Sitar Compositions in Ome Swarlipi
By Pt. Omprakash Chaurasiya
The author is a renowned Santoor artiste and Composer. Pt. Chaurasiya created Madhukali choir, which has sung all great Indian poets.
The book purports to serve the ‘need of practicing musicians – their need for authentic, appealing compositions in various rāga-s’. To come up to its promise, the book details six to seven Miśrabānī compositions each in eight Raga-s.Thoughtfully, the Raga-s have been so selected that they can all be played without adjusting for flat notes of Rishabh and Dhaivat. The book has a clean, clear layout with Raga tabs. The description given in Preface modestly states,
“Essence of each rāga has been given in the beginning followed by salient qualities of the rāga. After about 6-7 compositions consisting of sthāī, mānjhā and antarā, tāna -s and toda-s are given for slow as well as medium paced composition.”
For many a reader, such simplicity would keep genius of two generations concealed. Misrabani is one of the several contributions of Sangeetendu Pt. Lalmani Misra, that have interpreted, explained and re-affirmed ideas and principles of Indian Classical Music. With creation of this composition technique, Pandit ji accorded full independence to instruments towards which Indian strings had been evolving for centuries. Several of the compositions are well known to his disciples, fellow-musicians and even young students. Most of them have been played by Pt. Misra, son Gopal Shankar or disciples. A few of Yaman and Bhupali compositions served me well on Santoor. The author, my Guru-sister, Ragini, like her father, can play several instruments with ease and perfection. A Jaltarang artiste since her early teens, she has impressed audience with rendering of rare raga-s on Sitar. After her brother, she is the only one who plays Misrabani compositions on Vichitra Veena. A senior disciple of Pandit ji, Dr. Pushpa Basu published Misrabani compositions she had learnt in a volume, Rag-Rupanjali. While her compilation is voluminous, Sitar Compositions in Ome Swarlipi has been written with an aim to empower the string player – perhaps, because the daughter too is a teacher like her illustrious father. Guru ji was kind and patient with students; giving them only so much they could absorb. Ragini displays same trait by giving easier compositions before challenging ones.
Several reputed instrumentalists are familiar with these compositions. Percussionists respected Guruji for the complex movements in his bandishes, which they called, Koot-ki-Tan. A few masterpieces have also been included generally as final compositions in each Raga section. Sitar and Sarod performers would enjoy practicing and mastering such bandishes. The progression of Raga-s again is helpful. From Yaman, Bhoopali, Khamaj to Vrindavani Sarang, Kafi and Des and finally to Bhimpalasi and Bihag. Tan and Toda in slow and medium gat are given for every Raga. The section on IAST may not seem relevant initially, but those engaged or interested in conservation / propagation of heritage would benefit from it. For novices, popular Tals are given in appendix, but they shall have to refer to a book on percussion to understand nuances.
I did not use the phrase ‘genius of two generations’ as indication of author’s versatility with musical instruments. In an early research paper (perhaps in 1950s), Guruji had short-listed some areas of research and development in music. One of these was creation of suitable notation system for instrumental players.
Bhatkhande system proved rudimentary when it came to deal with requirements of a string composition.
When Ragini took the hand-written manuscript of Tat-Ninad to publisher, she was asked to get it composed. Working with Bhatkhande notation system as her son created a software to input symbols as alphabets, she realized its non-suitability for writing string compositions. Just as the father created a Tantrakari style specific to strings, the daughter created a notation system specific to strings. This is the first book to present Misrabani compositions in Ome Swarlipi.
The notation system is intuitive for those already familiar with Bhatkhande notations. They just have to get used to punctuational division instead of a tabular form. While a curved line beneath the notes marked notes within a matra, the notes are separated by a simple vertical dash‘|’. To many global learners, the earlier system seemed a mysterious code. In Ome Swarlipi the beat marks are clearly given so that a beginner understands, which is the starting matra. If the composition starts off on 7th beat, numeral 7 is written under the starting note. It is intuitive because this composition in conversation would be signified to begin with ‘Saatvin Matra’ (seventh beat) and the number immediately indicates this fact. Then, it has clear indication for Meend, which is an essential part of almost all string compositions.
When I asked some young learners, they stated that it was easy to read Ome Swarlipi. Even I find it pretty clear, even though I have been accustomed to Bhatkhande notations for five decades now. Personally, I would require larger font on a wider paper to play as I read, but that is due to my weak eyes. I suppose those with healthy eye-sight may really play as they read. But, this is least of my concerns. I am overjoyed that now with a symbol based notation system, learners not knowing Devnagri script shall plunge straight into music, instead of learning the script first. Also, the publishing-friendly structure shall bring writing Indian music into the domain of hassle-free tasks. This should witness publication of numerous traditional compositions. It would also bring into vogue the fashion of writing new bandishes.
What Misrabani did for performers, Ome Swarlipi would do for composers and learners. The book, true to its promise, serves the need for authentic, appealing compositions.
Order a copy of this book and browse for others here
Raga Vibodh: Misrabani
Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya on wikipedia
Bhāratīya Shāstrīya Sangīt: Shāstra, Shikshan Va Prayōg
Raga - Ranjan
List of books on music.
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