The Ragas of the Four Seasons
SPRING - Rag Hindol by Sheela Bringi on bansuri
AUTUMN - Rag Jogiya Kalingra by Ross Kent on sarod
SUMMER - Rag Desh by Will Marsh on sitar
WINTER - Rag Malkoush by Daniel Paul on the tabla tarong
All accompanied on traditional tabla by Daniel Paul
Explanation of Raga and Tala
The characteristics of raga and tala are based on musical tenets traced to saints and sages of India’s pre-recorded history. They were passed down orally from father to son through the temples and into the renaissance courts of the Maharajas and Delhi’s Moghul emperors. It was there, beginning around the 11th century that a merger of Hindu and Arabic/Islamic cultures manifested one of the world’s greatest musical disciplines and treasures of today.
This highly elaborate north Indian classical music system is based on raga and tala, melody and rhythm. No chords are used but fortunately for the western student, the raga scales are based on a similar chromatic 12 tone scale system with 7 note names called Sargam. These notes with the rhythmic tala, (or talim) a highly evolved 3 dimensional rhythmic system form yet another facet of India’s rich classical yogic heritage known as Nada Brahma or Nada Yoga, music as the path to God. A focused meditation of musical emotion played in perfect tune and in perfect rhythm and of course, in perfect devotion! It could probably be summed up quite simply as Ayurvedic music for the soul!
Sa Re Ga ma Pa Dha Ni Sa
Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do - Solfege
C D E F G A B C - possible western notes
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1
In it’s simplest form ragas are ascending and descending scales of notes. The system has thousands of possibilities, but once a particular raga is chosen, only those notes are played and sung in a precisely prescribed manner. No other notes are used. Also known as Hindustani music, ragas have been codified to evoke nine basic moods including; shanti peace, sringar love, karuna sadness and the omni-present bhakti devotion. The ragas beauty must be unraveled in a slow devotional meditation, skillfully combining all the pieces of a rather large puzzle into an expression of musical perfection.
Indian classical music’s rhythmic system is based on what is called Tala. Tala’s are a fixed number of beats long and grouped in a fixed manner returning in a cycle to the first beat. This beat, called the Sum, is the most important, and all rhythmic and melodic variations resolve to it. There are many talas such as the 7 beat Roopak, the 10 beat Jhaptal, and 8 beat Keharwa, but the most basic is called Tintal, which is 16 beats long arranged in 4 groups of 4 beats each.
As in all talas there is a corresponding series of hand claps and waves which students and audience may exhibit to follow along and enhance there own appreciation of the music!
Tintal - a 16 beat tala divided 4 + 4 + 4 + 4
+ 1st clap 2nd clap 0 wave 3rd clap
//: Dha Dhin Dhin Dha / Dha Dhin Dhin Dha / Dha Tin Tin Ta / Ta Dhin Dhin Dha ://
1 2 3 4 / 5 6 7 8 / 9 10 11 12 / 13 14 15 16
The indian bansuri flute is made of bamboo. It is un-keyed and many of the notes must be half holed with the fingers requiring precise control. The short flutes are higher pitched while the longer ones are lower. Occasionally two flutes may be used in a recital. A higher pitched one can be quickly replaced by a larger lower pitched flute to reach more notes.
The Sarod is a 25 stringed lute like instrument. Many of the strings are for resonance and not directly played. Four main playing strings are stretched across an unfretted metal fingerboard and a goatskin head. They are pressed with the fingertips and nail of the fingers of the left hand while the right hand plucks the strings with a coconut shell pick.
The Sitar is a 23 stringed instrument made with a gourd at the lower end attached to a long neck. The many sympathetic strings are along the neck and give resonance to the four long playing strings that run the length of the instrument. A series of metal frets are distributed along the neck and are movable according to the notes of the raga. A metal plectrum worn on the first finger of the right hand plucks the string.
The Tabla Tarong is a melodic drumset comprised of 6 to 16 wooden treble tabla drums that are arranged in a semi-circle around the player and tuned to achieve any desired scale.
Since there is no bass baya drum, the complicated traditional tabla playing technique is abandoned in favor of simply striking the drum head with the tips of one or all the fingers together. It is an exceedingly rare instrument in India.
Tabla Drums consist of just two drums, the wooden treble daya and the usually metallic bass baya drum. The multi-layer goat skin heads are tightly applied with a leather strapping and have a round black shahi patch applied to the middle made of iron dust and rice paste. This not only gives the drum it’s metallic bell sound but also enables approximately a dozen unique and complicated finger strokes that make it an ideal accompaniment instrument mimicking everything from a bass guitar to a cowbell.
Description of the Ragas of the Four Ragas
In the old system of classifying North Indian music their are six main male ragas,
four for the corners of the day, and two for the important seasons of spring and the rainy season (summer in India). Rag Hindol is the male raga for spring. It has powerful wide open intervals filled with devotion, joy, expectation and a hint of pathos. The centuries old traditions of North Indian classical music associate this raga with Lord Krishna, who plays it on his flute to initiate spring.
From the key of G where the Sa of this raga is located the scale goes ascending:
G B C# E F# E G Descending: G F# E C# B C# B G
Sa Ga Ma Dha Ni Dha Sa Sa Ni Dha Ma Ga Ma Ga Sa
Every raga has a king note called the Vadi and the Prime Minister note called the Samvadi.
Raga Hindol’s vadi is Dha (E) and the samvadi is Ga (B).
Raga Jogiya Kalingra is a combination of two morning ragas, Jogiya and Kalingra. It was composed by the great master Ali Akbar Khan and taught to his students. It has the moods of bhakti devotion, vid heroic renunciation, hasya joy and karuna pathos. A raga of the yogi’s path.
Now using C as the Sa the scale goes ascending:
C Db F G Ab C descending: C B Ab G F G Ab Bb Ab G F E F E Db C
Sa re ma Pa dha Sa Sa Ni dha Pa ma Pa dha ni dha Pa ma Ga ma Ga re Sa
The king vadi note is Pa (G) and the prime minister samvadi is Sa (C).
The rainy season comes to India in the summer monsoon. Around the anticipation and onset of this dramatic event has grown a vast outpouring of musical creativity - the Rainy Season ragas.
One of the best known, with a history of songs and instrumental compositions handed down through the years is Rag Desh. It has a beautiful melodic structure showing the moods of joy, anticipation, wonder, deliverance and a haunting reflective pathos.
The scale goes from the Sa of D, ascending:
C# D E G A C# D E descending: D C B A B G F# E, F# C# D
Ni Sa Re ma Pa Ni Sa Re Sa ni Dha Pa Dha ma Ga Re, Ga Ni Sa
The king vadi note is Re and the prime minister samvadi note is Pa.
In the middle ages the painters of the courts depicted scenes showing moods of the various ragas. For Malkoush they would show the full moon at midnight, shining down on the city of Varanasi. Over the city hovered Shiva, in meditation on a tiger skin clothed in ashes and with a trident and neckless of skulls, granting liberation to the souls rising from the funeral gets along the sacred Ganges river below. This main male raga is in the profound mood of devotion, mystery and tilang surrender.
The scale from a Sa of E ascends:
E G A C D E descending: E D C A G A G E
Sa ga ma dha ni Sa Sa ni dha ma ga ma ga Sa
The strong vadi king note is ma and the prime minister samvadi note is Sa.
As in all of these short aproximately 15 minute selections, a slow invocational alap begins to reveal the first movement. The notes come forth one by one intoning their mood and displaying the overall tonal landscape of the melodic raga. Halfway through the tabla enters in the very slow and grand classical rhythmic cycle of 12 beats. (Bara Ektal).
Rag Jogiya Kalingra
The slow alap of a raga unfolds the notes, the main themes and many subtleties that are taught in the ongoing tradition of North Indian classical music. This alap is followed by a fixed melodic gat a rhythm cycle of sixteen beats. (Vilambit Tintal).
The alap opens to a soundscape of longing and fulfillment. This is followed by a gat melody in slow tintal (16 beats) and a set of variations returning periodically to the gat theme.
An alap played on the tabla tarong has a unique combination of rhythmic and melodic possibilities. Following the alap is a slow 16 beat tintal gat and with the sound of the rhythmic tabla drum underneath, the melodic tabla tarong variations makes a counterpoint of rare musical intensity.
About this CD
Those of us who made this CD decided from the beginning that we wanted to accomplish multiple purposes in it’s creation. First, we wanted to show four different instruments playing four very different raga melodies. Second, we found that the music chosen and played had a strong connection to the four seasons, so we arranged the pieces to both contrast and connect the musical progression to the changes in the natural world. This connection to nature and it’s cycles lies at the emotional heart of North Indian classical music. We also wanted to give the listener only the slower movements of a traditional raga solo. A long alap or invocation of the raga melody without percussion leads to the second movement adding the tabla drum, with the slow cycles of rhythm and melody juxtaposed in a grand mathematical but highly enjoyable musical meditation. And finally, the CD can be listened to for a variety of purposes, enjoyment, meditation, relaxation, a sound track for yoga or any of the other personal reasons we love to have music in our lives! Enjoy!
Ross E. Kent & Daniel Paul
Haiku, Maui, Hawaii
January 6, 2016