‘Ragadhara' on Doordarshan explores the links between Hindustani and Carnatic music

Hindustani vocalist Ramesh Narayan mellifluously renders ‘Anandadeshwari Ardhanarinateswara,' a Vilambit bandish in rag Bhairav. Taking cue from him, Carnatic vocalist Sreevalsan J. Menon sings a perfect ‘Mayateetha Swaroopini…' in raga Mayamalavagowla; a raga in Carnatic that essentially follows the same scale as the Hindustani Bhairav.

Through this jugalbandhi, sung as part of ‘Ragadhara,' the new music-based show on Doordarshan Kerala (DD), the duo are attempting a confluence of Indian classical music; a comparative study of the two styles of Indian classical music through songs and discussions.

Underlying essence

“The underlying essence of both Hindustani and Carnatic is essentially the same, be it in their origin or their expression,” says Kamala Heminge, producer of the show. “It is not only that both these styles are monophonic, follow the same melodic system and have a definite scale structure, but they also have the same philosophical approach,” she adds.

As such ‘Ragadhara,' which means flow of ragas, bases itself on the works of the doyens in Carnatic and Hindustani music. “While Ramesh explores the rags of Hindustani dear to Tansen such as Miyan ki Malhar, Darbari Kanada, Miyan ki Todi, Bhairav and Malkauns, I take up Carnatic ragas such as Subhapantuvarali, Hindolam, Sindhubhairavi, Hamsadhwani with kritis of Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Syama Sastri and Swati Tirunal,” says Sreevalsan.

“Tyagaraja approached his music through an intense bhakti towards Lord Rama while Tansen was influenced by Nature, love, the seasons, Akbar and the Indo-Persian cultural milieu of his times, among others. Nevertheless, their thoughts – and that of others like them– the spirituality in their works and the underlying mysticism of their approach are all the same. Exploring these links is what we are aiming to do,” adds Ramesh.

Along with jugalbandhis and improvisations, peppered into the programme are discussions on the ragas, meanings of the songs and other tidbits that link the two styles. Twelve episodes of ‘Ragadhara' have been aired. In the subsequent episodes we will get to hear rare compositions of Tygaraja and discussions on the contributions of Swati Tirunal to Carnatic and Hindustani music (especially his 39 khayals).

Ramesh and Sreevalsan will also explore the links in Upashastriya sangeeth (semi-classical music) and Haveli sangeeth (folk songs) such as javalis, bhajans and ghazals, the distinctive features of various Hindustani gharanas and explore ragas such as Amritavarshini. “Whenever we take up a raga like Amritavarshini or Hamsanandi or Malkauns, which are not very different in the two styles, we try and blend the two styles and turn it into a short jugalbandhi. We sing a few swaras and reach a crescendo and so on,” says Sreevalsan. He points out that this programme is perhaps the only one of its kind that explores the two styles of Indian music at the same time.

‘Ragadhara' airs on DD on Fridays at 10 p.m.