana tero
“Ramrang” banha gahi leejiyo

 

Tala: druta Ektala –

mukuta varo sanvaro son lago humaro manva re sajanva
bhave na tora bhavanva jabse lage unse nainva
“Ramrang” cheri bhayi vake damanva

A couple of commercial recordings of Ramrang’s compositions in Raga Hemant follow. We pick up Jitendra Abhisheki‘s rendition in the final aavartana of the vilambit Jhoomra, kahan mana lago, followed by the Ektala-bound cheez, bairana bhayo.

A relentless tinkerer of musical objects, Jha-sahab has the habit of turning a raga upside down. Seen from the prism of his mind the bandishes disperse different facets of the same raga. Consider the Hemant composition in Veena Sahasrabuddhe‘s voice – beeta gaye. Notice the varied placement of the sam in all the three and the design of the respective mukhdas.

We conclude with a Ragamala woven with strands of 21 ragas. The text is a paean to Goddess Saraswati, skillfully clothed in words and concomitant phrasings of the constituent ragas.

E mana kalyana hove tero
sumirana kiye Saraswati nama

[Yaman Kalyan]
[Saraswati]

daya ke sindhu, nama aneka
devagandharva leta nita nama

[Sindhura]
[Devagandhar]

darbara thhade kara jorata hai
jai-jai karata pavata mana kama

[Darbari]
[Jaijaivanti]

ko’u gaya chhaya nata ko’u hameer
aananda pave rijhaye

[Chhaya, Nat, Hameer]
[Nand]

pada pujata basanta sunaya
poori bhayi more mana ki aasa

[Basant]
[Pooriya, Asa]

kamalasani sohata
lalit basana anga lasata

[Sohini]
[Lalit]

kara leenhe veena des bajaya
moda upajaya sabahi sukha deta

[Des]
[Tilak Kamod]

Durge Bhavani kara jorata hai
Shankara shesha jai dhwani karata hai

[Durga, Bhavani]
[Shankara, Hamsadhwani]

“Ramrang” charana sharana paryo hai