There’s something about the rains. Even though the city comes to a standstill countless times, the rains do a lot more than cool off proceedings. Summing up the various emotions that flood the mind are the different monsoon ragas. This weekend, a musical evening will be dedicated to monsoon ragas at Banyan Tree events’ Barkha Ritu. The eleventh edition of this monsoon music festival will feature Pandit Ajay Pohankar, Abhijit Pohankar and santoor maestro Pandit Shivkumar Sharma.
“Usually, people associate the word garajna, ghane badal and the July 26 floods with rains. There is much more to it, like eating corn by the sea face, getting wet in the rains — there is a kind of romance in the atmosphere. The season has a psychological impact on us after the parched summers,” reveals Pandit Ajay Pohankar.
“We musicians love the winters; we simply shut off in April and May. The rains bring energy back into people in India, and the monsoon ragas define this joy. Our performance will be based on monsoon ragas (Megh Malhar, Sur Malhar, Mal kauns) but all of these will be improvised,” adds Panditji’s son Abhijit. Panditji feels that as an artist one has to understand the kind of audience. He says that just as one isn’t sure about what one plans to cook tomorrow, he too doesn’t know about what he will perform on the day of the event; hence he wishes to get the audience involved.
“The concept of seasonal melodies, which are sung in the season they are meant for, is witnessed only in India. Because of our extreme summers, the monsoon is the most prominent season; it’s also important from the economic viewpoint (agriculture being our key industry). Hence, the entire country waits for the rains unlike in the West where it is associated with dull and dark moods. They consider a sunny day as bright and good. Artists, musicians, writers who are inspired by this season, express these emotions that each Indian feels in the rains. Kalidas wrote the epic Meghdoot inspired by the rain,” recalls Pandit Shivkumar Sharma.
The santoor legend adds that though the common man might not understand the raga or the taal, people have associated the sound of santoor with that of flowing water. Performing monsoon ragas on santoor adds to this feeling, especially when played on cloudy days as all Indian ragas are supposed to be sung at a particular time of the day.
“I remember, as a four or five-year-old living in Jammu, we would run out of the house to get wet as soon as the rains came. I can never forget the scent, which the earth emits after the first rain,” he signs off.