Friday, August 25, 2006

Raaga of the day : Bhatiyar

Bhatiyar. What a raaga. Infinitely complex and extremely puzzling to the ears. It is a morning raaga, which, in the words of Mr Rajan Parrikar, "is heard at the crack of dawn, attendant with the quotidian, crepuscular rite where Indian ladies, armed with state-of-the-art spices, take control of their sovereign space to negotiate the day's culinary projects."

Despite my relative unfamiliarity with quotidian crepuscular rites, I have very little doubt that this richly tapestried pastiche of bizarrely juxtaposed words accurately describes this amazing raaga. Bhatiyar is a raaga with an edge. It is a raaga of apparent calm on the surface and a whirlpool of seething emotions underneath. I like to compare a Bhatiyar recital to, say, being a psychiatrist in a therapy session with a new patient who is chronicling, in detail, the happenings of his day as he sits across the table from you. This particular patient of yours is well-educated, clean-shaven and appears to be leading a well-adjusted life. Why, you wonder is he here and what does he want from you?

And so Bhatiyar begins quite innocuously, with every note shuddha (pure), Sa Ma Pa Dha Ni and you relax and settle back into your seat, expecting it to be a smooth listen. You pour yourself a big one.

And so, as your patient begins to talk about his life, his work, his hobbies, you begin to think that perhaps this will be an easy case, just some guy who has no one to talk to. And you are lulled into a state of tranquility as your patient drones on and on about his daughter's spending habits and his wife's preoccupation with jewellery and your attention begins to wander. And then, just as you are about to nod off, your patient exclaims, "Oh oh, let me tell you a story, this is funny, I killed my neighbour today, hacked him with a chainsaw, chopped off his head and made love to the torso".

And that is when Bhatiyar, inexplicably, takes a deep breath while on the Nishad, skips the higher Shadja and leaps onto the komal Rishabh, screaming out the intense sorrow and rage that has always been lurking beneath the outward serenity of the pure notes of the raaga.

But once that single hysterical outburst is done, Bhatiyar returns back to normalcy as a sober clean-shaven law-abiding melody, just like your patient, who continues to ramble on about how he just purchased a new garden rake because summer is almost over and he's got a lot of wooded acres in his backyard and they keep the house cool during the hot months but clearing all the leaves becomes a bitch in autumn, but as you are listening to him, you can't help but brace yourself for the next psychotic zinger he will surely be throwing at you, just as you brace yourself for Bhatiyar's next foray into the high octave komal Rishabh.

Here is a clip of Pandit Jasraj's rendition of Raaga Bhatiyar. Listen to the final moments of the clip. Don't be fooled by its apparent placidity, it is a homicidal raaga with a repressed childhood.

14 comments:

Kupa Manduka said...

Dude, that is among the coolest raga reviews I've read ... got to go check out that clip now, with such an interesting recommendation for it :)

gawker said...

Hey thanks Manduka...Sorry that clip isn't too long but the Rajan Parrikar link contains more links to songs in Bhatiyar although I haven't checked those out.

zambezi said...

????wtf.
you never cease to amaze me popatlal.

Anonymous said...

unique review. :) my favorite is malhar.

Anonymous said...

Not really a classical music buff, but you have piqued my curiosity. Maybe I will give Bhatiyaar a listen, after all. Cool review ..

Anonymous said...

You might want to check out vmurthy.blogspot.com, for some more raaga thoughts.

ano

gawker said...

sandeep : Furthermore, i typed this post using only one finger.

anjali : thank you. yes i like malhar also, the n D N S structure of that raaga is superb and unique. I might write a post on that later after I've had a chance to listen to its renditions. Currently I am in the morning raaga phase.

rinku : if you want a really good recital, try Sanjeev Abhyankar's version of bhatiyar available on cd and casette. Unfortunately I can't seem to find it online.

ano : Thanks for the link. It is an interesting site, I will go through it in detail.

Anonymous said...

Gawker, i recommend Veena Sahasrabuddhe's rendition of raag Malhar. She is awesome.

RobRoy said...

I have no idea what you just said, but you've touched my soul with your one-fingered typing.

Anonymous said...

and to think i was sure this was about your raw and largely unpalatable experiences with some bharatiya nari's cooking, who had cooked your goose. *applause* i fell for this one, mate.

gawker said...

anjali : thanks, I will check out your recommendation.

robroy : That is excellent because what, if anything, could there be a purpose for a blog higher than touching people with one finger?

nocturne : Thank you, my goose is touched by your appreciation.

Anonymous said...

nice! :)this post takes the crown, love it...reminds me of a abcd dude who used loved classical indian music...lovely!

salil chaturvedi said...

Nice. I sat down to immerse myself in Bhatiyar this morning and picked up my flute. Then I went to trusted Rajan Pannikar's site to refresh the chalan. I don't know how I reached your blog. Though there's more to the raaga than you say, I agree, it is a haunting and bizarre raga. I was singing it to my wife last night and I kept saying, I want to meet the genius who thought up these note associations and then I realised I was meeting him/her, in my wonderment and contemplation of the raaga. This morning I was happy to find someone else (you) touched in such a big way by the raaga, hence this long comment! Cheers.

sidney said...

whoa, that is an amazing review of this raaga. i am new to all things Hindu, and have the luxury of naivety, but my curiosity is getting the better of me, this time i am glad it did. i am grateful to you.