Understanding ragas Music

Semi-classical beauties

While the ‘Padams’ of Carnatic music and the ‘Thumri’ of Hindustani are gushing waters of the same river, their kin, the ‘Javali’ and the ‘Dadra’ are rippling rivulets, skipping and hopping as they cross the pebbled streams of music respectively. Both pairs come under the semi-classical genre.

Let’s take a look at the Javali and its counterpart in Hindustani, the Dadra. Both have certain common traits. On the surface level, both originated in the mid-19th century in the courts of kings and were patronised by the royalty. Both are rendered to fast-paced music and rhythm is the dominating feature of these two. Romance is the central theme expressed in a language that is commonplace rather than literary with a content that is erotic. The only difference between the javali and the dadra is that the latter does not confine itself to sheer romancing but the content covers varied events.

There are many novices who enjoy a padam or javali without being able to distinguish between the two. There is a very delicate distinction between the two which only a music sensitive mind can discern. For most part, the lyrics of a javali connote mundane eroticism tinged with innuendos and not suggestive of the esoteric, which is the essence of the padam. Same is the case with thumri and dadra which seem alike but do not have the same underlying connotation. All four abound in Shringara rasa (Romanticism), since they deal with love of a beloved to her beau; the latter may be divine as is the case in padam or thumri while this element is found to be missing in the other two. Though written by composers of repute, the javali and dadra are entertaining and musical with no claims to spirituality of any sort. But both were also originally meant for dance since they held potential for acting out an emotion and were inherently rhythmic.

History of javali

Though most javalis are in Telugu, the genre gained ground in the court of Mysore kings as also in Travancore (Kerala) and Thanjavur, the three south Indian kingdoms during the 19th century. The metre to which javali were written was called the Ashwagati Chandhass (gait of a horse). The javali in vogue today do not amount to more than 50 since many became extinct. Some of the famous javali composers were Dharmapuri Subbaraya, Pattabhiramayya, Tirupathi Narayanaswamy, Swathi Thirunal, and Bangalore Chandrashekhar. They were tuned to ‘desi’ (regionally) raga like Pharaj, Senjuruti, Behaag, Hamir Kalyani, as well as the ‘rakthi’ (emotive) ragas of Carnatic music like Khamas, Mohana, Kaapi, Hindustani Kapi and Jhenjhuti. Unlike the padam, the javali has poetic liberties to experiment with phrases of other raga while it may be penned and rendered in one particular raga. For instance, in the javali tuned to Pharas raga, the prati madhyama (Ma 2) note gets in for the sake of poetic fancy; similarly, in Chaanaro…, a javali by Ramnad Srinivas Iyengar in raga Khamas, the kakali nishadam (Ni3) note is put to enhance its melody, and in the Behag javali, a few Hindustani notes creep in. But like everything else in music, there are exceptions like, some javali in raga Kambhoji ( Yemi maayamu) and Kalyani ( yenthati kuluke…) are as profound as a padam and hence sung to a slow tempo to create impact.

The dadra was famous in the Agra and Bundelkhand regions of northern India. It was originally accompanied by dadra taal (6 beats), from where it derived its name. Later however, dadra compositions appeared in other taal as well, like the Kaherava (8 beats) and is sung to Madhyalay. It owes its origin to the court of emperor Wajid Ali Shah.

Rhythmic cycles

The rhythmic compositions of the dadra are crisp and compact and conducive to fast pace of rendition. The short ‘aavarthan’ (rhythm cycle) makes for 3-3 or 4-4 maatra (syllables) bandish (lyric) which is its distinctive feature as against the Thumri. The ‘Bhol-baant’ singing of the words in varied swar-laiy patterns is the highlight of dadra rendition. The dadra bandish, Kaise kate din rathiya; baalam bin, niki na laagi, kaunu batiya, baalambin… displays the content and the rhythmic element of a typical dadra which is usually set to raag like the Maand, Pilu or Pahaadi. The best part of all this is that despite its so-called ‘mundane’ content vis-à-vis the highly classical compositions, the javali or dadra still hold their own dignity and standing in the world of classical music.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 7:55:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/semiclassical-beauties/article6169994.ece

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