Ragas meant for a specific time period, and which are rarely heard at regular concerts… Chaturprahar has all this and more.
According to Indian classical music tradition, ragas can be experienced in all their splendour only when played at a designated time. It is believed that there is a connection between the dominant mood that a raga invokes and the bodily and psychological changes that occur within us as the day progresses and time zones change. Of course this has to do with the evolution of music over centuries when musicians and their listeners lived in proximity to the natural world, its sights, sounds and rhythms.
Taking a cue from these associations, the NCPA has organised Chaturprahar, a concert that divides the day into three-hour sections known as prahars or time zones. This year, the focus is on the 12 hours from dusk to dawn, a time associated with an exquisite set of ragas that reflect subtle shifts in our emotional responses at different times.
Leading classical musicians have responded to the concept with enthusiasm, keen to present ragas rarely heard at regular concerts. At dusk, or 6.00 p.m. as the sun begins to set, the mood is ambiguous and a strange restlessness comes to the surface. This mood usually finds resonance in the ragas Marwah or Shree. Hubli-based Kirana gharana musician Jayteerth Mevundi will choose between the ragas Marwah, Durga or Bahar. The ragas of the second prahar (9.00 pm to midnight) will be presented by Ashwini Bhide Deshpande. This is when the shades of love, devotion and surrender overlap to create a mood of longing. Ashwini will choose from among Kalyan thaat ragas like Yaman or Shudh Kalyan followed by a shorter rendition of a Khamaj thaat raga such as Jhinjhoti or Jaijaiwanti. She will end with a short piece based on a paramelapraweshak raga from Kafi thaat to mark the transition from the early to the dense part of night.
The second set will begin at 8.30 p.m. with the Gundecha Brothers who will sing raga Darbari Kanada with detailed alaap and Dhrupad in chautal, which approximates to the magnificent stillness of the deep night. They will end with short renditions of Shiddha Kauns and Sohini. The concert will close with Ashwini Bhide Deshpande who will return at 9.30 pm to present ragas of the early dawn with a rarely heard Lalit followed by various early morning ragas before concluding with a Bhairavi.
Although audiences still cannot listen to ragas in real time as per the theory, the concert offers an opportunity to hear rarely heard and appropriate ragas in the original sequence. Musicians too love the freedom from the typical 7.00-9.00 p.m. concert slot, which restricts their choice of ragas. “The format gives us a natural sense of having made that journey from one prahar to another through the range of ragas. As musicians and listeners, it is important to make that journey,” says Ashwini Bhide Deshpande.
Chaturprahar: Dawn to Dusk Ragas
Where: Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Mumbai
When: September 8 from 5.30 p.m. to 11.00 p.m.