Introducing Yourself to Indian Classical Music 4-Voices

2010 March 19

Contd. from here.

In the last two posts we heard the voice of MS Subbulakshmi, of the South Indian Carnatic tradition. It has to be said that North Indians who follow Hindustani music, i.e. the classical music of the North, know very little of the South Indian Carnatic tradition. Southerners who follow Carnatic music, however, often do listen to and appreciate Hindustani music. If there is one voice Northerners are familiar with, it is that of MS.

In this post we are first going to listen to the voice of “Gaana-Saraswati” (i.e “Goddess of song,” with specific reference to the Hindu Goddess of learning and music, Saraswati), Kishori Amonkar, who belongs to the North Indian Hindustani tradition and is one of India’s most famous classical vocalists.

As I mentioned earlier, the major North Indian traditions are Khayal and Dhrupad, sometimes collectively grouped under the label of “Hindustani music.”

Kishoritai, as she is repectfully known, (“tai” means elder sister in the Indian language Marathi), sings Khayal. She belongs to the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana (musical lineage). The first clips we heard, in the first post in this series were of the voice of Mallikarjun Mansur, who also belongs to this gharana. More on gharana later.

The composition that Kishoritai sings in the clip below is a Jaipur-Atrauli favourite, Malaniya Layi in the Raga Bhoop-Nat (a Jaipur-Atrauli speciality).

As you listen to more music, you will notice that Jaipur-Atrauli ragas often have double-barrelled names-funnily enough like the names of contemporary female singers of this gharana, such as Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande, Shruti Sadolikar-Katkar, Arti Ankaliker-Tikekar and Manjari Asnare-Kelkar. Yes, all these ladies are Maharashtrian.

In the piece below, you will notice the words of the composition are not given that much importance. There is a lot of “aaaaa” in the vocalisation instead, as Kishoritai explores the notes of the raga and brings out its flavour.

I think the clip is only a partial recording-unfortunately I don’t seem to have the longer version. There is another voice accompanying that of Kishoritai’s and it is that of a student. It is common practice, especially in the Hindustani tradition, for senior vocalists to be accompanied by their advanced students.

Malaniya Layi, in the raga Bhoop Nat by Kishori Amonkar

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Below is a rendition of the same composition in the same raga by Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande, of the same gharana (this is a full rendition and not just a clip). Apologies for the poor quality of the recording. You will notice that though she sings “aaaa” as well, she uses more words of the composition.

Malaniya Layi, in the raga Bhoop Nat by Ashwini Bhide Deshpande

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You will also notice how two singers from the same tradition can approach the same composition differently. But, despite the differences in the clips, you may start getting the shape and feel of a “raga,” in this case, Bhoop Nat. The best way to internalise the qualities of a raga, is to listen to as many different people as possible performing it.

Before we get into the technicalities of what a raga is, you will probably begin to have a “hearing” and “feeling” knowledge of the meaning of a raga, especially if you keep listening to different renditions of the same raga. It is enough to say for now that a raga is a melodic structure.

Again, listen to the clips in entirety. They aren’t long. I suggest turning up the volume a little so you can hear the subtle inflections of the voice (I suggest this for all clips across the posts).

Bhoop-Nat is an extraordinarily soothing, soul stroking, beautiful raga. I like to listen to it while unwinding.


Padma Vibhushan – Kishori Amonkar (MUSIC CD)

Kishori Amonkar – Vocal Recital – Vol. 2 (MUSIC CD)

Born To Sing – Kishori Amonkar (MUSIC CD)

Kishori Amonkar : Ghat Ghat Mein Panchi Bolta (MUSIC CD)

Kishori Amonkar – Sangeet Sartaj ( A Pack of 2 MUSIC-CDs)

Kishori Amonkar: Vocal Live in Concert (Music CD)

Kishori Amonkar – Kishori Amonkar Excels (MUSIC CD)

Kishori Amonkar – Maestro’s Choice – Series One (MUSIC CD)

Kishori Amonkar – The Malhars- NAT Malhar (MUSIC CD)

Kishori Amonkar – The Malhars – MEERA Malhar & SUR Malhar (MUSIC CD)

Kishori Amonkar – Anand Malhar & Adana Malhar (MUSIC CD)

Kishori Amonkar – Vocal Recital – Vol. 1 (MUSIC CD)

The Best Of Kishori Amonkar (Amazon)

The Best of Kishori Amonkar (2 CD Pack) (Indiaclub)

Gaan sarswati kishori amonkar-a journey


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8 Responses leave one →
  1. Kulkarni SM permalink
    March 20, 2010

    Hi Uttara …

    I am not sure about the target audience for this series But I presume it is the person who has not had the chance – or let us say advantage – of familiarising himself with Indian Music as an insider –
    Insider in the sense of somebody who was lucky to run into this music
    from day break to sunset ,
    from the ramparts of the Indian radio services to the nooks in the Indian temples,
    from the voices of Heaven’s Messengers like MS to the voices of ones own Grandma….

    It is a stupendous task , that you have undertaken . One that can lose its way in the myriad lanes and bylanes .And I can only wish you the best .
    It is a task that can do with some counterpointing , if you do not mind that .
    No offense meant .

    This class of music is something that spans several cycles of birth and rebirth .even if one does not believe in these concepts , there is only one thing certain about Indian Music .
    Only the starting point in the process of discovery , can be defined . Where exactly one lands up at the end of the exercise , is a fascinating mystery.
    I will try and chronicle my own impressions – which may be quite tangential to what you may have said , as you go along , in the hope that the mysterious gets more beautiful.

  2. uttara permalink
    March 20, 2010

    Kji if there is a target it is those who know nothing, but want to listen to more…

    Usually introductions begin with the grammar but I want to linger a bit on the different types of sounds Indian music allows and since this is a blog, there is more freedom to meander a bit.
    Not at all offended and wd love it if you wrote counterpoints.

    I couldn’t agree with you more, about the starting point…

  3. March 25, 2010

    My knowledge of Hindustani music is embarrassingly sketchy. This is some really lovely music you have posted to share with us. I cannot thank you enough.
    There is a lovely documentary on the poetry of Kabir and the music of Kumar Gandharva (who sang Kabir’s songs). It is long, but very interesting, and well worth watching. Here is the link:

  4. uttara permalink*
    March 26, 2010

    Kamini, I am going to link to the Kabir project and KG is coming soon to the blog near you! Thanks for your thanks, they make me blush :)

  5. NAMRATA permalink
    August 19, 2010


    • August 20, 2010

      Namrata, Sorry Mee tyanna olkhat nahi…have you tried in Goa and with people like Rajan Parrikar?

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