Revelations of a Raga: Kukubh Bilawal

I have been teaching Kukubh Bilawal to my disciple, Prasanth, these last three or four days. It’s been a long time that I last sang it. Over these four days, the raga has been, to my own surprise, developing in many unpremeditated ways. The phrases come by themselves without my having to think or deliberate about them. I have been seriously thinking about this strange phenomenon. It has happened to me before in my previous Riyaz or while I am teaching my students. I guess at such times they are confused, but many times I ignore their confusion and concentrate on what is coming next or what will be revealed. When teaching Kukubh Bilawal to my student, Prasanth, looking at the way it was being revealed in newer ways, he threw up his hands and said “How do we assimilate this kind of badhat/elaboration/ improvisation, Sir!” “As best as you can, Prasanth” was my reply and continued to explore the raga. At such junctures, I revel in only continuing the myriad ways in which the raga is unfolding. 

After I stop teaching/singing, I begin to seriously ponder over this phenomenon. How did it happen, where do these badhat phrases come from, why doesnt the improvisation end, where were these phrases before, is there really an end to a raga as it happens like this? Many such questions cross my mind as they did this time. I become restless and sleepless at these questions. I cannot find satisfactory answers.

Of one thing I am very sure at such times. My soul is happy and almost dancing with exhilaration. At the same time I feel I am at peace with myself. It is no less than a trance, I should think. I want nothing else after this experience. I want no applause from an audience, no adulation from it and no recognition because I am myself The Audience! At many such times, my other disciple, Chandrika, has witnessed tears gushing from my eyes and has said “Guruji, I see tears flowing from your eyes when you are teaching”. Knocking them off with my fingers I have said “Yes, Chandrika, they seem to be calling out to the Universe”. Music should be the call of the individual’s ‘Pukar’/cry to the Universe which acknowledges your existence. And she too has shed tears at my response.

I wonder what can I attribute this phenomenon to. I can only hazard a few guesses only and not give answers.

          Is it the long association with my father-guru’s music, having listened and learnt from him for a number of years? It is rightly said that music is a shravan-vidya. Sanskara happens this way, constant listening to the guru’s music – informed listening.

          Is it the long and arduous riyaz after the learning from the guru – the manana. In my formative years, I have intensely done Riyaz on only two ragas for six years each. Miya ki Todi in the morning and Multani in the evening. There are no quick-fixes in music. As my father-guru would always say “Son, music is a doer’s job, not a talker’s (those who talk and discuss music) job”. The more you do or keep on doing, the better you become in music.(A creative artist is one who will always be doing until the end, I suppose). There is no end to doing in music. Music is something you do for yourself – for inner peace – I should think. Not for name, fame and recognition. 

          What do you take from the guru? Number of ragas or the Gayaki? The latter, I should think. There are four known ‘Sakh’  prakars Lachachasakh, Ramsakh, Devsakh and Bhavasakh and I learnt three from my father-guru. I learnt only the first three. Bhavasakh, I didn’t learn, but I have no regrets about it. I was after his Gayaki and how to make it my own. I suppose making Gayaki your own is what stands you in good stead. I am not implying that you should sing differently from your guru and gharana. You should imbibe and internalise the gharana Gayaki and what your guru has taught and do ‘chintana’ over that. And then establish your identity, your ‘pehechan’. This is what I call ‘manthan’.

This takes years and years and it is the most difficult thing in the whole process. It has taken me years.

And after that happens, tears flow unbeckoned when you are singing!!  

And your soul dances in exhilaration and you are at peace, as it happens to me sometimes!!

And this is what I take from music.