What have we got here
A self confessed Luddite, I am inclined to spare youtube from my (metaphorical) hammer because, hidden among zillions of cat videos, and viral memes, are gems like these –
A delectable composition in raag Miyan ki Malhar, seasoned with a touch of folk flute from Kucch and garnished with some western beats. With Nirali Karthik and Ankita Joshi serving up all the melodic goodness with verve, poise, and smiles on top.
Although, here in the pacific northwest of US, the incessant rain is usually greeted with groans or shrugs at best. It is difficult not to get drawn in and join this musical celebration of boondan boondan barse meha…, a celebration of monsoon rains.
The monsoon and the malhar
Since antiquity, the monsoon rains have sustained the Indian civilization, and their vagaries have decided the fate of empires. For the ordinary folks, the arrival of monsoons has meant a promise of plenty after long scorching months of summer. It is no surprise therefore that we Indians are born with an innate overwhelming emotional connection to the monsoon.
Over the centuries, this outpouring of relief, burst of joy, inflamed passion, wistful longing, along with deep pathos and trepidation has all been distilled musically into a family of raags called Malhars. A family of raags which has captured and crystallized these bevy of emotions that we associate with the rains. The flagship raag of the fleet being Miyan ki Malhar, attributed to the fabled Miyan Taansen in Akbar’s court.
And so stumbling across boondan boondan… became a youtube journey through Miyan ki Malhar, and it was time to get soaked, in these melodies that is and everyone is invited!
Down the rabbit hole
Our first stop is across the border, sampling another repackaging of traditional cheez with some western and world music blended in. Coke Studio Pakistan attempts to capture the span of monsoons from the tranquil to the forceful in ghan garjat badar aaye –
Heading back home to Mumbai, we stop by probably the most familiar Malhar of all namely, Vani Jairam’s bole re papihara.. from film Guddi. A traditional bandish blatantly and beautifully repurposed by Vasant Desai for bollywood
At our next stop in Maharashtra, we sample another film song (in Marathi this time) which illustrates the emotional range of the raag. The poignancy infused by the raag to poem jan palbhar mhanatil... is in stark contrast to songs of love and longing we heard so far.
On a serious note
After the roller coaster of emotions traversed by Miyan Malhar in the ‘light’ music arena, we turn to more ponderous classical arena. In this khyal form of singing the raag transcends into a meditation, an instance of abstract music itself. Much like pure mathematics, the object is to explore the beauty of this abstraction. Khyals like these are to be imbibed, rather than chugged, therefore might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The gravitas of this raag are eminently suitable for a contemplative mood, lending itself well to a deep baritone voice in particular. A stellar example of this from Pr. Satyasheel Deshpande’s rendering if classic khyal kareem naam tero…
Hindustani classical however, explores many more shades of Miyan Malhar. As an example, Pt. D. V. Paluskar fiesty rendition of aayi samdhan.. brings proceedings to more earthly environs –
Although this list can go on and on, I’d like to wrap up with a pièce de résistance from Pt. Bhimsen Joshi. At the peak of his artistic powers, he quite literally steals the thunder from the gods, singing mohmad sa rangile..
It truly takes a man possessed to achieve this level of artistry.
Now that you are also soaked through in Miyan Malhar, I’d encourage you to let you cursor slip, and click through the cornucopia of Malhars available on youtube and beyond.