Ritu series
  • In this fourth part of our weekly series on seasons and music, we explore how some of the legends of Indian music have presented the monsoon in their work.

    Next weekend we will explore another season, bringing the curtain down on the monsoon musings.

As I write this, I sit on a beach in Goa, in a shack. The rains pour down while the sun shines rather bright. I hope I see a rainbow soon… and I write. Are you ready to read?

We’ve had some detailed discussions on ‘Malhar’ in the past few articles. If you’ve missed them, here, here and here are the links.

As the rains do their last rounds, and the seasons change it is but natural that we sum up our pursuit of Malhar, and its different types. We’ve spoken about a lot of compositions, a lot of different songs, a lot of tunes, a lot of sub-ragas. Today, we speak of the legends of music.

The legend of all legends, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi


Often regarded as the greatest exponent of Indian classical vocals, Joshi sang with power, unmatched by any. Labelled as a “slow learner” by his teachers in school, young Bhimsen is said to have ran away from his home at the tender age of 11, in the search of a guru. With training, and his grit, the raw force in his singing, coupled with finesse made him the legend he was. Here’s one of the most famous classical compositions Muhammad Shah Rangile, in Miyanki Malhar, by him.

The nightingale of Indian film music, Lata Mangeshkar

Lata Mangeshkar is regarded by many as goddess Saraswati herself, and rightly so. In an era of single-take recordings, and no pitch correction, Lata Tai’s nectarous and gorgeous singing was absolutely flawless! In this song, Dar Laage Garje Badariya, from the film Ram Rajiay (1967), Vasant Desai has composed music to this godly voice, in Raag Soordasi Malhar (or Raag Sur Malhar).

The man who bridged the South and the North divide, K J Yesudas

One of the most underrated singers of his times in Bollywood, Yesudas is a fine singer. Trained in Carnatic music, Yesudas sang Hindi songs with complete ease, and became a legend in his own right. In the Sai Paranjpe 1981 classic, Chashme Baddoor, you’ll hear Yesudas lend his sublime vocals to the music teacher, teaching Raag Megh to Deepti Naval.

The king of ghazals, Ghulam Ali

One of the pillars of ghazal singing, Ghulam Ali is a living legend, who inspires the best of the best singers in the genre of ghazals. His velvety voice, his prowess over the ragas, the meticulous patterns of vocal designs, and emphasis on lyrics; all come together to make him the perfect ghazal exponent. He sang effortlessly. His inventiveness in ghazals, and his variations according to the words being sung are legendary. In the following rare ghazal, Mehfil Mein Baar Baar Kisi Par Nazar Gai, you’ll get to witness the young maestro, singing Raag Megh live in concert.

The man who defines soulfulness, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

One of the first Indians to have spread the beauty of Indian music across the globe, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan is probably the most legendary of all musicians that have been. Any words will fall short in praise of the man’s glory.

While I avoid using two classical links in one article, this one couldn’t have not appeared in the list of legends. Please put everything aside, put Khan saab’s Miya ki Malhar on, shut your eyes, and listen to the beatific playing.

Bonus track

While the next track is going to be a bunch of young musicians, playing for Coke Studio, no one can say who would go on to become a legend. Please give their sincere effort, a sincere listening. While Harish Sivaramakrishnan’s vocals are very impressive, look out for Irshad Khan on the Israj (the bowed instrument that sounds almost unlike the Sarangi). I’ve had the fortune of working with Irshad Khan for my upcoming album, and I can’t wait for him to reach the heights he deserves.

Now that the rains are done, we’ll be moving on to the next season, in the next week, because just like times and seasons, they are a changin’!

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