A lively late-evening raga, Jog translates as ‘State of Union’ (derived from the Sanskrit concept of ‘yogi’). Its oddly bluesy harmony presents an enchanting almost-familiarity to uninitiated listeners, mixing major and minor flavours via a characteristic ‘Gmg zigzag’ phrase in descent (which, via the wonders of convergent evolution, suggests the structure of a 7#9 ‘Hendrix chord: as well as being an exact murchana of Gujiri Todi and Brindabani Sarang). The shuddha Ga vadi serves as the main launchpoint for melodic exploration, with the stable triad of Sa–Ga–Pa used as nyas (although Amir Khan’s renditions also showcase a notable focus on shuddha ma). As per Deepak Raja (Jog: A Versatile Raga), “Jog acquired its significance in the latter half of the last century…and bears a close resemblance to Nattai of the Carnatic tradition”. Also see other ragas which incorporate Jog’s unmistakeable Gmg signature, including Jogkauns, Jogeshwari, Nandkauns, and Amrut Ranjani (which also mirrors it in uttarang as ‘Dnd’) – as well as the Tilang and Dhani, which both share historical overlap with Jog’s early incarnations.
Context | Melodics | Classifiers | Listenings | More
Avroh: SnPm, GmgS
–Rupak Kulkarni (2018)–
“Jog integrates atman [soul] with paramatman [divine reality], unifying the previous day to the coming day. A person can take in this divine cosmic power before morning, to remain full of life throughout the day…” (Arun Singh)
Origins, myths, quirks, & more
Despite its well-established fame and influential role in today’s ragasphere, Jog is a recent innovation. While some link its zigzagging melodies to Emperor Akbar’s 16th-century royal court, scholars deem the raga to have risen to prominence in the post-WW2 era (Raja: “Jog did not merit elaborate discussion in major early 20th-century works such as Bhatkhande. It can be assumed, therefore, to have acquired its significance in the latter half of the last century”).
The raga’s melodic roots do, however, stretch back much further – with most regarding Jog as a direct offshoot of the longstanding Tilang lineage (Bor: “Tilang probably originated in Telangana, and may have been [brought] North by an unknown 15th/16th-century poet-composer“). Indeed, its early incarnations took the form of ‘Tilang double Ga & Ni’, with the shuddha Ni only falling out of favour in later generations (at least in most gharanas: some still perform the older ‘Do Nishad ka Jog’: e.g. Jaipur-Atrauli singer Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande).
The genesis of Jog’s Ga-mixing melodic signature – usually given as GmgS or Gm(S)g\S – is also uncertain, although several sources mention the role of Mehboob Khan ‘Daras Piya’ (1845-1922), a veena-playing vocalist in the court of the Maharaja of Awagarh who helped lay the foundations of the modern Agra and Atrauli khayal styles (as well as pioneering new ragas including Nand). While I can’t find definitive proof of his authorship, it is indisputable that his bandish helped shape Jog’s future path: particularly the classic pair Piharawa ko Birama & Sajan More Ghar Aye:
—Rashid Khan (1998)—
“Where is my beloved, what engrosses him so? He has forgotten his nayika, the separated one; What mistake has taken place, that may have guided his choice to remain afar, and led him to avoid me?” (Piharawa ko Birama)
Likewise, it is unclear how the name became attached to the new form. ‘Jog‘ translates from Sanskrit as ‘state of union‘ (from the same root as yoga) – which, if I was to speculate, could refer to its vital focus on the ‘union’ of the komal and shuddha Ga swaras. Either way, the raga certainly has the power to captivate disparate listeners: I’ve noticed that Jog holds a particular pull for uninitiated Western ears, likely due to its lively, uptempo tendencies and distinctly bluesy blend of major and minor flavours over a b7 backdrop (see ‘Around the World‘ below for how the swara set approximates the 7#9 ‘Hendrix chord‘).
Much like the oddly proximate melodies of the Delta blues, Jog is most at home when performed in the late evening or early night hours. Popular in light-classical forms such as bhajan, thumri, and ghazal, the raga’s comparatively short history has been no impediment to its proliferation, with a variety of compounds now in use which borrow from its signature Ga treatment: notably including Jogeshwari (Ravi Shankar‘s blend with the nearby Rageshri), Jogkauns (Gunidas’ ‘Jog+Malkauns‘ creation), and Nandkauns (despite its name, another Malkauns fusion) – as well as seldom-heard gems such as Ulhas Bapat’s Amrut Ranjani (which mirrors Jog’s GmgS catchphrase in uttarang as Dndm).
Into the future, Jog’s status is only likely to grow: as well as combining an all-time classic catchphrase with relatively straightforward melodic guidelines, the raga is pleasing to global ears, and lies in the concert-friendly late evening timeslot (Deepak Raja‘s ragascape research estimates it as the 7th most-performed raga of the 21st century). Now largely dominating the territory of its Tilang parent, Jog’s distinctive intricaties will doubtless continue to evolve from here.
Swaras, geometries, movements, characteristics…
As mentioned, Jog’s melodic motions are focused around its Ga-mixing catchphrase, which decorates a basic GmgS pattern with strident ornaments such as (m)Gm(S)g\S. Undoubtedly the raga’s heart, this kernel takes centre stage in concluding passages, typically set up with emphatic movements from above (e.g. PnS; nPmG; Gm(S)gS). Mandra ni and shuddha Ga are vital melodic launchpoints (e.g. nSGmP; GmPnS), and the robust Pa–Sa axis assumes natural prominence, with various sources listing this pair as the vadi–samvadi. Madhya ni is connected to taar Sa via meend (e.g. P(S)nS), and sometimes intoned with a higher sruti than usual (see ‘sakari’).
Like many recently-adopted ragas, Jog has undergone significant melodic evolution over a relatively short timespan. Originally following the swaras of ‘Tilang double Ga & Ni’, the shuddha Ni would soon fade away, disappearing altogether in most traditions by the end of the 20th century. The menu of nyas has also shifted, with the raga’s original Sa–Ga–Pa major triad now supplemented by pauses on ni and ma (the latter practice ushered in by Amir Khan’s spellbinding renditions of the 1950s). And, while most maintain a vakra treatment of Ga (‘zigzag’: Gmg), more recent years have seen some artists render it in adjacent fashion (usually with slow meend, e.g. G(g)S: prevalent among Imdadkhani sitarists).
Considered to be one of the more straightforward ragas to learn, its broader tendencies are flexible, shaped more by its distinctive scale path than via specific tonal sentences. As well as drawing on Tilang and Dhani, it can hint at the Kauns-ang via a stronger use of ma and phrases such as SngS – and can similarly evoke shades of several other ragas, notably including Khamaj (GmP; PmG), Kalavati (nSG; PnS), and the Carnatic Nattai. Performers are free to roam throughout all three saptak at will, adding enchantment with a range of intricate ornaments, with accompanying tala cycles generally rendered in madhya to drut laya.
Tanarang offers illustrative combinations of SGmP; nPmG; GmP; GmPnS; P(S)nS; nSgS; gSnPm; mPGm; Gm(S)gS, while Raja suggests a chalan of SngS; nPngS; nSG; SGGm; GmgS; SGmP; mnP; GmPn; PnS; nPmG; SGmgS. Also refer to the Sanskriti demo below, and Parrikar’s rundown of the Agra gharana’s double-Ni interpretation, which lies closer to its Tilang antecedents (“The ucharana in Jog is drawn out, almost leisurely, and can barely be conveyed via the written word. The meend g\S is a signpost, [included as] mPNS; g\S and GmPnPNS; SGm(S)g\S. A typical uttarang launch is SPnPmP, mPNS, SnPmG, GmG\g\S…”).
—Sawani Shende demo (2019)—
“While some musicians use Ga in ascent and ga in descent, others use the two chromatically when they descend in a meend [G\g] or a gradual glide from ma to ga [m(G)g]. However, this chromatic usage is normally discernible in slower melodic passages, particularly in the alap section and during the free-flowing vistar or elaboration over the rhythmic canvas…” (Aneesh Pradhan)
A brief selection of superb renditions
–Rakesh Chaurasia (2016)–
- Maihar bansuri (5m): A performance I was fortunate to witness live, featuring some of the finest rhythmic breath-control you will ever find (as per Rahul Vinod in the comments, “It reminds me of little Krishna; all the mischievous things he has done…”):
[jor phrases, e.g. 3:05] SSS mmS GGm SgnSP; nSgS nSmG SGmP GmPn, mPSn PnSn nS PS…
–Praveen Sheolikar (2018)–
- Raipur violin (4m): mellifluous sliding interpretation filmed at London’s Southbank Centre for Darbar, with superbly restrained tabla accompaniment from the underappreciated Vinod Lele:
[motif, e.g. 0:10] m(G)m gS, Sn (S)g Sn S, (PnPn)P nS G…
- Sultan Khan (15m): featuring the late master’s singing as well as his sarangi, ably supported by his son Sabir & nephew Dilshad
- Kushal Das (20m): outstanding solo surbahar performance, captured in pristine close-up detail by Darbar’s multiple cameras
- Ravi Shankar (28m): as per NPR’s Brian Silver, “This recording tilted my universe by about five degrees when I first heard it…”
- Parveen Sultana (28m): live from the 1986 Akashvani Sangeet Sammelan, showcasing some virtuosic sargam recitation
- Amir Khan (29m): Raja: “After the release of [this recording], ma has also gained considerable significance in the raga”
- Budhaditya Mukherjee (34m): treated with delicate poise and dynamic control amidst Imdadkhani rhythmic fireworks
- Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande (51m): a rare double-Ni rendition (‘Do Nishad ka Jog’), explored via Dhrupad and tarana
- Shivkumar Sharma (62m): the santoor’s sustained resonance serves to accentuate the clash of the double-Ga pairing
• Classifiers •
Explore hidden inter-raga connections: swara geometries, melodic features, murchana sets, ragangas, & more (also see the Full Tag List):
• Prakriti: (none found)
Jogeshwari = ‘Jog Dha-for-Pa‘
Jogeshwari Pancham = ‘Jog add Dha‘
(n.b. these are just ‘scalar similarities’, with nothing particular implied about phraseological overlap)
• Reverse: SRmPdDS
• Symmetries: none
o • • o o o • o • • o • o
–Around the World–
While the Jog-style Gmg zigzag pattern doubtless turns up in many other musical traditions, it is hard to definitively trace (partly due to the frustratingly ‘un-indexed’ nature of Western stave notation). However, Jog’s scale form approximates the ear-catching ‘7#9 chord‘, an ‘altered dominant’ particularly beloved by jazz musicians and Jimi Hendrix aficionados (as a member of both these categories, this facet of the raga is part of what initially drew me to Indian music in the first place, after I spotted it in Ravi Shankar’s rendition as a teenager…).
While the presence of ma means that two forms aren’t an exact match (Jog: SgGmPnS = 1-3-5-b7-#9-11 | ‘Hendrix 7#9’: SgGPnS = 1-3-5-b7-#9), all the essential harmonic tensions are present in both, with Jog sometimes reminding me of a ‘bespoke sequencing’ of the 7#9 chord’s fundamental qualities (particularly when performed on hyper-resonant instruments such as the santoor: e.g. Shivkumar Sharma’s energetic take). Compare to Jimi’s all-time classic Voodoo Child: Slight Return below (n.b. Hendrix held Hindustani music in awe, and is known to have sat wide-eyed in the front row of several Ravi Shankar performances: e.g. visible during his Pancham se Gara rendition at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival).
—Voodoo Child: Slight Return (USA)—
(Jimi Hendrix, 1969)
“Despite being released over 50 years ago now – a full 9 months before man had set foot on the moon – I’d still choose Voodoo Child as my one guitar record to send into space. I’ll never forget the day my dad first played it to me aged 11 – listening wide-eyed to the clashing textures and tone-colour explosions, arriving from unseen directions before fading away to some hidden realm of future six-string discovery. No other track gave me more motivation to pick up the guitar – and two decades on, it’s still my favourite single showcase of the electric’s best energies. Esteemed musicologist Hulk Hogan clearly agrees, having chosen it as his WWE walkout music…” (from my Eb ‘Hendrix’ page)
Further info: links, listenings, learnings, etc
- Raag Jog: For more on the raga’s history, see Deepak Raja’s essay Jog: A Versatile Raga (“According to Manikbuwa Thakurdas, two variants of the raga [have circulated]. The variant with an affinity to Dhani utilises only komal ni, while the variant with a Tilang affinity utilises both…The latter version was performed well into the 1960s, even by the leading musicians of the pre-independence generation. The problem with the Tilang-biased usage was that the Tilang facet tended to dominate the aesthetic experience…therefore, the preference has stabilised around the Dhani-biased variant”). Also refer to Rajan Parrikar’s melodic breakdown of the twin-Ni variant (“the ucharana is drawn out, almost leisurely, with meends…Amir Khan’s rendition is komal-dominant: well, almost…”), as well as Moumita Mitra’s alap demo and Tanarang’s Gwalior-focused writeup.
- Header audio: Santoor gat in drut tintal by Shivkumar Sharma (2010)
- Header image: ‘Akbar and Tansen visit Haridas in Vrindavan’, Jaipur-Kishangarh style (c.1750)
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George Howlett is a London-based musician, writer, and teacher (guitars, sitar, tabla, & santoor). Above all I seek to enthuse fellow sonic searchers, interconnecting fresh vibrations with the voices, cultures, and passions behind them. See Homepage for more, and hit me up for Lessons!
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