Lec dem by Gayatri – A few perspectives on grahabhedam

Gayatri (of Ranjani Gayatri duo) gave a wonderful lecture demonstration titled “a few perspectives on grahabhedam” today morning at the Music Academy, Chennai. What absolute command over the elements of her art! Totally bowled over by the presentation. Here are some notes from the same:

* Grahabhedam is the process of shifting the tonic note (AdhAra shruti) to another note in the same raga, thereby arriving at a different raga. The pure positions of the notes are maintained but they assume different colors. It is like a new raga within the old raga.

* Grahabhedam is very subjective and an area open to interpretation. What works and seems right to one musician may not do so to another.

* Certain anchor notes cannot be compromised. For example, gamakas cannot be used for sa and pa.

* It is not necessary to show the length and breadth of the second raga arrived at. It is enough if we can present a convincing picture of the second raga.

* It is not necessary to always think which note becomes the new sa. Many a times it is a phrase in a raga that leads you organically to a phrase in another raga.

* It is essential to have perfect control over pitching of notes to attempt successful grahabhedams. In Hindustani music, it is used as a tool for practice to improve ones pitching.

* When grahabhedam is done in kalpana swarams, both ragas run as twin tracks. When done in alapana, we slide to the skin of the second raga with the gamakam and aesthetics of that second raga at play but with the awareness of the first raga so that no wrong note is touched.

* She took simhEndramadhyamam. Sang pa to pa to show mAyAmALavagauLa

* The grahabhedam shift is highlighted well when there is a change in the structure of the raga itself i.e., not from one sampUrNa to another sampUrNa raga or from one auDava to another auDava raga.  She changed ri of simhEndramadhyamam to pa of bauLi. Shifted from sampUrNam to auDava shADava raga.

* She demonstrated shift from simhEndramadhyamam to sAvEri. sAvEri ga corresponding to ni of bauLi has to be handled differently – ga is slightly lower and ni is slightly higher

* She demonstrated partial grahabhedam using shanmukhapriyA as the original raga. Ri of shanmukhapriyA as the dha of kAnaDA. She also demonstrated shift from shanmukhapriyA to nATTakurinji as done by Tanjore S. Kalyanaraman earlier

* She demonstrated the shift from vAgadIshvari to kurinji

* Grahabhedam done cannot be said to be correct when the second raga’s identity is in question and doesn’t emerge clearly. This was demonstrated by trying to do to kIravANi what was done to simhEndramadhyamam earlier

* She gave an example of doing grahabhedam from nATTakurinji to nIlAmbari where without dropping any note both ragas come out well in unison as well as stand out individually. The laya of the phrases also make the raga stand out – sprightly and crisp in nATTakurinji, languorous in nIlAmbari

* Sa – Ma connection. Sa of nATTakurinji gives mA of nIlAmbari. pa of nIlAmbari gives sa of nATTakurinji. Reciprocal relationship. Ma has a very special relationship with sa and this is exploited by many grahabhedam combinations. For example, Abhogi ma to valaji sa. This is easier to show in kalpana swarams than in the raga alapana. Other examples are Arabhi ma to mOhanakalyANi sa and jOg ma to brindAvani sa. All of this was demonstrated by singing

* Ga – Sa shift with reciprocal shift from Dha. She demonstrated this by shifting from Abheri ga to mOhanakalyANi sa and from mOhanakalyANi dha to Abheri sa

* Ni – Ri shift with reciprocal shift from Ri. She demonstrated this by shifting from amritavarshini ni to karnATaka sudha sAvEri sa and from karnATaka sudha sAvEri ri to amritavarshini sa.

* Some shifts may look good on paper but may not translate well practically. Example, Abheri ma to ma can give kEdAragauLa scale and sALagabhairavi ri to ri can give dhanyAsi scale, but doesn’t preserve gamakas and also we can’t shake sa and pa which are anchor notes

* She demonstrated a group of 5 auDava ragas which can be derived from each other through grahabheDam and have a special relationship with each other. These ragas are mOhanam, madhyamAvati, sudha sAvEri, sudha dhanyAsi and hindOLam. For example, mOhanam ri to madhyamAvati sa.

* Varjyam of sa and pa or both is a common way of doing grahabhedam and a very safe way as there is no chance of any gamakam needs in these anchor notes. Among sampUrNa ragas, when we remove sa and pa from 6 ragas, we get the above group of 5 auDava ragas. These 6 ragas are tODi, bhavapriyA, pantuvarALi, shubapantuvarALi, kalyANi and gamanAshramA.

* Grahabhedam can be done in any aspect of manOdharma singing – alApana, neraval, tAnam or kalpanA swara. She took the example of shubapantuvarALi, did sa/pa varjyam and derived the five ragas listed above. From shubapantuvarALi ri to madhyamAvati (but she sang brindAvana sArangA). This was done in alapana. Then she shifted from shubapantuvarALi ga to hindOLam while singing tAnam. Then she shifted from shubapantuvarALi ma to sudha sAvEri while singing neraval for the line “vAsudEvuni priya sOdarI” from GNB’s composition “nI samAnamevaru”  She then shifted from shubapantuvarALi dha to sudha dhanyAsi while singing kalpana swaram. She also demonstrated shift to all the 5 auDava ragas from shubapantuvarALi while singing kalpana swaram.

* Musicians have used grahabhedam as the focal point in their compositions. Examples are M. Balamuralikrishna’s tillana in kalyANi, Tanjore S. Kalyanaraman’s composition in sindhubhairavi and Lalgudi G. Jayaraman’s swarajati composition in sindhubhairavi. She sang Lalgudi G. Jayaraman’s composition.

* A common feeling about grahabhedam is that it is inaccessible to general listeners who may not have an intimate knowledge of swarams. But even without our realizing it, grahabhedam operates at a very fundamental level – our ear usually tends to hear the most familiar tune/stuff. She demonstrated this by saying that in her childhood, she was learning sudha dhanyasi and when her mom hummed mA ramaNan in hindOLam at that time, she actually got the picture of sudha dhanyAsi (tonic was not played by a drone and was not evident). She also gave the example of the dvi-madhyama pancama-varjya raga lalit that she sings in concerts which many people think is shubapantuvarALi, which is again an example of grahabhEdam at play.

* In concerts, it is better to use familiar ragas for presenting through grahabhedam so that for the audience, additional effort doesn’t go into understanding the raga itself apart from the effort to understand the grahabhedam done.


6 thoughts on “Lec dem by Gayatri – A few perspectives on grahabhedam

  1. Great summary! However the last point must be corrected to “it is better to use familiar ragas for presenting through Graha Bhedam” – it is the second shift raga that must be familiar, not the original base raga! Thanks and best wishes.

    1. Thank you Gayatri ji. I have edited the last point. Please let me know if any other changes are required. Thank you for the wonderful lec dem.

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