Raag Bhairav lends itself effortlessly to devotion, but has often been used in Bollywood music as well.
As we move ahead in the latter half of the year, Sharad ritu has finally arrived. Like we discussed in the previous article, Raag Bhairav and its cluster are of prime importance in this season. Let’s explore the implications of the raga in various classical forms, shall we?
Mythology claims that Raag Bhairav was the first raga created by Lord Shiva himself. But Khayal Gayaki is a fairly recent development. The traditional form of Hindustani classical music was Dhrupad. The word “Dhrupad” comes from the word “Dhruva” which means immovable or permanent. Dhrupad singing is an extremely spiritual, heroic, thoughtful, virtuous, embedding moral wisdom or solemn form of song-music combination. Raag Bhairav’s sombre nature lends itself naturally to Dhrupad singing.
There are a few incredibly talented Dhrupad singers today. Pandit Uday Bhawalkar and the Gundecha Bandhu surely come to mind when we speak of great contemporary Dhrupad exponents, but the one family that has taken Dhrupad as its sole goal, for generations, is the Dagar family. One of the contemporaries of the senior Dagars, who recently left us this year, was Ustad Hussain Sayeeduddin Dagar. He represented the nineteenth generation of the Dagars singing Dhrupad and worked towards spreading the love for Dhrupad.
In this rendition of Raag Bhairav, you will notice the Pakhawaj accompanying the Ustad. The Pakhawaj is at the core of most Dhrupad performances. The deep booming sound adds to the depth of the performance. Please also notice the meditative nature of the form of singing. Every note is drenched in devotion, and the movements between notes are rarely ever sudden. There is always immense weight, boldness and gravity to each swara. So, leave everything aside, and lose yourself to Raag Bhairav’s beauty and devotion.
Raag Bhairav’s association with Mahadeva is highlighted with Dhrupad singing. But while Dhrupad may be one of the most ancient forms of music in the world, it definitely isn’t extinct. There is some serious talent amongst the youth of today, who are pursuing this form. A classic example is the musical duo Ritesh Mishra, Rajnish Mishra, who have been working towards keeping this tradition alive. In the talented Anoushka Shankar’s fourth solo album, “Rise”, Pandit Ravi Shankar’s daughter showcases the track Mahadeva, featuring Ritesh Mishra, Rajnish Mishra, along with her doing a few solos on Sitar. In the track, Anoushka has rearranged one of her father's compositions and brought it forth to us with some fantastical collaborations. Despite having to live under her father's huge shadow, Anoushka has successfully managed to create her niche with fabulous collaborations, and aesthetic fusion.
We’ve discussed Raag Bhairav’s implications in both Dhrupad and Khayal forms of Hindustani classical music. We’ve also seen how it lends itself effortlessly to devotion. But Raag Bhairav has often been used in Bollywood as well. One of the most beautiful songs ever composed by Salil Chowdhury is also based on Raag Bhairav. Chowdhury was heavily influenced by Western music, and one could see how he beautifully brought in those sensibilities into his music while merging them with Indian melodies.
The song Jaago Mohan Pyaare from Raj Kapoor’s iconic film Jaagte Raho (1956) is a quintessential Chowdhury song, with gorgeous harmonies backing the lead vocals. If you give it a closer look, you realise how Chowdhury has chosen the raga for the song. Since the song speaks of waking up, because it is the dawn of a new era, the music director chose to compose the song in Raag Bhairav, which is a morning raga. Obviously, the song wouldn’t have been half as poignant had it not been the mellifluous voice of the legendary Lata Mangeshkar.
Ragas and ritus cannot be separated, and we will uncover one layer of a raga at a time, one layer of a ritu at a time. As Sharad Ritu (the autumn season) gets more intense over the coming weeks, so will our engagement. Until next time, keep listening.