*For a roundup of posts on raga, with a general introduction, click here!*
“Splendidly enthroned, of peerless beauty, he sits hearing stories from Narada and Tumburu.
By the great sages he is called Shri-raga king.”
So far in this series I’ve mainly surveyed ragas that I’ve long known, but now I’m beginning to explore some that haven’t previously come to my attention.
The sargam solfeggio system.
Here’s the introduction to Rāg Shri in The raga guide:
A “mysterious, gentle, and austere” raga for the early winter harvest, its melodic progression is distinctive, with the pivotal wide intervals of flat re and sharp Ma (D♭ and F♯, if you will); the natural third Ga and flat sixth dha are heard mainly as fleeting ornaments; in ascent the flat re leaps to sharp Ma or directly to Pa. The natural Ni gives the option of three adjacent semitones Ni–Sa–re; while the flat sixth dha is less prominent, the equivalent sequence Ma–Pa–dha may be heard.
As ever, dhrupad makes a fine way of immersing ourselves in the raga. Here are the “Junior Dagar brothers” Nasir Zahiruddin Dagar and Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar:
More recently, Uday Bhawalkar is just as wondrous (cf. his Yaman, and Bhairav):
Udayji’s opening exposition revolves around long sustained re, and then Sa and Ni, introducing the sharp Ma, and Pa, in the lower register at 1.50, ascending to re, now decorated with Ga. At 6.17 he ascends to Pa before returning to the semitone cluster around Sa. From 8.16 he clearly expounds the ascending sequence Ma Pa Ni Sa re. After revolving around the augmented interval of re–Ma, he reaches sustained cadences on Pa from 9.29. From 16.31 he explores the upper range around top Sa (17.06: Ma Pa Ni, Sa Ni, re Sa).
For the jor section of the alap from 21.29, Udayji injects a firmer pulse, with a mixture of nomtom and ākar (“aah”) syllables around low Sa; having explored around low Pa from 21.24 he returns to Sa after 26.15, the wide interval re–Ma always featuring prominently. From 31.02 he is oscillating around high Pa, eventually reaching up higher, with sustained cadences on top Sa from 34.19 as the melodic phrases become more florid.
From 38.13 Udayji returns again to the lower register, Sa eventually giving way to Pa as pivotal pitch from 46.14, incorporating the higher register from 49.33 before the pakhavaj drum enters.
From 56.18 he concludes (as in his wonderful Yaman) with a praise song at a more sedate tempo in 14-beat dhamar tāl (5+2+3+4), followed by a faster section from 1.13.02 in sūltāl with five duple units (as he does for Malkauns and other ragas). The very ending is missing.
An audio recording by Udayji appears over two tracks, with alap and a lively jod:
followed by another song in dhamar tal:
On sitar, here’s the sublime Nikhil Banerjee in 1975—note how he features Ga quite prominently, and relishes the interval Ma–dha:
And a longer performance:
This up-tempo version by Ali Akbar Khan on sarod from 1969 brings out the angular wide intervals even more:
And here’s a short but exquisite rendition by Ram Narayan on sarangi:
With thanks yet again to Morgan Davies!