Ragamalika: S(w)inging in, S(w)inging out!

Ragamalika: S(w)inging in, S(w)inging out!

In Indian classical music a raga is a pattern of notes having characteristic intervals, rhythms, and embellishments. So, there is a structure to it and there is a discipline required to ensure any song based on a particular raga follows the defined pattern. However, even within the structure there is room for improvisation. Singers who are highly skilled and have a flair for improvisation can deftly move from one raga to another (and then another and so forth) and make it back to the original raga seamlessly. I call it S(w)inging in, S(w)inging out! Sanjay Subrahmanyan is one singer who has the vocal chops, mastery of the individual ragas and discipline allied with creativity and improvisation to sing ragamalikas naturally. 👍

As an analogy in a different context think of monkeys swinging on a tree, say a fig tree ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wsotv_N2B5Y ). The way they go about swinging in and out of different branches it appears they were born with those skills naturally. Biting a fig from one branch and then swinging to another branch for bite of another fig is akin to singing in one raga, then moving on to another raga. Why am I comparing singing with monkeys swinging? Just as swinging from one branch to another requires physical dexterity swinging between ragas requires vocal dexterity. There is timing and decision making involved too. Swing has to happen between branches that are strong. If a monkey swings from a strong branch to a twig it can make for an awkward landing to put it mildly. Similarly, the results can be less than desirable if the transition between the ragas is not smooth and seamless. One more factor that needs to be considered is room and ability of those following the leader (accompanying percussionists in singing). Only the very accomplished can achieve that with relative ease.

On another note it’s been raining all day. I don’t mind it as it’s raining ragas too. Continuous supply of strong coffee or tea along with potato and onion fritters would make for a perfect combo for the music and weather. 😀 With wife wanting me to eat healthy, onion/potato fritters idea ain’t gonna fly though. 😢 Hey, improvisation is the name of the game today and I don’t want to fritter the opportunity. I can pop some corn instead! 😉😅