of Book: NAAD – UNDERSTANDING RAGA MUSIC
Author: MR. SANDEEP BAGCHEE
Published by EESHWAR, BUSINESS PUBLICATIONS INC., MUMBAI, 1998
Summary/Review by Dr.V.S.Gopalakrishnan
The reviewer, first of all, records here his great admiration for the author Sandeep Bagchee for this monumental and impeccable book on Hindustani classical music. The author had been a colleague of this reviewer in the Indian Administrative Service. They had known each other well and yet the reviewer was taken by immense surprise when this book came out because he had known Sandeep as only fond of attending music concerts apart from horse riding and mountaineering. He has had no idea about the labourious and meticulous research work done by Sandeep over decades in understanding music. Well, the author himself admits that he began his work for personal enlightenment and finally it turned out into a book.
I am unable to use diacritical marks and hence I have distorted the title from NAD into NAAD. This book is on Hindustani classical music only which the title perhaps unintentionally fails to connote. There are very few people who have mastered both kinds of Indian classical music, namely Hindustani and Carnatic, which have a few commonalities but vast differences.
This wonderful compendium of researched information is aimed at “serious listeners” as the author puts it. Yet I will add that music learners will also vastly benefit from this. My personal opinion is that the study of music is not like the study of mathematics. Unless one goes into “pratique” (practicals) in terms of learning, the concepts of raga, tala, thaat, vaadi, samvaadi etc can never really be digested.
The book has been faultlessly built brick upon brick. The author starts with the elements of music, goes on to what ragas are, then the taal patterns, then the peculiarities of ragas, delineation of ragas (singing patterns), the various types of Hindustani classical music as it evolved over centuries (firstly dhrupad, then khayal etc ), then the various types of gharanas, then types of musical instruments etc. The Select Discography and Select Bibliography at the end are extremely useful for the reader.
For the next edition of the book, I have some suggestions. More material on the thaats from which the ragas are derived may be given. The ten thaats are mentioned in different books in different sequences. I have personally found that the following sequence of thaats is perhaps the best: Bilaval, Khamaj, Kafi, Asavari, Bhairavi, Bhairav, Kalyan, Marwa, Poorvi, Todi. The first six have shuddha madhyama whereas the last four have teevra madhyama. Bhairavi has all the four komal swaras and Bhairav has only two komal swaras, namely Re and Dha. If you take the last four thaats in teevra madhyam, Kalyan has no komal swar, the next thaat Marwa has one komal swar, then the next one Marwa has two komal swars and lastly Todi has three komal swars.
I understand that under the Bhatkhande method, a student learns just two ragas namely Kalyan and Bhairavi over several years! The assumption is that once you master these two ragas with all possible Paltaas, you can master any other raga very quickly! No doubt, Kalyan is imbued with teevra madhyam and Bhairavi is imbued with all the four komals, namely Re, Ga, Dha, Ni. That way a student covers all the twelve notes. However, I feel that the student is likely to get bored with just two ragas for months and months and would venture to stop learning at all!
A more useful method is that a student learns six ragas a year, two per month. Over five years he/she would have covered the popular ragas. The Vilambit (Bada Khayal) rendering can be taught from the third year or so but the Cheezes (Chhota Khayal) for each raga will have to start from the beginning. I would venture to suggest that a good and easy sequence for learning various ragas would be like Yaman Kalyan, Bhairavi, Bhoop, Kafi, Durga, Bhimpalasi,Khamaj,Des, Bhairav, Brindavani Sarang, Ahir Bhairav, Bageshri, Kedar, Alhaiya Bhilawal, Hameer, Tilang, Malkauns, Bihag, Patdeep, Shankara, Pilu,Tilak Kamod, Multani etc etc.
Children from a very young age pick up “filmi” songs very easily. Many of these songs, at least until recently, were based on classical ragas. It will be most useful to illustrate the ragas with popular filmi songs to create more interest in the learner/listener of classical music. This practical aspect is ignored by everybody, I am sorry to say. The “purists” on both sides, the classicists or the filmi geetists, try to avoid any mention of the other sector completely. This is very unfortunate. For example, the filmi songs “Man tharapath hari darshan ko aaj” and “Mat bhool harey insaan” are nothing but Malkauns. “Mohe bhool gaye saawariyaan” is in Bhairav raga. “Jab dil hee toot gaya” is in Bhairavi. “Kuch to log kahenge” is in Khamaj.
The Glossary at the end of the book is very useful indeed. An Index will make this book more useful indeed.
The author deserves to be congratulated for bringing out this wonderful book from multiple sources to make things easier for the ardent and serious listener and singer/instrumentalist.
Review by Dr.V.S.Gopalakrishnan