Unchanging rhythms – the familiar, unfamiliar and unusual

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As December looms, we have survived through yet another year filled with change and uncertainty. Yet some rhythms remain unchanged, whether rains in Chennai or the taking stock of the year gone by. This month we look at the old, familiar and unfamiliar and encounter some of the familiar in new circumstances. Bhakti music in bhajan and song remains timeless, the Esraj, an instrument that’s been nearly forgotten and Bollywood music sees use in new medium.
Bhakti Movement
The Bhakti movement spanned a period from the 6th century all the way to 18th century. Mystics—men and women—from across India cut across caste, regional and social boundaries with their devotional poetry extolling their direct relationship with the divine. Who were these mystics? What was their message? This short video from the Sahapedia project introduces us to what the Bhakti movement was all about and can be viewed here.
Echoes of the Esraj
When you hear the sounds of a bowed stringed instrument, be it the rabab, sitar or sarangi, the result is magical. The esraj, yet another bowed string instrument used by the Namdharis (Sikhs) doesn’t get its due. This despite it getting a new lease from its use in Rabindra Sangeeth. The haunting melody of Bhairavi, played by the musician Arshad Khan on the esraj can be heard here. Music Beyond Borders
We’ve all heard the expression music knows no borders. This really came home to me recently when I went down a rabbit hole on YouTube. As I was watching an English movie about a bank heist, the unexpected sound of Chaiyya Chaiyya from the Hindi movie Dil Se, caught me by surprise. As I found out it is not the only popular Bollywood tune to make it in mainstream Hollywood movies. Catch the others in this video here.

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You can read earlier editions of newsletters here and the Raga Ruminations Podcast here. You can listen to episodes of my radio show RaagTime here.

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