Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida


Postcards from an Indian Monsoon

Lavanya Dinesh

By Lavanya Dinesh

On my annual summer sojourn to the homeland, I never miss an opportunity to experience as much of live classical music as is physically possible. I endeavor to do so not just with my very own vocal concert performances to receptive audiences but by being an adept attendee and listener of accomplished artists that always find a warm reception at prestigious venues in my hometown of Bangalore.

American summers coincide with Indian monsoons and often provide the pleasure of listening to melodies that personify the rains, namely the Malhaar family of ragaas at this particular time of year. Hindustani classical music comprises melodies that depict every emotion, mood ... every hour of the day and every season of the year. Raagas like Mian Ki Malhaar (named for the legendary music maestro of medieval India: Mian Tansen), Megh Malhaar, Nat Malhaar, Chhaya Malhaar, Sur Malhaar, Ramdasi Malhaar, Des Malhaar, Soorat Malhaar, Jayant Malhaar, Jaijaiwanti Malhaar, Charju Ki Malhaar, Mirabai Ki Malhaar, Roopmamjari Malhaar and other Malhaar raaga variants are often performed during the monsoon season. The khyals/bandishes (compositions) often carry ornate lyrics describing dark clouds, thunder, lightning, heavy showers and other attributes of the rainy season, including how they impact humans, animals, emotions and life in general. 

Raaga Malhaar very beautifully and aptly brings forth the apprehension, turbulence, tumultuousness, excitement, freshness, novel beginnings and new life that the rains represent to everyday people. On my latest India visit, I got the opportunity to listen to accomplished vocalist Ashwini Bhide render raaga Mian Ki Malhaar at a well-attended concert in Bengaluru. 
The vilambit (slow-paced) 'He Kareem Naam Tero' is a popular traditional classical khyal in this raaga and was rendered rather languidly by the artist who followed it up with two fast-paced compositions 'Bole Re Papiyara' and 'Kaahe Laadali'.

One of Karnataka state's top vocalists Pandit Venkatesh Kumar rendered an absolutely invigorating and melodious raaga Malhaar at a live concert in Bangalore just the previous summer. The latter still lingers in my Malhaar memory!

Ashwini Bhide's singing of raaga Prateeksha was word-centric extolling the beauty of the rainy season rendered with both vibrancy and clear abandon. Seasoned musicians Pandit Ravindra Yavgal (tabla) and Dr. Ravindra Katoti (harmonium) enhanced the monsoon musical experience.

More monsoon sprinklings in the form of a pleasing raaga Gaud Malhaar performance by Bharati Pratap formed part of an evening's tribute program to the Agra Gharana (school) of Hindustani classical music with an erudite lecture-demonstration by Pandita Lalit J. Rao. 

Malhaar is most definitely a raaga or melodic entity with magnetism, ebullience and intensity. For times and places where live concerts are hard to come by, one can savor the multitudinous audio-video recordings of current and departed maestros such as Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Pandit D.V. Paluskar, Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Pannalal Ghosh, Pandit Ronu Majumdar, to name a few.

Back home in Tampa Bay, I continue to find solace in raaga Malhaar, my constant companion to get me through hurricane season as I sing the composition "Umandh Ghumandh Ghana Gharaje Badara ..." denoting the thunderous rumblings of an overcast sky!

Lavanya Dinesh is a performer and teacher of North Indian classical/Hindustani vocal music. The singer’s performances in India and the U.S. have garnered much praise as have the three solo album releases to her credit. Reach the artist/writer at Lavanya@LavanyaDinesh.com

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