OCTOBER 201
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida
Music & Dance

MAGICAL MELODIES: LOST IN LALIT

Lavanya

By LAVANYA DINESH

Man has for centuries pondered the mysteries and miracles of life, love and existentialism. In India, the spiritual, socio-economic and cultural evolution has for centuries produced transformational artists, philosophers and thinkers. They have always had a longing to transcend the mundane, to reach a higher plane of realization and ultimately become one with the Supreme. There have been so many artistic expressions of this eagerness, the love of the Almighty and the true beauty of this love. Centuries-old Indian classical music and its robust, haunting melodies are masterful mediums of this form of expression.

As a young girl, there was a deeply alluring melody that made an impression on me. “Raina Ka Sapna Kaase Kahun …” (a midnight’s dream, how do I share) sang the soulful vocalist. Already a student of Hindustani classical music, I realized that this melody was unlike any I had heard before. The singer was my father and the melody was raaga Lalit, also known as Lalat. The somber melody is performed in the pre-dawn hours just before sunrise. Its austere quality makes the most impact when listened to at this particular time. To this day, this raaga of my childhood continues to intrigue me and infuse my psyche with colorful emotions.

I would advise the uninitiated to start with small listening doses. Slowly, the complex and convoluted ebb and flow of raaga Lalit will grow on you. This raaga employs both Madhyams – the Shudh (natural) and Teevra (sharp) notes of ‘Ma.’ The playfulness and transition from the sharp Madhyam to the natural Madhyam forms the crux of this lilting melody. Raaga Lalit dates back nearly 400 years but many usages and note prominences have changed and evolved over the years. The first composition that I learnt in this raaga was the fast-paced ‘Piyu Piyu Ratata Papiyara,’ denoting the melodious singing of the song bird.

The late Pandit D.V. Paluskar’s three-minute recorded bhajan ‘Aaa Re Man Raam’ in raaga Lalit is a standalone masterpiece. There is a poignant hint of pathos and mellifluous gravity here that is unique to the performance of this raaga by maestros of the Gwalior Gharana or school of Hindustani classical music. Pandit Omkarnath Thakur’s rendition of Lalit is another such example. The maestro’s recording contains the same popular pieces ‘Raina Ka Sapna’ and ‘Piyu Piyu Ratata’ in slow-pace and fast-pace respectively. The inimitable female vocalist Kishori Amonkar has recorded the latter composition as well. A beautiful contemporary recording of raaga Lalit can be found in the classical album of Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar. The vilambit khyal is ‘Re More Ghar Aa’ followed by a fast-paced Tarana composition. This vocalist’s rendition of Lalit – a melody whose essence is the opposite of everything flighty and ebullient – is filled with gravitas and majesty. A rare and beautiful recording of Late Pandit Raaiklal Andharia in Lalit also exists.

Because of the sober nature of Lalit, this raaga is most resplendent in renditions on instruments such as the saarangi and the shehnai as well as vocal exposition. Ustad Bismillah Khan’s shehnai recording of Lalit is indeed haunting. One can also hear legendary maestro Ustad Bade Ghuman Ali Khan’s short and powerful performance of the raaga. Pandit Jasraj, the contemporary doyen of Mewati Gharana, renders a beautiful Madhyalaya (medium-paced) Lalit composition ‘Ratnaa Re Nainan Mein’ in Jhaptaal (a rhythmic cycle of 10 beats). This has also been ably recorded by this maestro’s disciple Kala Ramnath on the violin in an album “Passage through Dawn.” There is a surviving raaga Lalit recording of Pandita Kesarbai Kerkar of the Jaipur Atrauli Gharana. Hers is a short yet charming and mercurial composition ‘Ratana Laagi Re.’

Music Today’s morning raaga series contains a brilliant Lalit recording by Pandit Rajan and Sajan Misra. Their strong vocal rendition has infused the melody with classicism and grandeur. Ustad Rashid Khan brings Lalit to life in his forceful rendition as well.

Some lighter versions of Lalit can be heard in pleasing compositions from old Hindi films such as ‘Ek Shahenshah Ne Banawake Haseen Taj Mahal’ sung by Rafi and Lata, ‘Tu Hai Mera Prem Devata’ by Manna Dey and Rafi, and ‘Preetam Daras Dikhao’ rendered by Lata and Manna Dey.

Lavanya Dinesh is an accomplished performer and teacher of Hindustani classical vocal music and resides in Tampa. She regularly performs at musical venues in India and the United States. She has three album releases to her credit. The artist has worked as a music critic and feature writer for The Times of India and Deccan Herald. Dinesh can be reached at lavanya@lavanyadinesh.com

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