The first of the Arts Appreciation Series at the Bangalore International Centre this year, the presentation on Monsoon Ragas in Hindustani classical music was well received amid light drizzle outside the auditorium. The focus of the programme was on the Malhar group of ragas.
Mowna introduced the Malhars, seasonal favourites, speaking about the most popular raags in the group – Miyan Malhar, Gaud Malhar and Megh Malhar. She went on to talk about Malhar ragas being used extensively in Bhakti Sangeet, often being named after the Bhakti poets – Meera, Sur and Ramdas.
The performance began with two compositions in Miyan Malhar – Barasana laagi badariya, a beautiful description of the rain and rolling clouds and Sanana meha, padata boon… a popular composition by Pt. Shankar Abhyankar. Using these as examples, Mowna went on to explain that Miyan Malhar could be likened to the breeze, just before a downpour. With the use of both nishaads, or the 6 th note, in succession, Miyan Malhar creates an effect of trees swaying in the breeze.
Raag Megh Malhar was presented next, introduced by an anecdote about Tansen’s ladylove invoking the power of the raag to douse Tansen’s body in rain and cool him after a court performance of the fiery raag Deepak. True to its name, Raag Megh Malhar brought thunder clouds rolling in and the two compositions Mowna presented described the effect perfectly – Garaja ghata Ghana kaari and Ma chamake bijure. The second composition also showcased the unusual Ada (meaning crooked) Chau Taal. With the slight twist of the taal, the piece was made very enjoyable, giving the audience a new perspective on taals.
Moving on from raag-based compositions, Mowna presented a piece in Raag Durga. Here, the lyrics were effective in creating the mood – Sakhi more rim-jhim badal garaje barse - lovers separated in the monsoon, their tears falling like raindrops. Raag Durga, like the Malhar raags, also uses the madhyam-rishab-pancham (4 th, 2 nd and 5 th note) combination but in a style patently different, creating yet another mood.
The evening was concluded with the performance of a ‘kajri’, a composition of light classical music, often used to describe the longing of a ‘sakhi’ for her lover as the black monsoon cloud hang in the skies. The kajri is especially symbolic of the monsoon – Saavan ki ritu aayi re sajaniya, peetam ghar nahi aaye.
Accompanied ably by Shri Ravikiran Nakod on tabla, Shri Satish Kolli on the harmonium and her student, Paromita De, Mowna’s lilting voice was a pleasure to listen to, her skill of ‘gamaks’ impressive and her exploration of each raag, informative.