*For a roundup of posts on raga, with a general introduction, see here!*
Left, Bismillah Khan; right, Hariprasad Chaurasia.
So far in my series on north Indian raga, besides vocal renditions I’ve only featured instrumental versions on the plucked lutes rudra vina, sitar, and sarod, as well as the bowed sarangi, all of which have illustrious traditions. * While these dominate the scene, the bansuri flute and shehnai shawm have also taken to the “classical” concert recital format, emerging from more popular styles. They are best known through the work of three masters.
The bansuri is strongly associated with Krishna. With its mellifluous timbre, in media publicity it’s particularly prone to romantic visual imagery, with sunsets and rippling waters adorning naff titles like Relaxing Lord Krishna flute music for meditation. But none of this should deafen us to the artistry of the great exponents.
Now for two ragas that I haven’t previously featured—Desh (largely “diatonic”, with flat ni in descent):
With flat re and dha, lacking Pa, Lalit is rather complex—here are its basic melodic contours as shown in The raga guide:
Again, we can hear Pannalal Gosh playing Lalit:
Here’s the 2013 documentary Bansuri guru on Hariprasad Chaurasia, directed by his son Rajeev:
* * *
More strident, but no less beguiling, is the shehnai, of which Bismillah Khan (1916–2006) was the great exponent (for the modern evolution of the shehnai, see here; cf. shawms in Nepal and south India; see also Shawms around the world).
Here’s his long, entrancing rendition of rāg Yaman:
(for Bhairav and Bhairavi, see here).
Here’s Malkauns again, in this short film.
In this early video he plays Puriya and (from 16.32) Maru Bihag:
* The mixture of roman and italic here reflecting my confusion about the current status of the instruments regarding their currency in the Western world. BTW, in modern China we find a similar descending hierarchy in the solo conservatoire repertoire: from the plucked zheng and pipa, to the bowed erhu, down to the less common dizi, guanzi, and suona (see e.g. here, and here). But in both China and India, beyond the confines of urban musicking, folk ensemble traditions dominate the soundscape.