Guest article by Subodh Agrawal
(Subodh Agrawal’s second article in this series has been a long time in coming. I am responsible for part of the delay as it came when I had scheduled my post on the Best songs of 1955. But when you read it you would agree it has been well worth the wait. Subodh bears his scholarship lightly, and writes in a style as lucid and fluent as the Raga Yaman itself. Here is his piece on one of the most popular ragas which would delight both connoisseurs as well as lay listeners. – AK)
I have never understood why Yaman is the first raga to be taught to students. Yes, it does have a simple structure – in the sense that it has no komal svaras, but its simplicity is deceptive. Creating beauty in Yaman requires a high level of skill and sensitivity. It sounds bland and pedestrian in the hands of a novice or an artist of average capability. There is, however, no limit to the heights it can attain in the hands of a master. No wonder it is one of the favourite ragas of our film industry’s composers, some of whom – Roshan for example – have given their best in this raga.
Yaman and Kalyan are two different names of the same raga. Yaman Kalyan, interestingly, is slightly different, as it uses shuddha madhyam occasionally along with the teevra madhyam of Yaman. The difference is not much, and in this article I would use Yaman to mean both Yaman and Yaman Kalyan.
The predominant mood of Yaman is tranquility – shant rasa. Another great raga Malkauns is also known for evoking shant rasa, but there is an important difference between the two. The tranquility of Malkauns has a Yogic, meditative quality about it. Yaman’s serenity is much closer to everyday life. It evokes the kind of peace one feels when one is happy at home and with family, in the company of friends, watching a beautiful sunset, or doing something one enjoys.
The shant rasa of Yaman combines well with bhakti rasa. It is an ideal raga for devotional compositions. Let me therefore begin with one of the best known works of Roshan, Man re tu kahe na dheer dhare, from the film Chitralekha. A few years back Outlook magazine had polled some leading music personalities to come up with a list of twenty all time great songs from films, and this song topped that list. I wouldn’t quite go that far, but there is no doubt that this is one of the great songs of Hindi films.
Mohammad Rafi sings Man re tu kahe na dheer dhare from Chitralekha (1964), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi, music Roshan
Because of its capacity of combining bhakti and shant rasa, Yaman is ideal for recitation of Sanskrit slokas. You can get a flavor of what this raga can do in this recitation of Bhagvad Gita by the incomparable Lata Mangeshkar
Another devotional masterpiece from Lata in Yaman is the Meera bhajan Kinu sang khelun holi set to music by her brother Hridaynath Mangeshkar:
Lata Mangeshkar sings Meera bhajan Kinu sang khelun holi
I have commented above on the kind of everyday serenity Yaman evokes. There can be no better illustration of this than this song – one of my all time favourites – from Bhabhi ki Chudiyan by Lata Mangeshkar, set to music by Sudhir Phadke. Apart from shant and bhakti rasa, this song also has a mood of joy. I sometimes wonder if the list of nine rasas is incomplete without a tenth –ananda rasa. If we could add this rasa then I would analyse Yaman’s mood as 40% shant rasa; and 20% each of bhakti, shringar and ananda rasas!
Lau lagati geet gati deep hun main by Lata Mangeshkar from Bhabhi Ki Chhdiyan (1961), lyrics Narendra Sharma, music Sudhir Phadke
I would now like to present two versions of the same bhajan by two great artists: Kishori Amonkar and Shobha Gurtu. Kishori Amonkar’s version is sweeter and classically orthodox. Shobha Gurtu, on the other hand, creates a different kind of impact in her powerful voice with a shehnai like timbre. In the comments on Youtube, there is some needless controversy as to which of the two is better. I think they are both beautiful in their own right.
Kishori Amonkar sings Mharo pranam in Raga Yaman
Shobha Gurtu sings Mharo pranam in Raga Yaman
Let’s move on, and add another rasa to the mix of shant and bhakti rasas – shringar. This song from Mamta by Roshan raises love to the level of worship. Roshan has surpassed himself in composing this, while Hemant and Lata have rendered it with feeling. Ashok Kumar and Suchitra Sen’s restrained acting superbly completes the picture. An NRI friend of mine commented that Ashok Kumar would win an Oscar hands down for the opening scene in which he covers his eyes with dark glasses and puffs on his cigarette. (I would gladly nominate this song for the title of the ‘all time greatest love duet from films’. My nominees for the male and female solos on love would be ‘Jalte hain jiske liye’ and ‘Tum apna ranj-o-gham’.)
Chhupa lo yun dil mein pyar mera by Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar from Mamta (1966), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Roshan
At this stage I would like to introduce a regular classical piece. Bismillah Khan has taken an extremely simple composition. You can’t get simpler than ‘ni re ga re ni re sa ni dha ni re sa’ in Yaman. It takes the genius of Bismillah Khan to keep it from sinking into ordinariness. It is an excellent introductory piece for learners of classical music.
Raga Yaman by Bismillah Khan
I would not normally associate Yaman with karun rasa. However, trust Indian film music directors and Mukesh to evoke pathos even in this raga. I recall with amusement that for some unfathomable reason Mukesh’s song Ansoo bhari hain yeh jeevan ki raahen in Yaman was very popular with boys of my age when I was a University student. I myself used to sing it with great feeling. An aunt of mine, who otherwise encouraged me to sing, told me in no uncertain terms to refrain from singing this song, as she had had enough of it! More than forty years later I don’t have any lingering fondness for this song. However, I still hold another Mukesh song – Saranga teri yaad mein – in the same raga in high esteem. I am not posting it here because AK has already done that in his excellent post on Sardar Malik.
Let me get out of this foray into karun rasa by presenting a classical piece by the great Pannalal Ghosh, which would restore the mood of joyful tranquility more suited to Yaman. When I listen to this piece it evokes the image of a beautiful sunset across a gently flowing river. Sunsets can make you happy or sad. Yaman goes with happiness; another beautiful raga Marwa with sadness. Here is the Yaman piece:
Raga Yaman by Pannalal Ghosh
Back to shringar rasa. Two great songs come readily to my mind – Zindagi bhar nahi bhoolegi yeh barsaat ke raat and Abhi na jaao chhod kar. I am opting for the latter, as it has a nice teasing quality. In a TV program Javed Akhtar called it his favourite romantic song.
Abhi na jaao chhod kar by Rafi and Asha Bhosle from Hum Dono (1961), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi, music Jaidev
My next classical piece is by Sanjeev Abhyankar. The interesting thing about this piece is use of the flute as an accompaniment. It sounds like a duet between the singer and the flute:
Sanjeev Abhayankar sings Raga Yaman
Apart from devotional compositions, Yaman also excels in ghazals. Several beautiful pieces spring to mind. The best, however, are non-film – Lata’s Har ek baat pe kahte ho tum; Mehdi Hasan’s Ranjish hi sahi, which launched a wave of Pakistan mania among Indian music lovers; and Aaj jaane ki zid na karo by Farida Khanum. I present here a comparatively less known, but equally charming piece by Farida Khanum:
Wo mujh se hue ham kalam by Farida Khanum
The next classical piece brings together two legends, one from north and the other from south. The Carnatic counterpart of Yaman is Kalyani. I only wish Pandit Bhimsen Joshi had yielded a little more time to the maestro from the south.
Yaman Kalyan by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Balamurali Krishna
E ri aali piya bin is one of the standard classical compositions of Yaman. Several versions are available on Youtube. Lata Mangeshkar sang it for the film Raag Rang. A note of caution – while the main bandish is in Yaman, the preceding instrumental alaap forays into several other ragas, including Bahaar:
E ri aali piya bin by Lata Mangeshkr from Raag Rang (1952), music Roshan
Now listen to Dr N Rajam and her family present the same bandish on violin. Dr Rajam’s violin brings to mind the lofty voice of Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, who was her guru:
N Rajam and family present Raga Yaman
I close the presentation of film songs in Yaman with one that evokes a mood of pure joy.
Ja re badra bairi ja by Lata Mangeshkar from Bahana (1960), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music Madan Mohan
This tarana from Ms Veena Sahasrabuddhe complements the joyful mood of this song in a pure classical vein. Her husband Dr Sahasrabuddhe was on the faculty of IIT Kanpur when Pankaj Sharan and I were both students there. Her father Shankar S Bodas and brother Kashinath Bodas were respected figures in the world of classical music.
Tarana in Raga Yaman by Veena Sahasrabudhe
The next classical piece is by Rajan and Sajan Mishra, with an introduction by Shujaat Khan. In this piece the difference between Yaman and Yaman Kalyan is brought out quite clearly. Listen carefully at 3:25 in the recording.
Raga Yaman by Rajan and Sajan Mishra
My brother Vikas introduced me to this recording of Ravi Shankar and Anouskha. Ravi Shankar’s voice shows signs of age, but the pieces played on sitar by his daughter are quite good. I had never taken much interest in her recitals earlier, but this one has made me take notice, thanks to the rich tonal quality of her sitar.
Raga Yaman by Anoushka Shankar
This recording by Ustad Vilayat Khan in Yaman is one of my favourites. It is a very personal interpretation of Yaman. I like its mood of quiet introspection and the imaginative use of silence:
Part two of Vilayat Khan’s Yaman in madhya laya and part three in drut are available on Youtube. They present a more orthodox interpretation of the raga compared to part one:
Raga Yaman by Vilayat Khan in madhya laya
Raga Yaman by Vilayat Khan in drut laya
This is but a small sample of the vast possibilities of this great raga. As a leading exponent of classical music said during a private audience – one lifetime is too short to fully explore Yaman.
As I said above, Yaman is ideally suited to reciting Sanskrit slokas. I can imagine what it would sound like in a rich, sonorous voice like that of Hemant Kumar. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate any such piece on the net. The closest I got is this song based on Jaidev’s Dashavatar Varnan from the film Anandmath. The raga is not Yaman, but the mood is quite close to Yaman. I present it to give a hint of how good Sanskrit slokas based on Yaman would sound in Hemant Kumar’s voice.
Hemant Kumar and Geeta Dutt sing Jai Jagdeesh Hare from Anandmath (1952)
I close by thanking AK once again for motivating me to write, and all the music lovers who have uploaded videos on Youtube. In particular I would mention Youtube user Thuryina who has uploaded many of the classical pieces I have used above. Tell us something about yourself Thuryina, if you are reading this.
AK presents a great surprise:
(Someone who can bring alive Raga Yaman in his writing, what impact would he create if he sang it! Subodh sings (or recites) Harivansh Rai Bacchan’s ‘Is paar priye madhu hai tum ho’ without any musical accompaniment. He has also composed its tune. He is not a professional singer, but when someone loves Yaman so much he can transport the listener to the magical and mysterious world of ‘Us paar’ – AK)
Here are the beautiful words of Harivansh Rai Bachchan:
इस पार, प्रिये मधु है तुम हो, उस पार न जाने क्या होगा!
प्याला है पर पी पाएँगे, है ज्ञात नहीं इतना हमको
इस पार नियति ने भेजा है, असमर्थ बना कितना हमको
कहने वाले, पर कहते है, हम कर्मों में स्वाधीन सदा
करने वालों की परवशता है ज्ञात किसे जितनी हमको
कह तो सकते हैं, कहकर ही कुछ दिल हलका कर लेते हैं
उस पार अभागे मानव का अधिकार न जाने क्या होगा!
इस पार, प्रिये मधु है तुम हो, उस पार न जाने क्या होगा!
दृग देख जहाँ तक पाते हैं, तम का सागर लहराता है
फिर भी उस पार खड़ा कोई हम सब को खींच बुलाता है
मैं आज चला तुम आओगी, कल, परसों, सब संगी साथी
दुनिया रोती धोती रहती, जिसको जाना है, जाता है
मेरा तो होता मन डगडग, तट पर ही के हलकोरों से
जब मैं एकाकी पहुँचूँगा, मँझधार न जाने क्या होगा!
इस पार, प्रिये मधु है तुम हो, उस पार न जाने क्या होगा!
And here is an equally beautiful and lyrical translation by Subodh:
Your sweet presence is with me, my dear, on this shore
Who knows what awaits us across there
We have the cup but know not if we can drink
Fate has sent us so helpless to this world
There are those who claim we are always free in our actions
Who knows better than us how dependent they themselves are
At least we can soothe our hearts with such claims
Who knows if even this solace will be ours across there
A sea of darkness undulates as far as the eyes go
Yet, someone on the other side calls us across
I go today, tomorrow you will come, day after tomorrow all our friends
The world mourns, but those who have to go, have to go
The waves breaking on the shore make my heart tremble
What will happen when I reach the midstream all alone.
And here is the coup de grace:
Subodh Agrawal sings Is paar priye madhu hai tum ho us paar na jane kya hoga, poetry Harivansh Rai Bachchan
Bachchan’s poem is nine stanzas long. Subodh sings only two stanzas. If someone is interested in the entire poem here s a link.