Saturday, 25 June 2011

Raag Malkauns: Ruler of the emotions

In Hindustani classical music there are some raags of such great depth that mere lifetimes reveal next to nothing.  Bhairavi is one such and so are Marwa, Shree and Darbari.

But raag Malkauns (also pronounced Malkosh) - if honey were to be distilled into music, it would result in Malkauns.  Such is the spectacular greatness of this raag, such is its haunting addictive quality that the body and mind writhe in agony, unable to tolerate the sheer wonder of such magnitude.

For the uninitiated, a raag is a series of five musical notes upon which a melody in Indian classical music is made. The notes in Indian music are: Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Ni.   Each raag takes a combination of these seven notes and then sets parameters within which a melody can be based.  Malkauns is a raag based on Sa, Ga, Ma, Dha and Ni - five out of the seven notes are used, and as such, it is a pentatonic raag.  In Indian classical music, each raag has a samay given to it - a time of day during which it is most appropriate to sing it.  Malkauns is a midnight raag.

What makes raag Malkauns the King of the raags, and therefore the ruler of emotions? For starters, it is a pentatonic raag - taking 5 out of the 7 notes available.  The effect of this is that the field of play within which a melody can be based is broader than the tritonic (e.g. raag Sarvasri - Sa, Ma, Pa) or tetratonic (e.g. raag Bhavani - Sa, Re, Ma, Dha) raags.  Secondly, and more importantly, Malkauns has the capability to seize the listener's core because it produces a narcotic effect by taking the listener to dizzying heights of intensity.  This makes Malkauns the ideal raag for devotional renditions and songs of love.  Indeed, the origins of Malkauns, it is believed, lie in the taandav dance performed by the God-conscious Shiva.

So it comes as no surprise that Coke Studio took raag Malkauns and applied it to a Sufi kalaam by Mirza Qateel (d. 1817), Kangna.  Here is raag Malkauns performed by two popular qawals Fareed Ayaz and Abu Mohammad at Coke Studio:

My favourite part of this is at 3:00 minutes when the heights of Malkauns are revealed.

In Kangna, the singer (servant) is asking his/her beloved (God) to return the singer's bracelet (the kangna) - imagery drawing upon how the servant yearns for a glimpse of the Truth, and aspires to do so by asking his/her beloved (God) to return the bracelet.  In a real sense, the servant has no interest in the bracelet, but uses it as a medium through which he/she can compel his/her beloved to return to him/her, if only to return the bracelet.  Such yearning to realise the Truth, to catch a glimpse of the Absolute (God) can only be depicted accurately by the use of raag Malkauns, as done in the video above. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Enter your email address to receive alerts when I write something new