line

• Raag Vachaspati •

S-R-G-M-P-D-n-S Vachaspati (‘lord of speech’) is a recent import from the South, adapted from Carnatic music’s 64th melakarta scale around the mid-20th century by artists including Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan. Consequently, its Northern form is still in a state of flux, with few firm melodic conventions aside from staying within the scale’s bounds […]

 

line

• Raag Kalavati •

S-G-P-D-n-S A playful pentatonic form, neatly structured as a stack of ‘regularly narrowing’ intervals (4>3>2>1 semitones). The wide, sparse poorvang (SG) and clustered uttarang (PDnS) combine to bring a reassuring momentum, with increasing melodic urgency as you go higher (a ‘triple jump followed by a sprint’). Most Kalavati performances tend towards energy and rhythmic charge […]

 

line

• Raag Jansammohini •

S-R-G-P-D-n-S Broadly running along the lines of ‘Kalavati plus shuddha Re’ (especially in avroh), Jansammohini is a captivating Carnatic import. Explored to powerful effect across vocal and instrumental music, the raga’s robust geometries are capable of housing everything from bhajan (Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande’s Ganesh Vandana) and freewheeling sitar solos (Ravi Shankar’s rhythmic take) to epic, full-length […]

 

line

• Raag Harikauns •

S-g-M-D-n-S Among the strangest of pentatonic scales, Harikauns resembles ‘Madhukant no Re/Pa’ or ‘Madhukauns with Dha-for-Pa’ (or ‘Malkauns with the middle two swaras raised’) – forming a ‘diminished square’ of 3-semitone jumps (SgMD) plus a (symmetry-destroying) komal ni. Aside from a natural uttarang focus, the raga allows for near-complete freedom of motion – but presents inherent […]

 

line

• Raag Bairagi Todi •

S-r-g-P-n-S Created by Ravi Shankar, Bairagi Todi replaces Bairagi’s shuddha ma with a Todi-intoned ati-komal ga, retaining the concise audav structure while presenting an odd mix of narrow and wide intervals. Sometimes matched with unusual talas (e.g. Shankar’s original is in Sade-Gyarah: a ‘fractional’ 11.5 matra cycle divided ‘4-4-2-1.5‘), the raga is explorable in all saptak, […]

 

line

• Raag Tivrakauns •

S-g-M-d-n-S A one-off experiment by rare raga connoisseur Abhirang, formed by changing Malkauns’ shuddha ma vadi to its tivra variant. This shift renders both Sa and Ma ‘detached’ (i.e. with no swaras either 7 semitones above or below them: a property shared by only Harikauns and Sehera), meaning that conclusive resolutions towards the raga’s two […]

 

line

• Raag Madhukauns •

S-g-M-P-n-S A curious ‘Dhani tivra Ma’ scale introduced by vocalist Amir Khan via a ‘ma-murchana’ of Chandrakauns (listen to his sargam-demo of the process below). Full of inescapable tension, with 3 of the 5 swaras being imperfect, and the disbalancing Ma–ni sangati on stark display. Sometimes considered identical to Khan’s Chandramadhu, created as part of […]

 

line

• Raag Rasikpriya •

S-gG-M-P-nN-S A direct borrowing of Carnatic music’s 72nd melakarta scale: which, as the final position on the wheel, has all its swaras set to their highest available positions. In Hindustani music, the equivalent principle would produce Yaman (SRGMPDNS), but the South Indian system allows three variants for each of Re, Ga, Dha, & Ni, with […]

 

line

• Raag Sehera •

S-R-G-M-d-n-S Among the strangest of raga scales, Sehera’s six swaras are all spaced out in two-semitone jumps (akin to the Western Whole-Tone scale and the Carnatic Gopriya). The resulting symmetries summon a curious, centreless mood (also famous as the ‘dream sequence‘ of countless soundtracks) – best explored by sarangiya Sultan Khan, who described Sehera as “the […]

 

line

• Raag Salagavarali •

S-r-g-P-D-n-S A rare ‘Ahiri no ma’ scale, combining a Todi-like poorvang with an Ahir Bhairavic uttarang. As per Parrikar: “S.N. Ratanjankar conceived of this raga…ma is eliminated to yield the following contour: SrgPDnDS; SnDPgPrgrS. Brilliantly exploited by Jitendra Abhisheki in a celebrated natyageeta. Watch out for the injection of a vivadi dosha via tivra Ma”. […]

 

line

• Raag Monomanjari •

S-r-G-M-P-D-nN-S Created by Maihar sitar legend Nikhil Banerjee (“…I’m quite satisfied with one of my Sonodisc LPs: Raag Monomanjari”). From Narendra Datar’s 1989 review of this record: “A jod raga…a remarkable combination [of] Kalavati and Marwa. Kalavati is a very joyful late night melody, whereas Marwa is an early evening melody that portrays pathos. In […]

 

line

• Raag Malay Marutam •

S-r-G-P-D-n-S ‘Malay Marutam’ translates as ‘fragrant hill-breeze’. Bansuriya Rupak Kulkarni explained to me in a 2018 interview how the raga “is from Carnatic music, which does not give so much attention to the times of day. We have decided to designate it as a morning raga, mainly due to the nature and essence of its […]

 

line

• Raag Kameshwari •

S-R-M-P-D-n-S Dreamed up by Ravi Shankar during a long car journey in Chengali, sometime in March 1968. As explained by his widow Sukanya: “While riding in the car, he conceived the nucleus of a melodic form that he later developed and called Kameshwari (‘Lordess of Love’). By using the old murchana and swara bheda system, […]

 

line

• Raag Devshri •

S-R-M-P-n-S An intriguing-but-uncommon audav raga resembling ‘Megh tivra Ma’ (or ‘Vachaspati no Ga/Dha’). Its unique swara set is distinguished by a disbalance in how Sa and Pa are ‘enclosed’ by the swaras above and below (nSR: ‘2-2’, MPn: ‘1-3’) – offering curious contrast with the symmetry of the R–M–n ‘equilateral triangle’ (a ‘4-4-4’ aug. triad). Described by […]

 

line

• Raag Saheli Todi •

S-r-g-P-d-n-S An invention of vocalist Kumar Gandharva, lying between Bhupali Todi and Bilaskhani Todi via the addition of an avroh komal ni to the former (or the subtraction of ma from the latter). His original renditions linger patiently on the komal re (intoned with a noticeably higher sruti than usual), and often avoid rising more […]

 

line

• Raag Madhukant •

S-R-g-M-P-D-n-S An oddly-shaped and thinly-analysed sampurna raga, taking the shape of ‘Madhuvanti’s poorvang + Kafi’s uttarang’ (or ‘Kafi tivra Ma’). Analysed by Jairazbhoy in 1971: “Ragas in which the Pa has a leading note [MP], while the Sa does not [nS]…Madhukauns and Madhukant are both modern ragas which appear to be evolving rapidly…Madhukant [is] unstable […]

 

line

• Raag Chandramadhu •

S-g-M-P-n-S An angular pentatonic form conjured up by vocalist Amir Khan only a short time before his untimely death in a 1974 car accident – indeed, it is unclear if he ever formally named his new creation (I’ve seen it referred to as ‘Bhushwati’ and ‘Amarpriya’, and at least two posthumous releases just list it […]

 

line

• Raag Bahar •

S-R-g-m-P-D-nN-S As per Tanarang, Bahar (meaning ‘spring’) “brings out nature’s beautiful blessings…full of shringar and bhakti ras…khatkas and intricate taans are conducive to its dynamic, fleeting nature”. While rooted in the Kanada raganga, the raga features a Malharic twin-Ni, with the shuddha being more prominent. Bageshri hallmarks are also evident in the weak aroha Re, […]

 

line

• Raag Amirkhani Kauns •

S-G-M-P-n-S A ‘pentatonic Vachaspati’ created (as the name implies) by Indore vocal master Amir Khan, which omits Re and Dha (thus, Amirkhani Kauns is to Vachaspati as Dhani is to Kafi). All swaras except Sa are imperfect – with the unusual Ma–ni sangati exerting inevitable gravity and drawing melodies away from clear resolution. Few of […]

 

line

• Raag Milan Gandhar •

S-gG-P-D-n-S An enchanting yet ultra-rare raga created by pioneering Punjabi vocalist Salamat Ali Khan, running along the lines of ‘Kalavati with komal ga in avroh’ (often as PDPgS or SngS), bringing shades of Kafi. A 1965 Salamat & Nazakat performance in Kabul (bandish: Piya More Angan Aaye & Tana Dhere Na Dhim), emphatically places the […]

 

line

• Raag Tanseni Madhuvanti •

S-R-g-M-P-D-nN-S A captivating offshoot of Madhuvanti, named ‘Tanseni’ for its use of a Miyan ki Malhar-flavoured double-Ni sangati (although the Nn pairing also appears consecutively in descent). Associated with the Rampur sarangi tradition, most prominently Hamid & Zahid Khan – as per the liner notes to Hamid’s ektal rendition: “it also resembles Multani…it is of […]

 

line

• Raag Sundarkali •

S-r-G-P-n-S A relatively straightforward audav raga, Sundarkali takes the swaras of ‘Bhairav no ma/dha’ (n.b. the same name is also used separately as an alternate title for ‘Paraj Bhairav’). Anjani Kumar Gupta’s concise bansuri rendition is virtually the only recording I could track down (alap transcribed below), although Tanarang’s disciple Prakash Vishwanath Ringe has released a […]

 

line

• Raag Saraswati •

S-R-M-P-D-n-S Arising as a ‘janya’ offshoot of the Carnatic Vachaspati (the 64th melakarta scale), Saraswati is named after the four-armed Hindu goddess of music, art, and learning – also venerated in Thailand as ‘Surasawadee’, Myanmar as ‘Thurathadi’, China as ‘Biancaitian’, and Tibet as ‘Yang-Chen-Ma’ (the word derives from ‘saras+wati’: ‘she who possesses flowing water’, associated […]

 

line

• Raag Mangal Gujari •

S-r-g-M-d-n-S A strange shadav scale, seemingly adopted from Carnatic music, matching the swara set of ‘Gujiri Todi komal ni’, ‘Tivrakauns add komal re’, or ‘Meladalan minus shuddha ma’. Its structure presents a unique combination of geometric quirks: Sa is ‘detached’ (=Pa and ma are both varjit), and all other swara positions are vikrit (rgdn: komal, […]

 

line

• Raag Rampriya •

S-r-G-M-P-D-n-S A mysterious sampurna form which follows the swara set of ‘Ahir Bhairav tivra Ma’, ‘Vachaspati komal re’, or ‘Puriya Kalyan komal ni’ (I’ve also seen the scale referred to as ‘Persian Vachaspati’ and ‘Ram Puriya Kalyan’). The ‘Rampriya’ moniker derives from a congruent Carnatic raga, although it is unclear whether this is a post-hoc […]

 

line

• Raag Lilavati •

S-g-P-D-n-S Confusion persists around which melodic forms are associated with the name ‘Lilavati’, with several incongruous examples in sporadic modern circulation. Abhirang uses the tones of a ‘komal ga Kalavati’ (SgPDnS), taking his composition from a 1969 edition of Sangeet magazine and linking his interpretation to the congruent Carnatic ‘Karani’ – while a scratchy Zia Fariduddin Dagar session […]

 

line

• Raag Hemavati •

S-R-g-M-P-D-n-S Adopted from the 58th Carnatic melakarta, Hemavati matches the swaras of ‘Kafi tivra Ma‘, ‘Madhuvanti komal ni’, or ‘Vachaspati komal ga’. Prominently associated with Hariprasad Chaurasia, although it is unclear who may have first borrowed the scale from the South: Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan also recorded it, as has Amjad Ali Khan, with broad […]

 

line

• Raag Shankara Karan •

S-R-G-M-P-D-nN-S Associated with the crisp mornings of springtime, Shankara Karan is variously said to blend elements of Shankara, Shree, Hindol, and Yaman – although its swara set (‘Yaman double Ni’) appears to be unique in the Hindustani ragascape. Recordings are rare, with the most prominent cut being a 1995 sadra duet by Ali Akbar Khan & […]

 

line

• Raag Saurashtra Bhairav •

S-r-G-m-P-dD-N-S A unique ‘double-Dha’ blend of the morning Bhairav with the night-time Bhinna Shadja, Saurashtra Bhairav’s movements vary across gharana boundaries. Abhirang, interpreting a pair of Ramrang compositions (Barani Na Jaye Chabi & Aba Main Kase Jaya Kahu), cites the importance of Bhinna Shadja’s mDNSNDm catchphrase – although most other movements fall in line with those of […]

 

line

• Raag Manavi •

S-R-g-P-D-n-S A shadav scale resembling ‘Kafi no ma’ (or ‘Shivranjani plus ni’), said to have been adapted from a congruent Carnatic form (Mattimavari). Most prominently performed by Patiala star Parveen Sultana: her enchanting 1982 album rendition places a swooping Pa–ga sangati centre-stage (e.g. P\gP; P(g)PgR), often traversing wide interval jumps such as gPgD; nDgPgRS (bandish: […]