Monthly Archives: December 2015

The making of RaagTime

Growing up, I went through a phase of listening to ghazals and Hindi film music. That proved to be the exception rather than the norm. The last twenty-five years I focused solely on Carnatic – or south Indian classical music. I suspect I avoided delving too deep into Hindustani music, lest it influence my own rendition of Carnatic ragas. Luckily the last four months I’ve taken a different trajectory listening, even immersing myself into a variety of Indian music genres across languages and regions.

RaagTime, my show on Indian music that launched recently on Columbus community radio, airing on Sunday afternoons, is the primary reason for this major change. When my friend Shoba Narayan and I launched HumRaag last year, was when I listened to (and began appreciating) Indian film music. Now with RaagTime, which intends to introduce Indian music to a wider audience, including one that may never have heard any Indian music I’ve had to explore the facets behind many an Indian music genre — from classical to bhajan to Bollywood and more.

Every episode of RaagTime begins with a peppy movie song and revolves around a theme. The introductory episode of RaagTime begins with the song Jai Ho from the movie Slumdog Millionaire. This A.R.Rahman number went on to win an Academy award that year.

In one episode we hear the sounds of musical instruments played in Hindustani and Carnatic music concerts while another episode taps into folk songs from different regions. A couple of episodes takes us on a tour of India while we listen to movie songs from every state and learn about local cuisines and history. For example a Rajasthani movie song is preceded by references to deserts, royal palaces and dhaal baati churma.

Do join me in this journey as we discover the fascinating musical heritage of India. Once the episodes are broadcast, they can heard as a podcast at the following link WCRS-RaagTime.

Abhogi – Raga Ruminations

The word Abhogi in Sanskrit means nourishment. I believe raga Abhogi to be an energizing melody. The raga is heard at the early part of a classical concert. For students of Carnatic music, the varnam “Evari Bodhana” composed by Patnam Subramanya Iyer  is an important lesson in their training. Here is a marvelous rendition of this varnam by the doyen Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer.

As a child I remember my mother singing the song “Srilakshmi Varaham”, a composition of Dikshithar, after the Lakshmi Varatham pooja at home. I would impatiently wait for the prasad that inevitably followed after the conclusion of the song.  Here is a rendition of this ode to the goddess of prosperity by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and M.S.Subbalakshmi.

Tyagaraja’s “Manasu Nilpa” and “Nannu Brova” are presented in a crisp manner while “Sabhapathiki”, the composition of Gopalakrishna Bharathi never fails to bring tears to the listener’s eyes. Here is a rendition of this emotive song by stalwart M.D.Ramanathan.

Abhogi has been imported into the Hindustani school of music and sometimes referred to as raag Abhogi Kanada. Here is a lovely rendition of this melody in the Hindustani style by Ustad Amir Khan.

The raga did not make a seamless transition to the silver screen due to the paucity of notes in the scale. Yet Illayaraja came up with this beautiful song “Indraikku Yen Indha” based on this raga for the Tamil movie Vaidehi Kathirindhaal, The singers are Vani Jayaram and Jayachandran.

For those who want details, Abhogi is a pentatonic scale and an audava raga (5 note-melody). It is considered a derivative (janya) of the 22nd Mela raga Karaharapriya and the scale reads as follows. SR2G2M1D2 SD2M1G2R2

Pantuvarali – Raga Ruminations

Pantuvarali is a very popular raga in Carnatic music. This raga is also known as Kamavardhini and Kashi Ramakriya in the Dikshithar school. Tyagaraja has composed many songs in this raga. Some of my favourites are Siva Siva Ena Radha, Aparama Bhakthi, Ninne Nera and Shambho Mahadeva. Muthuswamy Dikshithar’s Ramanathan Bhajeham is a slow-paced song while Bhadrachala Ramdas’s Enna Ganu Rama Bhajana is an eternal favourite with listeners.

Here is M.S.Subbalakshmi singing the poignant composition of Bhadrachala Ramdas.

Raga Pantuvarali corresponds to Raag Puriya Dhanashri in Hindustani music. This is an evening raga and sung at the early part of the concert. Musicians presenting Carnatic-Hindustani jugalbandhi concerts often select Pantuvarali/Puriya Dhanashri as one of the ragas for their performance.

Here’s a beautiful rendition of raag Puriya Dhanashri by Kishori Amonkar.

It’s always fascinating to see how music producers transform an ancient melody on the silver screen to a tune that makes it appealing to the masses. The song He Rama from the Hindi movie Rangeela is based on this classical raga.

The romantic song Rojavai Thalattum Thendral from the Tamil movie Ninnaivellam Nithya was based on raga Pantuvarali.

For those who want details,  Pantuvarali is the 51st Melakartha or parent raga and the scale reads as follows. SR1G3M2PD1N3S SN3D1PM2G3R1S



RaagTime – Indian music show

WCRS logoI’m excited to announce the kickoff of my new project – RaagTime –  a radio show about Indian music on Columbus Community radio WCRS  102.1 and FM 98.3.

In RaagTime we’ll discover and explore the classical music of India and its contribution to popular music. The program showcases the entire spectrum of Indian music – from classical music to folk, to Indian movie music from Bollywood and beyond. Instrumental and regional music get as much coverage as mainstream and vocal music.

RaagTime airs on Sundays from 3 to 3:30 pm EST. The show can be heard in real time at the station’s website. For those who can’t listen in at showtime, each episode can be heard as a podcast  – available online. The show will be re-broadcast on Saturdays at the same time (3:00-3:30pm).

RaagTime details

I’d love it if you can spread the word and listen in as well. Your feedback on RaagTime would be greatly appreciated. Please send me mail at chitra[dot]raagtime[at]gmail[dot]com


#8 – Raga Kalyani – Podcast

The Raga Kalyani podcast features musical snippets of L.Subramaniam rendering raga alapana, Ustad Vilayat Khan on the sitar playing raag Yaman, Mohammad Rafi singing Abhi Na Jao Chodkar for the Hindi movie Hum Dono and Ustad Rashid Khan singing a tarana.

You can read my earlier blog post on raga Kalyani here.

Kalyani – Raga Ruminations

The word Kalyani means ‘the auspicious one’ and is another name for the mother Goddess. It is one of the most popular ragas in Carnatic music. Almost every composer has created a composition in this raga. Some of the well-known songs include Tyagaraja’s Etavunara, Nidhi Chala Sukhama and Amma Ravamma, Dikshithar’s Kamalamba and Bhajare Rerchitha, Shyama Shastri’s Himadri Suthe and Purandaradasa’s Nambi Kettavarillavo.

The raga has ample scope for elaboration and is often presented on stage as the main piece of a concert. It has many janya ragas (derivatives) such as Hamir Kalyani, Saranga and Yamun Kalyani which are equally popular.

Here is Madurai Mani Iyer presenting Etavunara in an AIR concert.

Raga Kalyani corresponds to Raag Yaman in the Hindustani scale. Raag Yaman is generally sung in the evening. Here is Prabha Atre singing a bandish in raag Yaman.

The melody made an easy transition to the silver screen. The song Abhi Na Jao Chodkar from the Hindi movie Hum Dono sung by Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhonsale is based on raag Yaman.

In raga Kalyani, music directors of Tamil movies found a bottomless source for composing numerous songs. Illayaraja’s Katril Varum Geetam sung by Hariharan, Sadhana Sargam and Shreya Ghosal for the movie Oru Naal Oru Kanavu is based on raga Kalyani.

Raga Kalyani corresponds to the  Lydian mode which is not commonly heard in Western classical music. Watch this video to learn how the Lydian mode sounds on a Celtic harp. Can you find this resonating with the notes of raga Kalyani?

For those who want details Kalyani is the 65th melakartha (parent) raga and the scale reads as follows SR2G3M2PD2N3 SN3D2PM2G3R2