Swarajya’s new series called ‘Ritu’
  • In this third part of our weekly series on seasons and music called Ritu, we explore the beauty of raga Gaud Malhar. 

One of the lesser known, but arguably the sweetest variant of the monsoon ragas, as the name suggests, is Gaud Malhar. This is a ‘jod raga’ – a combination of two raga patterns; one of Gaud, and the other of Malhar.

While this raga may not be used as often as some of its cousins, here’s an absolutely beautiful song, from the 1960 film, Barsat Ki Raat. The wonderful Suman Kalyanpur and Kamal Barot have lent their voice for this song, composed by none other than the legendary Roshan. As you can see in the video, the film starts with this very song, while the opening credits begin. Let’s us too, kick off our conversation with this one, shall we?

When two ragas meet, there’s a beautiful exchange of ideas. A confluence, where the two separate identities merge their personality traits to create one brand new identity. This is beautifully demonstrated by Gaana Saraswati Kishori Amonkar. Known as the lioness of Indian music, Kishori Tai was a landmark in Hindustani classical music’s history.

A sweet, melodious raga with such defined movements is bound to be used sparingly by composers. Hence, you may not find very many songs based on this raga. But, our man Roshan – the legendary music director we spoke of earlier – wasn’t afraid to use the same raga again. In Garjat Barsat, you may have noticed that the song had a more classical vibe to it. In fact, in the video, you will see Shyama and Ratna Bhushan (the actresses in the song) sitting with a harmonium player, and giving the teentaal beats, like classical musicians. Seven years after Barsat Ki Raat, in 1967, was released Noor Jehan, starring Meena Kumari and Pradeep Kumar. In this film, Roshan uses Gaud Malhar in a different garb, whilst teaming up with Suman Kalyanpur again! In the song, do notice the beat cycle. It’s not your regular 8-beat cycle. The song is set in a 10-beat cycle, called jhaptaal. Only a handful songs in our Bollywood history of music, are based on a 10-beat cycle. So, when a rare raga meets a rarely used rhythmic cycle, magic is bound to happen! Enjoy!

But it doesn’t feel right to have a raga from the Malhar family without at least one song picturised with the rains pouring down! Here’s a song from Hrishikesh Mukherji’s gem of a film, Aashirwad (1968). If you haven’t seen the film, please watch it for Ashok Kumar’s phenomenal performance, and of course Gulzar’s heart-wrenching poetry!

If you’ve been reading this series of Ritu, you’ll know by now, that I idolise the amazing Mehdi Hassan. To me, his name is equivalent to ghazals, along with, of course Ghulam Ali. The ustad is said to have mentioned that Malhar was one of his favourite bunch of ragas, and there was a different connect he felt with nature and the divine while composing and singing songs and ghazals based on Malhar. Hence it doesn’t surprise me to see, Mehdi Hassan featured in the previous article, and featured this time again. The composition, his pronunciations, the texture of his voice, and the style of singing just come together so well!

While I am taking the liberty of saying that the ghazal is largely based on Raag Gaud Malhar, there is an evident touch of Raag Bahar as well. The second line, where he mentions the word Bahar, is where the genius brings in an evident touch of Raag Bahar as well. Do not miss noticing it.

We now have just about over a week for varsha ritu to shower its blessings on us. So, make sure you listen to Malhar ragas in the season they are supposed to be heard in. Also, please stop staring at the screen now! Step out when it pours next, and soak in the fun while you still can!

Also Read:
Monsoon Musings: Swirl To The Rhythm Of The Raindrops
The Legend Of Miyan Malhar

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