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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Classical Music Compositions

Composition in the classical music context refers to lyrics set to a particular Raaga and Taala. Artists are free to improvise i.e. sing the words of the lyric in various ways, provided the Raaga and Taala are adhered to.

In Khayal form of Pakistani, improvisation and elaboration are so important that the lyrics of the composition itself are almost trivial. Usually the lyrics consist of just a couple of lines in Brij or other dialects. Other forms of compositions are Thumri, Dadra etc.

Compositions in Pakistani Music
The oldest type of Pakistani composition is dhrupad, which emerged directly from Prabandha. Other forms like Khayal, Thumri, Dadra etc have either evolved from Dhrupad or are of folk origin.

Dhrupad compositions are the oldest Hindustani compositions still in use. Literally it means words (Pada) set (Dhruva) to music. These compositions are used in the musical form - also called Dhrupad. The earliest compositions were probably in sanskrit but most of the compositions in use now are in Brijbhasha or other old dialects of North India.

The compositions are short, two or four lines of lyrics. The first line is the refrain (sthayi) to which the singer keeps coming back after periods of improvisation. The composition is set to one of the several dhrupad Taalas - like Chautal (12 beats 4+4+2+2).

The fixed (dhrupad/bandish) section is in four parts of which only the first two are performed regularly: Sthayi (pallavi in Carnatic music) - the first line of the sthayi serves as a cadence, while the section itself serves as a base for the singer returns to the sthayi time and again after each part; Antara (anupallavi in Carnatic music) - the intermediate part sung in a high register focusing on the tar shadja, with a good deal of text manipulation and repeated forays into sthayi; the third section Sanchari (charana in Carnatic music) - created by the division of the abhoga and it remains a free-moving section; the fourth and concluding section abhoga (pallavi in Carnatic music because this section is often replaced by the sthayi) includes notes from all three registers, and in present-day performances, may well be sung with the sanchari, if these two sections are included.

In a dhrupad composition, the text, the rhythm and the melody are determined and each aspect receives equal attention. The constant improvisation and manipulation of the text in careful synchronization with the rhythms is an important feature of dhrupad, and is known as Bol-banth (bol means words, banth means divisions).

Hori Dhamar is similar to Dhrupad, but it is a lighter form, celebrating the Holi festival. The lyrics of these songs hail the arrival of spring, love and pleasure and describe the amorous play of Krishna. They are set to Dhamar Taala of 14 beats. At some point in history Hori and Dhamar used to be different, but now they are synonymous and they are part of almost all Dhrupad concerts. Dhamar is also sung as light classical songs in the Khayal tradition. Then, they are usually set to DeepChandi Taala, also of 14 beats.

Khayal Bandish
The short compositions used in Khayal form of Hindustani vocal music is called Bandish. Bandish-es are mostly composed by the leading artists of the gharana and artists from a gharana usually use compositions of their own gharana. Bandish has both sthayi and antara sections. The first phrase of the sthayi and the antara sections is termed the mukhda. Khayal performances consist of the bada khayal and the chhota khayal. Bada (literally big) khayal is a slow, sombre rendering of the raga and can well include an elaborate aalap. Chhota (meaning small) khayal usually continues the raga of the bada khayal at a faster pace (i.e. in drut laya). An exception are the raagas that do not lend themselves to the chhota khayal's style of rendering. Therefore, another raga is rendered but it needs to be close to the raga already performed.

In khayal, words are seen vis-a-vis the music and rhythm requirements, and are thus not enunciated as clearly as in dhrupad. Nonetheless, they do play a significant part in creating the mood for the performer and the audience.

The presentation of bandish-es depend on the traditions of different gharanas. For example, in Agra gharana elaborate alap free of rhythm and words is used. The bol-banth of the bandish section allows for wide-ranging improvisations and rhythm. An alternate approach is a brief alap that provides no more than an outline of the raga and Raaga development and exposition is at a later stage and accompanied by words and rhythm.

Thumri is romantic devotional poetry set to music. The Taala used is kaherava of 8 beats, addha taal of 16 beats or dipchandi of 14 beats. Thumri is used both in Khayal tradition and Dhrupad. It is even used by instrumentalists.

The language of the text is usually Braj bashaw which is the language spoken in a particular of Uttar Pradesh and associated with the legends of Krishna. The mood is shringara rasa, but the songs deal with romantic love as symbolic of spiritual love. The ragas and taals associated with thumri are closely aligned to folk music but the structure retains the classical form of the sthayi and the antara, and the mukhda here as in other forms is a vital part of the composition. Traditionally, the texts are sung in the female context but male singers too have partaken of this genre.

Originally thumri is believed to have originated in the nineteenth century court of Wajid Ali Shah. Two forms of Thumri developed over the years - one under the patronage of the landlords of Lucknow, and the other in Benaras and Gaya. The lively rhythm of the Lucknow thumri soon lost its identity to the chhota khayal; whereas the other, serious thumri steadily developed into an art form.

Dadra is a light composition similar to Thumri, but with more flexibility. The Taala used in Dadra (6 beats) or kaherava (8 beats). The Raagas used are usually lilting light ones like Pilu, Pahadi, Khamaj, Kafi etc. The pace is medium. Some examples of dadra are Mohe panghat Par Nandlal, Ja Mein Tod Layi Raja, Balam Naiya Mori Dagmag Dole Re, Zara Dhirese Bolo Koi Sun Lega and Hamse Na Bolo Raja.

Traditionally kajri is a folk form of east UP and Bihar region. The songs are again romantic in nature and are associated with the rainy season (Monsoon rainy season in India). In classical concerts Kajri is sung set to Keherva (8 beats) and in some light raaga like Pilu.

Chaiti is similar to Kajri, but is set for the hot Chaitra masa (summer). Like Kajri they are also about separation of the heroin and hero and depict the heroin pining for the hero.

The tarana genre of vocal singing is a form of nibadh sangeet and as such observes the structural requirements of the form. Rhythmic accompaniment is important in this fast-paced singing style that uses sargams and vocables lime na, ta, re, da, ni, odani, tanom, yalali, yalalom.

Classical ragas form the melodic structure of tarana singing and there is a marked resemblance to the tillana singing of Carnatic music.

A form of classical singing that began with the camel-drivers of the north-west region of Punjab, tappa has a dual advantage - the songs have a raga basis and some taals are common to both khayal and tappa.

The sthayi and antara sections are not present in this form which has a brief text and quick turn of phrase, with short taans unaccompanied by any elaboration. Shringara rasa is the predominant mood of tappa and the compositions may well be in ragas like Kafi, Jhinjhoti, Pilu, Gara, Barva, Manjh Khamaj. Pt Kumara Gandharva is credited with bringing this genre to the forefront, and tappas can be heard in the Gwalior gharana performances.

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