Mythically, Krishna, the cowherd boy, played Raag Bhimpalasi on his flute to give a return call to all his grazing cows and cowherd friends. As such this raga, exuding peace and assurance, has a universal appeal.
In this concert, Niladri Kumar unspools Bhimpalasi in a patient alap, relishing each note as he layers it in a soft, lucid appeal. Kumar’s lyrically captivating presentation encapsulates a delightful portrait of the raga. He pauses meditatively after each sentence, notching up his listeners’ attention and delivering a surprise with almost every phrase replete with cloying, extended meends (glides).
Drawing threads from the raga’s tonal weave, he bends the strings to produce luxurious, honey-dipped tonal sentences. He builds the alap into a jod, breathing into it a linear pulse, thereby heightening the excitement of the journey. He packs this part with fast-paced taans (rapid notes), their tonal structures spiraling, converging and diverging into a chirpy medley of rich harmonies.
Kumar’s interpretation of Hindustani classical music is unique, evolving and has a hypnotic quality to it that traditionalists often view as transgressive. But the irresistible charm and undeniable magnetism it carries has endeared him to fans across the world.
Supporting him on the tabla is Pandit Subhankar Banerjee (1966-2021), a phenomenon we recently lost to COVID. Each of his languid, entrancing thekas in the vilambit composition compliments Kumar’s musing, tranquil music. Banerjee shines in his solo improvisations as he attunes the syllables to the soft, playful patterns of the sitar. This section ends with fast taans laid out in exciting patterns and punctuated by the tabla with great anticipation and drama.
An oft-heard compound raga churned out of Bhim and Palasi, this has overshadowed both its Janak (parent) ragas. It belongs to Kafi Thaat and is an audav-sampoorna raga, that is, it uses five notes in its ascent and all seven notes in its descent. The dominant note or vadi swara is Ma (4th) and the sub-dominant or samvaadi swara is Sa (1st). This raga omits Re (2nd) and Dha (6th) in its ascent and sports komal Ga (flat 3rd) and komal Ni (flat 7th). The arohana and avarohana of the raga are as follows:
n. S g M P n S’
S’ n D P M g, M g R S
Niladri Kumar (sitar)
Pandit Subhankar Banerjee (tabla)
Raag Bhimpalasi, Thaat: Kafi, Samay: early afternoon