Rag Desh - St Peters Music Department

Indian Music
 A long history, over 2000 years
 Closely linked to Hinduism and religious beliefs
 Hindu Gods are worshiped through Raga, both
The Hindu
God Shiva
instrumental and vocal
The God, Shiva, is associated with music and dance in
Hindu philosophy and there are many pieces in honour of
Indian music can be divided into 2 traditions
Music of Northern India (Hindustani tradition)
Music of Southern India (Carnatic tradition)
This particular piece is taken from the Hindustani
The Oral Tradition
 Indian music is not written down in traditional
western notation
Taught through listening and playing by ear = oral
System of master-pupil teaching, known as Gharana
i.e. a father teaching his son, and in turn him teaching
the music to the next generation.
Playing styles subsequently change as new techniques
are added by each generation
It is a duel and a consolidation of playing skills
Elements of Raga
 Three important elements in Raga
1: Melody – improvised from the notes of a
particular rag. Can be sung or played by
a melody instrument, such as a sitar or
2: Drone – usually made up of 1 or 2 notes
played by the tambura
3: Rhythm – repetitive, cyclic pattern
played on the tabla
Rag – The melody
 A set melody which is improvised upon
 A cross between a collection of pitches and a scale
 Ascends and descends, but pitches often differ in each
direction (like a harmonic minor scale)
 Number of notes in a rag will differ considerably (unlike
the number of notes in a western scale)
 Some have 5 notes, like a pentatonic scale
 Others have seven or eight
Vibhas Rag – Early morning rag
Kalyan Rag – Night time rag
Drone accompaniment
 No sense of harmony in Indian raga music, emphasis
is on melody, linear in concept
Drone on the tambura is supportive
Usually play the tonic and dominant of the chosen
Function is to keep a sense of tuning and intonation
for the melody line player
Also adds to the texture of the piece.
Tala – The rhythm
 Provided by the small tabla drums
 Plays a repeated rhythmic cycle known as tala
 Most common tala is the Teental (or Tintal) which is a
16-beat pattern, organised into 4 groups of 4.
 Each beat is called a matras
 There are many other talas with different numbers of
beats per cycle.
Tala continued
 Complex rhythms sound exciting against the steady
rhythm of the tabla and instrumentalist or singer.
Rhythm patterns, or bols, are independent of the beat
and can be inventive
Accents off the beat create syncopation.
Rhythms must start and end precisely together on the
first and last beat of each tal. First beat is called sam.
This need to keep within each tal can lead to
competitiveness between the drummer and
instrumentalist as they attempt to out do eachother.
Tintal, or Teental
 Tintal is without any doubt the most common tal in the north Indian
classical system of music. These names all reflect the three claps of its
vibhags structure.
 It is composed of four vibhags of four matras each. These vibhags
are represented by a clap, clap, wave, and a clap.
 The structure of tintal is shown below:
 Clapping/ Waving Arrangement
 clap, 2, 3, 4, clap, 2, 3, 4, wave, 2, 3, 4, clap, 2, 3, 4
Structure of a raga performance
Musical Features
Slow, meditative
Free, no sense of metre
•Soloist explores the note of the
•Accompanied by tambura
Steady, moderato
Regular pulse established
•Improvised, but more rhythmic
•Melody is more elaborate and
tempo increases
Lively, presto
Fast pulse with exciting, complex
•High point of the piece
•Virtuosic display of advanced
playing techniques
Moderato - Allegro
Tabla introduced the cyclic tala
•The ‘fixed’ composition section.
If a Gat, then a fixed solo. If a
Bandish, then a song
•Dialogue between
instrumentalist and drummer
•Sections may be omitted i.e. Only have an Alap and Gat.
•Can vary greatly in length. Some performances last all evening!
Indian instruments - Sitar
 7 principal strings, 2 of which are drone notes
 Below are up to 12 sympathetic strings, which vibrate
when the top ones are played
 Played with a wire plectrum
 Playing techniques include the meend/mind which is
sliding between notes in intervals of a quarter-tone
or less.
 Plays rapid scalic flourished called tan, typically
played in the jhalla or gat
Other instruments
 Sarangi: Smaller than the sitar, fretless and uses a bow.
Ideally used to accompany singers
Sarod: Like the sitar it has 2 sets of string. It is fretless
and has a metal fingerboard
Tambura: Made of 4 strings and a resonator
Tabla: 2 drums of different sizes. Smaller one is made
of woos, larger one is made of metal. The drum heads
are skin and the centre black circle is made of a paste
of iron filings and flour.
Bansuri: Indian flute without keys
Shehnai: Similar to the western oboe
Rag Desh
ma pa
dha pa
Version 1: Anoushka Shankar
 Instruments = Sitar and tabla
 Structure = 3 movements: Alap, Gat 1 and Gat 2
 0’00’’-0’55’’ = Alap: Slow and unmetered.
Unaccompanied sitar explores the notes of the rag.
 Rhythms are fluid and free
 Improvisatory due to lack of a regular pulse
 Some decoration of the notes of the melody line
Version 1: Anoushka Shankar
0’55-9’27 = Gat 1
Sitar plays fixed composition
Decoration is added
Tempo is moderato (madhyalaya)
Tabla enters at 0’58, playing the 10-beat Jhaptal. (2+3+2+3)
 Tabla player adds decoration to these basic patterns
 Sitar and tabla have dialogue between complex scalic
passages and complex rhythmic improvisations
 A tihai is heard at the end of each of these sections – a
short phase repeated 3 times across the beat before
finishing on sam
Version 1: Anoushka Shankar
 3’55 = Sitar improvises in triplets (called chand)
 5’02’’ = Improvisation with 4 notes per beat). Tabla
and sitar alternate. Tihai used to mark out the ends
of solo sections.
 9’27 = Gat 2: Faster than Gat 1 and uses the common
Tintal (4+4+4+4)
 10’10 = Drone strings are used on the sitar in a
strumming fashion, providing a rhythmic effect called
Jhalla. The piece concludes with a Tihai.
Version 2:‘Mhara janam maran’
 Performed by Chiranji Lal Tanwar (voice)
 Instrumentation = voice, sarangi, sarod, pakhawaj,
cymbals, tabla
 Pakhawaj = A Large double-headed drum
 This song is a Hindu devotional song from Rajasthan
and is known as a bhajan.
 Song tells of tender waiting in longing and
anticipation for the arrival of Lord Krishna in the
Version 2:‘Mhara janam maran’
 Translation – “You are my companion through life and
death and I cannot forget you night and day. My heart
pines for you and I feel totally restless when I am not
able to see you”
 Structure = 2 Movements – Alap and Bhajan (song)
 Tal = Keherwa tal (2+2+2+2)
Version 2: ‘Mhara janam maran’
 0’00-0’50’’ = Alap: Short introduction. Sarod player
then singer improvise a melody in free time on the rag.
This is a version of the chorus of the song.
 0’50-end = Bhajan: The fixed composition, a song in
verse form. Tabla joins in at 0’50’’. Short Sarod at 1’10’’
and then the Sarangai at 1’22’’
 Dynamics and tempo increase
 Pattern established is the verse (1’32’’, 3’04 and 4’50’’)
followed by the first line used as a refrain (chorus)
followed by more solos for and sarangai
Version 3: Wertheimer and Gorn
 Instrumentation = Bansuri, Esraj, tambura and tabla
 Esraj = bowed fretted string instrument, played sat on
the floor, like a sarangi. Has sympathetic and drone
 Structure: 3 movement: Alap, Gat 1 (slow), Gat 2 (fast)
Version 3: Wertheimer and Gorn
 0’00’’-8’35’’ – Alap: Slow and unmeasured.
 Drone is established by tambura, which plays Sa (C)
and Pa (G) – The tonic and dominant.
 Bansuri enters, plying the notes of the rag.
 Develops from trying out the pitches to a more
developed melodic part.
Version 3: Wertheimer and Gorn
 0’00’’-4’41’’ – Gat 1:
 Slow tempo
 Lyrical unaccompanied melody for bansuri and tabla
playing the 7-beat rupak tala (3+2+2)
 Fixed composition starts at 0’43’’. After this, music
becomes more agitated as improvisation begins
around the gat
Version 3: Wertheimer and Gorn
 Bansuri plays the Gat repeatedly while the tabla improvised
around the Tala
At 3’32 the 2 instruments swap.
Tihais are heard at the end of each section with the last one
leading into Gat 2
4’41’’-End = Gat 2: A fast tempo (Drut) in ektal tala
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
 Bansuri plays an elaborate Gat with scalic runs, wide range of pitch and
 Fast scales = Tans
 Several tihais heard as the music finishes
Section A and B Questions
 Complete the Questions on Page 142 of the textbook.
 Section B
a) Which indian musical tradition is Rag Desh from?
b) Name the 4 sections of a Rag (1)
c) Compare and contrast the 3 performances of Rag
Desh, with particular reference to instrumentation,
structure and rhythm.

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