SingingAspects


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-'''Know The Aspects Of Singing'''+'''Know The Aspects Of Singing by Shashikant Sharma,''' Grand Rapids, MI USA

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Know The Aspects Of Singing by Shashikant Sharma, Grand Rapids, MI USA


What is 'Swara' Everyday we hear sound. Music is that sound which is pleasing to ears. All of us like either filmy songs, or bhajans, or ghazals or classical renditions. Basis of all these 'genre' is in 'swara' and 'taal'. Talking of 'note', a 'musical' note, not a promissory note or treasury note J, explores the boundless richness hidden in Indian Classical music (ICM). In dictionray.com, it is defined as (a) A tone of definite pitch (b) A symbol for such a tone, (c) A key of an instrument, e.g. Piano. These are rational, informative definitions, but lack the feel, romance, emotion. 'Swara' (Sanskrit word for note), or 'sur' is far from these definitions.

Swara is something to be relished and absorbed soulfully, more than merely defined. 'Swara' is like hidden colours in light, seen only through rainbow or a prism; 'swara' is like the inherent desire of sunflower to always follow the sun. It was percepted by cows and 'gopis' of mathura in Krishna's call by mesmerizing flute. It's not just one frequency, but the fullness and harmony along with ornamentations from side notes. Traditionally in ICM, 'swara' is often personified. Therefore, it has to be awakened by a very meticulous and carefully touched 'AvAhan' (call) and when that happens, it's like supplying current to the unlit bulb.

All over the world, people are either listening to 'swara', playing it, or vocalizing it. Human body is an amazing form of such an instrument. The human voice is the only instrument, which can be cultured. It can accommodate changes in tonal clarity, timbre quality, vocal range and the list goes on. Once a 'nAdyogI' (vocalist) attains it, he/she can experience the 'swara' and its resonance without force, but naturally.

Style or 'genre' There are plenty of styles in music to explore. In vocal music, it ranges from folklores, bhajan, ghazal, filmy songs, thumri, dadra, tappa, to dhrupad and khayal. When asked, which one do you prefer, a well known maestro replied, 'it doesn't matter what you choose, all that matters is, how good and perfect it is'. The richness is abundant in Pt. Bhimsen Joshi’s, Girija Devi’s thumris to sufi style qawalis by Nusrat sahab, Abidaa Parween or Begam Akhtar. This article will only be like small candle in front of bright sun and will fail to even scratch the surface of this richness contributed by many genuine great masters of music.

'Rasa' Famous sarod player Amjad Ali Khan once said, 'when he feels the sound of the sound, sarod and him become one (ekras) and then feelings flow out in the form of melodies. Emotions or 'rasa' can come out in the combination of one or more of the following.

Tonal Quality Technically, it's the frequency spectrum of the plucked note by instrument or singer, which is not just one frequency, like A is 440Hz. It does contain lots of partials or harmonics. And this is what makes it very rich. The tonal quality comes from construction, material used also. Like sarod has bronze strings, sitar has German wire (steel) etc. Violin strings are different from sarangi totally. Even the nylon bow Vs horse hair bow will sound different. Wood wind instruments similarly. The point is this small alankar 'R n S m, m p g m' of bhimpalasi, will sound differently to ears, when played on different instruments, and tonal quality is the key factor. Although when played together, everyone will be in harmony.

Voice Quality This is probably easier to understand, as a voice is sweet, or soft or harsh or nasal or deep or serene or bird-like or hoarse (throaty) or rough.

Vocal Range This is not so well defined. Technically yes, it is the span of notes or span of octaves. Like Balmuralikrishnan has a very big range. So are Kavitha and Sadhana and Hariharan. But it's better to define what we want. In stricter sense, it is defined as capacity to sing or produce the lowest and highest note in the range with full timbre, thus mere able to touch the notes doesn't mean anything. Touching them with full grace does.

Tune It's not only NOT deviating from aroha-avaroha of chosen raga derived from it's thaat, but more importantly using the kaN swar effectively. Like in Yaman Re has kaN of G, .N GRe Ga...(Ga being vAdi)

Rhythm Being in rhythm is like marching together in simplest terms. Heart has a beat rate, flow of air, waterfall, birds chirping, trains moving, everything in nature is 'gatimaan'. And they have a 'laya', which is not just tempo. Tempo is part of laya.

Diction/Pro It's not only reading and speaking them audibly, but clearly as well. More important is the voice throw or delivery of it. Like, sometimes you have to hatch a word or two inside mouth or even in guts before delivery. Sometimes, you have to bite a word hard or soft, or sometimes just let go. Of course, we have seen cases of strongly accentuated renditions, e.g. ra being .Da (as tree being t.Dee)

Voice Throw Through my limited vision, I see Voice throw, as related to volume control while making a speech. Think about, pushing air from your wind pipe, this air goes through vocal chords and makes sound, but this sound has to be interpreted in terms of language, and then we shape the sound by teeth, tongue, lips, mouth, jaws, nose etc. right? So imagine, you are throwing a word out of your mouth. You can do it, in variety of ways. Voice throw is an important aspect in bringing emotions too. I wish I could explain more just by black ink J Pl. do some simple exercises. Try calling your kid or younger sibling or dearest with lots of affection, and watch your voice. Next time, when you are angry, and call them, watch your voice, similarly when you are frustrated, watch your voice. If you are still reading J, try doing some more exercises. Can you sing something (say just alaap). · you are pleading to god · you are praying to god · you just missed your appointed train to attend important meeting · you are waiting for your dear ones’ arrival · you want to scold your child's innocent mistake sweetly · you are extremely happy on receiving a coveted gift. The situations can be infinite. I hope you get the point.

Emulate This is something GOD has gifted only to few selected ones, otherwise to me, it's better to stick to certain songs or develop your own style. Like someone’s voice suits to Rafi, or Kishor or Mukesh for males and, similarly to Lata, or Asha or Geeta for females. Variation/Personal touch: Varying the composition within the boundaries of being melodious. You may blend to another raag from one and then come back, but it has to gel/transition properly.

Mood/Expression Technically these are done through meend, kaN, andolan, sparsh, murki, gamak etc. But most importantly as Khan Sahab told me, you have to pretend to be in that situation and feel it and then do it. I think it's a long way for me yet. Pl. visit http://www.adwaitjoshi.com/icm/icm11.php for illustration on kaN, gamak etc. and much more at http://www.it.iitb.ac.in/~hvs/Veena/ by selecting mp3 samples.

Voice control It's the ability to deliver the notes/pair of notes as slow or as fast in demand, including all the gamak or travel from one note to another consecutively or skipping. Acknowledgement: It’s my great pleasure to be able to pen down some thoughts in this periodical. It has only been possible due to great efforts by my ‘gurujan’, my musical friends and family. – Shashi coming soon: rasas type & ragas, more on gayaki, vocal health…stay tuned.

Having touched and described a bit, what ‘swara’ is, let’s meditate a little more before we dive into rasas and structured form of ragas. So, you are sitting on a bank of river, time is sunset, beautiful aura, birds chirping, cool breeze. Now close your eyes, you are in outer space. Sound is coming from vibration. There is internal awareness and outer space, nothing else. ‘Swara bulb’ is lit bright when internal awareness is calm and is only complementing the vibration field in the outer space. How do we do that? Well, by aligning our instrument, i.e., body, energy and mind. How many times have you experienced this, when you visit a temple, a mosque, a gurdwara or a church, that a Greater presence is felt through the vibration field around the altar and ‘self’ is revealed during calming process of internal awareness. What’s happening here exactly? ‘Swara’ of Greater presence is fully resonated and trying to trigger ‘swara’ within us. Something like a simple tuning fork experiment in physics, or like align a prism, such that casting a beam of light can appearas rainbow. This process goes on and on, and if you can sustain it, the boundary between two vibration fields can vanish. It is this moment, when you experience the dissolving and you may realise 'anAhaT nAd'. The sound of silence.

Sargam It is very difficult to talk about ICM without hinting at spiritual side or philosophical or religious aspects. I will try my best to keep the tracks clean and focussed. As you know, there are seven 'shuddh'or primary swaras in hindustani music, just like seven colours in rainbow, seven days in a week or seven wonders in the world. They are named in sanskrit as Shadja (Sa), Rishabh (Re), Gandhar (Ga), Madhyam (ma), Pancham (Pa), Dhaivat (Dha), Nishad (Ni). Traditionally speaking, they originated in the animal sounds. For example, Sa is from cry of bird peacock, Re from bull, Ga from goat, ma from dove, Pa from koyal (cuckoo), Dha from mane of horse, and Ni from trumpetting of elephant. Philosophically they have their own colors, decorations, seasons and 'rasas' as they have been personified. It is also believed that they appear in human body at different ages of maturity and remain present. Yogically speaking, each has their relationship to body 'chakras'. Sa->muladhar, Re->svadhisthana, Ga->manipur, ma->anahat, Pa->visuddha, Dha->ajn~a, and Ni->sahasrara chakra. Sa is also known as Shadja, which in sanskrit means, one who gives birth to other six. Meaning, once the frequency of Sa is fixed, all others are relatively fixed. Pancham is 1.5 times Sa. Thus Sa and Pa are also known as 'achal swara'. Rest have vikrat forms as well. For example, Re, Ga, Dha and Ni have 'komal' or flat forms, ma has 'teevra' or sharp form. So in total we have 12 swaras. A further subdivision leads to 24 shrutis. Hence, if you are doing swarsadhana, you may actually be doing yoga, as you evoke one swara with prANAyAm, you evoke one chakra.

Interestingly enough, we can also say, komal swaras are related to left or emotional side or Ida Nadi and Shuddh swaras to right or logic side or Pingala Nadi. Now what happens when you pick a combination of swaras, you undergo a mix of emotions, logic: tension and release according to chakras sthanas in body. And that's precisely what ragas do.

Acknowledgement It’s my great pleasure to be able to pen down some thoughts in this periodical. It has only been possible due to great efforts by my ‘gurujan’, my musical friends and family. – Shashi

Let me tell you some interesting things this time. A story first. Once a king was taking rest after hunting session and he got some awakening dreams. On his return he became speechless, as he listened to a rishi (saint) doing sadhana and praising lord. It was so heart felt that king stopped and begged to him,'pl. teach me this' Rishi said it is very difficult to teach to anyone, it is mystic and profound. King said 'I'm ready to do anything you say. I can give you anything you want. I'm ready to give up my kingdom as well and become a recluse.' Rishi said, I applaud you inclination, but it is actually other way around. You cannot get 'it' by becoming a recluse, but once you get 'it', you automatically become a recluse. Such is the importance of our ancient music art. And why not, look around the globe, why is Indian music so popular in world music than any other country?

So far, we meditated upon evoking a swara say 'Sa'. Internally what are we doing, an exercise between mind, vocal mechanics and energy to think of seat for 'Sa' and call it to sit upon it gracefully. How accurate you are in doing this, depends on the clarity in mind, creativity and perfect communication channel. Any obstruction will create disonance. A healthy body responds quickly to creative call by mind and swara comes into reality. Flexibility ('loch') in vocal chords is very important alongwith accuracy. Because you may want to render an expressive emotion by going from Sa to Re or Ga in infinite possibilities. Imagine, singing with such perfection that calling a swara spontaneously, creates such a vibration field that they are personified and they start having conversation amongst themselves, dance to your tune, enjoy the ornamentations and decorations you provide. What a vivid picture! On the other hand same expression rendered without the accuracy and creativity leaves swaras as dead objects, lifeless and colourless. No richness.

According to the temperament of swaras they have been included or left out in the arrangement of a raga. Say 'Ga' is for hot season and suits raga Khamaj. 'ma' brings serenity in bhairav and malkauns but unpleasant in kalyan unless done carefully; similarly Pa is life in todi, but never invoked in malkauns, hindol.

So here comes the seating arrangement of swaras per ragas. (Later categorised into thaats by Pt. V. bhatkhande). Seating system in Yaman or Iman or Kalyan is {.Ni, Re, Ga, Re, Sa} or {.Ma, .Dha, .Ni, Re Sa}. Such simple melodic patterns remind one of raga Yaman. Thus ragas are defined rules, or set of rules. Aroh should be such and such, avaroh should be such and such. kaN swara should be present. Sa Re Ga is not allowed, but .Ni Re Ga is. Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, Sa. is not, but Ma, Dha, Ni Re. Sa. Ni, Dha, Ni, Dha, Pa, Ma, Dha, Pa is. So what is happening here, a calling sequence for swaras is predefined. Meaning if one swara is called upon, other one is alerted to take the seat automatically.

Some ragas walk in straightlines, some walk back and forth. Some go one way but return other way.But important thing is keeping the spontaneity and flow smooth always. Melodic patterns often come and go as if questions and answers. We will deal with structural forms and techniques later gradually.

Just the other day, I felt angry and tried to observe how fast the heart was beating. Same thing I observed when I felt deeply emotional. Again same thing, when I was very happy. Everytime, an expressive energy through vibrating medium. Blood gushing through veins, skin breathing, goos bumps in/out, everything in vibration. A sum total effect of these -> an expression of emotion. More correctly, 'Rasa'. Can you touch it, smell it, view it, taste it? 'Bhav' is what you bring in to experience it. Classically there are 9. 1) Shringar - love, joy, happy 2) Karuna - sadness, longing, grief 3) Shanta - balance, tranquility 4) Vira - warrior like, noble 5) Adbhuta - wonder, surprise 6) Hasya - laughter, relax 7) Bhayanaka - fear, terror 8) Krodha - Anger 9) Vibhatsa – disgust

In order to emote these using ragas,a melodic pattern is carefully chosen and expanded slowly, gradually, moving from one pattern to another. The performer is often on another planet while doing this and express the 'rasa' as much as possible, because being in this world will cause obstructions for smooth flow of emotions by music. Imagine when you are in a real situation of Karuna rasa, your mind is not free to express but caught into various thought processes.

Acknowledgement It’s my great pleasure to be able to pen down some thoughts in this periodical. It has only been possible due to great efforts by my ‘gurujan’, my musical friends and family. – Shashi coming soon: stay tuned for more on rasas, ragas and techniques, more on gayaki, vocal health…

coming soon... stay tuned for more on rasas, ragas and techniques, more on gayaki, vocal health…


--Shashikant Sharma, Grand Rapids MI USA 07:47, 17 May 2006 (EDT)

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