Amidst the incessant chirping of birds in this stunning temple complex in South India, Jayanth Ambedkar explores the Carnatic raga Kapi on his bansuri – the bamboo flute.
This video was shot early in the morning at the sandstone-carved Tiger Caves in coastal Tamil Nadu. The stark sound of the tanpura, which was the only other musical instrument playing in the background, together with the sound of birds and these magnificent carvings makes this video as much a visual experience as aural.
Ambedkar’s sublime alap is marked with spontaneity and overflows with the lucidity of Kapi and also portrays the versatility of this raga. He begins on an energetic note playing short phrases and establishes the devotional nature of the raga. Building on the meditative alap, he layers it gradually with the bhasanga swaras (foreign notes) of Kapi. He extends the devotional mood of the raga to a joyous sphere, creating relief with more agile movements, fluttering techniques and ripe and tuneful gamaks.
The descending movements in both the alap and tanam stand out with emotional brilliance and dazzling virtuosity. He interchanges between his smaller and bigger flutes to create a dappled soundscape of bass and sharpness, adding textures to his recital and the pureness of the sound.
Darbar’s on-location series attempts to bring Indian classical music to audiences in its true essence. Interconnectedness of classical music in India with its natural environs and daily life makes it not just an art form but also the most holistic way of living. In the confines of a concert hall, it amounts to mere listening, but in the midst of natural surroundings, it becomes an experience.
Jayanth Ambedkar learned to play the flute from his grandfather. As a kid, he felt so connected to the instrument that he would practice on it for hours together and even carry it with him wherever he went. By the age of five, he had already picked up a few varnams . Once, he practiced the Mohanam varnam in a loop to get it as perfect as possible so that he could present it before his grandfather upon his arrival from his US tour.
Raag Kapi is derived from the 22nd Carnatic melakarta, Kharaharapriya. It has a convoluted movement and is said to portray emotions like devotion and pathos. Kapi is an audava-vakra sampoorna raga with an ascending pentatonic scale and a descending scale with seven notes. Use of Kakali Nishada and Antara Gandhara make it a Bhashanga raga. The arohana and avarohana of the raga are as follows:
S R₂ M₁ P N₃ Ṡ
Ṡ N₂ D₂ N₂ P M₁ G₂ R₂ S
Jayanth Ambedkar (flute)
Recorded live at the Tiger Caves, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India.