Ragas & Time:


According to Indo Pak ancient theory, the musician's task in exploring mood is made easier if the performance takes place at the time and in the atmosphere appropriate to the raga. So if a raga that embodies the atmosphere of spring is played in spring it will be more effective than if it were played in winter. Play some classical sounding music and try to see if any particular Raga thrills you.  Anything that turns you off completely?  Play instrumental or light classical music at first before embarking on a heavy-duty vocal piece. Is there a piece that moves you? Puts you in a sublime or inspiring mood. Another aspect of the raga is the appropriate distribution in time during the 24 hours of the day for its performance, i.e. the time of the day denotes the raga sung at a particular time. Ragas are also allotted a particular time space in the cycle of the day. 


Time based ragas are divided into four types:


1.      Twilight raga when the notes re and da are used such as Raga Marwa and Poorvi.

2.      Mid-day and Mid-night ragas that include the notes ga and ni (komal).

3.      Ragas for the first quarter of the morning and night that include the notes re, ga, da and ni


4.      For the last quarter of the day and night, the raga includes the notes Sa, ma and Pa.


The entire ragas are divided into two groups:

  1. Poorvi Ragas

  2. Uttar Ragas


The Poorvi Raga is sung between 12 noon and 12 midnight.  The Uttar Raga is sung between 12 midnights and 12 noons. The variations on the dominant or “King” note helps a person to find out why certain raga are being sung at certain times. This raga classification is about 500 years old and it takes us to Mughals era. The beauty of the raga will not be spoiled by the time of the day it is sung. It is the psychological association with the time that goes with the mood of the raga. The object of a raga is to express a certain emotional mood and sentiment without any reference to time and season. For a student of classical music, this classification may give an idea as to how to base his reasons for the traditional usage of raga.


Classification of Ragas under five principals: 

  • Hindol,    (There are also five ragnis for each class)

  • Deepak,

  • Megh, 

  • Shri, 

  • Maulkauns,

From these five ragas, other ragas are derived. The first derivatives of the ragas are called raganis, and each of the five ragas has five raganis under them. There are 25 raganis for the above five ragas. Raganis are female and raga is male. You can guess raganis and raga from the name of the ragas.  Further derivatives from these raga and raginis resulted in attaching to each principal raga 16 secondary derivatives known as upa-raga and upa-raganis.  Every raga has a fixed number of komal (soft) or tiver (sharp) notes, from which the thaat can be recognized. In other words, a certain arrangement of the 7 notes with the change of komal and tiver is called a thaat.


Facts About Ragas: 


It took a long time for music to come to the form found in present-day India. The most important advance in music was made between the 14th and 18th centuries. During this period, the music sung in the north came in contact with Persian music and absorbed it, through the Pathans and the Mughals. It is then that two schools of music resulted, the Hindustani and the Carnatic. Hindustani music adopted a scale of natural notes and Carnatic music retained the traditional octave. During this period, different styles of classical compositions such as Dhrupad, Dhamar, Khayal, etc. were contributed to Hindustani music.  


Detailed melodic modes are used in Ragas.  Traditionally, ragas are based on a complex Vedic philosophy of sound. A raga is also basically a set of Vedic-rooted rules for how to build a melody. It specifies rules for movements up (arohi) and down (amrohi) the scale, which notes should figure more and which notes should be used more cautiously. Which phrases to be used and which phrases to be avoided, and so on. The result is a framework that can be used to compose or improvise melodies, allowing for endless variation within the set of notes. 

There is no absolute pitch; instead, each performance simply picks a ground note, and the other scale degrees follow relative to the ground note. As ragas were never codified but transmitted orally from teacher to student, some ragas can vary greatly across regions, traditions and styles. Indian classical music is always set in raga, but all raga music is not necessarily classical. Many popular Indian film songs are themselves based on ragas. In today's Indian classical music raga is the backbone.


The outstanding feature of Indian classical music is the “raga” concept.  Raga is the essential concept of Indian classical music. Each raga is a distinct musical entity or unit by itself and possesses well-defined characteristics.  The concept of raga is proud contribution to the world music.  It is defined as melody mould or melody style. The goal of absolute music is reached in the concept of raga.  Ragas are the artistic facts that can be recognized by a trained ear. Ragas are acoustic facts and every musician is aware of them.  They are the creative talents of a musician.  The ragas form the basis of all melodies in India.  Raga is the soul of Indian classical music. If two songs sound strikingly similar the chances are based on the same set of notes and thus in the same raga.  Raga is also identified typically by pattern recognition, if you are not willing to do detailed decomposition into the basic keys of their scale. Thus, a raga is described as the unmeasured music and it has a rich variety of classifications. 


A Raga may also be characterized by a series of melodic notes pattern called challan, which means movement or by a key set of notes called pakad.  These form the melodic outlines of a raga and include consecutive ascending and descending phrases. The challan discloses the basic grammar and the progression of a raga. Every raga has a note that is frequently used or held for a long duration and is called vadi or a sonant note.  Similarly there is another note from vadi that is called samvadi or the consonant.  This note is usually the fourth or the fifth note from the vadi.  


Identify Raga From Raga Based Film songs:


Pakaad or bandish are the most dominating notes of a given raga. Each raga has its own bandish. Whenever a music director composes a song based upon a given raga, he makes sure that he uses the bandish of that raga. This is the precise reason why two songs composed on the same raga sound similar. In a way, bandish is a common factor within all the tunes composed on a given raga. 

While rendering a raga, one should be vary careful of not using varjya swar. Varjya swars in a raga are the notes; those are strictly excluded in rendition. Varjya swar is the enemy of the raga. If a varjya swar is accidentally used during performance of a particular raga, it will spoil the atmosphere that a particular raga is supposed to create. So great artists do a lot of practice of a given raga so that they will never make the mistake of using varjya swar. Actually, to understand the bandish of any raga, it is better to listen and grasp the instrumental classical music played on a musical instrument or midi music.  Since musical instruments do not utter words, the listener can concentrate and grasp the raga very accurately after repeatedly listening to the notes of the tune. Of course, if you are very well versed in classical music, then you can easily recognize a raga with ease even if you are listening to a vocal piece. Also, in order to grasp any given raga, one should listen to the same raga presented by different artists.


If you listen to a vocal song based on a raga, say on radio or a in a computer, and you want to identify the raga of this song, then you should listen to it while you are farther away, say about 30 to 50 feet away from the player. It has been observed that you can recognize the raga of a song while listening to it from a farther distance rather than by listening to it closer. This is because as you go farther from the source of vocal sound, you do not listen to any words from the song, but you only hear the dominating notes or bandish of the song. Once you hear the bandish, you can easily recognize the raga of the song. Of course, one has to have prior knowledge of ragas before attempting to recognize it using this technique. Also note that within any raga or a melody there is a definite relationship among the notes. A song based on a given raga can be composed in any one of 3 octaves. This sometimes makes it difficult to identify the raga of the song, although the progression of notes follows the same rules of raga in any octave.


The way some people have it easy, and can directly see the patterns and recognize a raga. Some others learn by going to a guru, but for a casual listener, it might take some practice and some intuitive thinking. If you listen too much film music, then there is a really good and easy way to try and learn ragas. Listen to a song and get someone to identify the raga initially for you. Learn this raga, by listening to the song and try humming along with it. Then turn off the song, and try humming along the same tune, but with variations. Let me name some songs for you.

Let us take for instance, any song of Raga Kalyan e.g Ranjish hi sahi, composed by Nisar Bazmi Sahib. If you know the name of the raga, play this song in your cd player. Play it a couple of times, continuously, and then turn your cd player off. Sing the song, but use your imagination to sing it. And then slowly hum and let it loose. If you are finding trouble nailing the notes, get its lyrics.


Once you've done this for a few songs, you will have some of it down. If you want to get theoretical however, and already have a decent ear, then learn the notes. It really and really helps if you can play an instrument, something visual. Harmonium is perfect, some persons learn on electronic keyboard, so the possibility is obviously endless. If you know theory and are just finding it hard identifying the ragas, then just stick with it and practice. You should try and improve your memory and memory association skills. Watch patterns, solve pattern puzzles, they all help.


There are certain clues to look for; here is a short suggestion on how to identify raga notes:


First listen to how the raga alaap starts off or the song, it must always begin with the raga identification. Its not like you can just sing without telling the audience what the raga of the song is. Listen closer to each note sang. Listen very carefully, and note down which notes are higher and lower, then slowly approximate the scale. Make it thorough first.  For example if you are listening a song you just try to sing-along with the song. Slowly try to get what are the swars inside that song. Ok you just think that you got the swars.




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