Saturday, May 18, 2024

Understanding the finer nuances of Pratimadhyamam ragas

An image of the Music Trinity

An image of the Music Trinity
| Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

In the 72 Melakarta scheme, Pratimadhyamam segment has quite a few well-known ragas including Kalyani and Shanmukhapriya, which are a staple in music concerts. But what makes them a favourite of the artistes?

It is said that Pratimadhyamam ragas can be easily identified with a rendition of just the raga scale, unlike the Shuddhamadhyamam ragas, in which gamakas and sangatis play vital roles.

Vidya Bhavani Suresh decodes these aspects in her book Melakarthas – The Gems of Carnatic Music Part 2, a sequel to her first volume on Shuddha Madhyamam ragas. This second part is an analysis of the 36 ragas (prathimadhyamam) in terms of their ascent, descent, and distinct notes that establish the character of each of the ragas.

Vidya Bhavani Suresh’s book, Melakarthas - The Gems of Carnatic Music Part 2

Vidya Bhavani Suresh’s book , Melakarthas – The Gems of Carnatic Music Part 2
| Photo Credit:
The Hindu

The book with a yellow cover has a caption that reads: ‘Ragas and places that speak to me’. It is packed with little stories and anecdotes to make it interesting for the readers. Grouping the ragas based on the chakras at the beginning of each section helps readers know what the subsequent chapters are about.

Apart from familiar ragas such as Simhendra madhyamam, Vachaspati and Subhapantuvarali, quite a few unfamiliar ones like Salagam, Divyamani, Syamalangi, Neetimati, and Sucharita, have also been included.

Vidya describes in detail the characteristics of rare ragas. For instance, in Salagam she explains the swarasthanas and how to perfect the notes MPDN to not to make it sound like Shanmukhapriya.

Similarly, she also elaborates on how the shuddha dhaivatam and kakali nishadam in Subhapantuvarali enhances its appeal. One must listen to GNB’s ‘Nee Samanamevaru’ in this raga, the 45th in the melakarta chart and third in the Vasu chakra, to understand the raga’s beauty.

Vidya mentions popular kritis and film songs for better understanding of each raga.

While the author’s efforts to deal with the complex subject with a touch of novelty is appreciable, the lengthy introduction preceding the chapters could have been avoided.

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