Of alap, raag and taan

BOOK Shruti Jauhari's book on Hindustani classical music packs quite a bit of information. SAVITHA GAUTAM

O ver the years, many books have been published on Hindustani music and its nuances by musicians, academicians and laymen. The latest addition to that list is Shruti Jauhari's book, ‘Elements of Hindustani Classical Music' (New Vistas in Indian Performing Art no 10; D.K. Printworld, Rs. 295).

Shruti, who is a performing artist herself and a teacher of Hindustani music at the KMM Conservatory, Chennai, packs her tome with valuable information about the evolution and the current state of the art form.

She provides an academic overview of Hindustani music by dividing the book into seven main chapters. It begins with historical details, and then moves on to the basics – swar, raag, taan and the singing process.

Chapters on gharanas

Among the enlightening chapters is the one on the singing process. Here, Shruti discusses various musical genres that have strong classical links such as folk, film and ghazal. She also explains the differences among the semi-classical forms – dadra, thumri and qawwali.

There are chapters devoted to various gharanas and musical instruments, including unusual ones such as israj. The concluding chapter is on raags, and rightly so. Choosing to go alphabetical, Shruti begins with Abogi and ends with Yaman. Obviously, the more popular and oft-heard raags are examined here. What the author does is take a raag, and dissect it – that, jati, aroh, avaroh, vadi and samvadi swaras. This chapter will work well for those who are familiar with Hindustani music and have learnt it, as it gets quite technical at times.

The chapter on famous practitioners of the art has short yet interesting takes on musicians such as Sage Narada, Jaidev, Tansen, Hassu Khan, Amir Khusro and later greats including Bhatkande and Paluskar.

K.J. Yesudas, under whom Shruti has studied music, has provided a succinct foreword.

What the book lacks when it comes to grammar, punctuation and tight editing, it makes up for with loads of useful data on the technical nuances of Hindustani music.

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