Abhisek Lahiri opens his performance at the Darbar Festival 2011 with Raag Shree. Trained under his father Pandit Alok Lahiri, the young sarod player approaches his music from the standpoint of three major instrumental gharanas of Hindustani music - Shahjahanpur, Maihar and Senia Bangash.
He starts with an elaborate alap, surveying the terrain of Shree with patient progressions. He lays out its convoluted architecture with each phrase, highlighting its meend-based movements.
Lahiri’s imagination soars as he graduates to the jod and jhala, tying in reflective phrases that depict Shree’s maestoso persona. The vilambit or slow composition set to Jhaptaal (10 beats) is performed with fine laykari followed by a faster composition in 16-beat Teental.
Sukhwinder Singh ‘Pinky’ gives commendable support on the tabla, following Lahiri’s tracks unobtrusively as well as augmenting the sarod’s tantrakaari –ang (instrumental nuances) with his charming improvisations.
Shree is a devotional sunset raga with ancient roots. The name has sacred origins (‘Shri’), representing humanity’s material relation with the world (as opposed to ‘Om’, which represents our spiritual dimensions). It is associated with Lord Shiva, the destroyer and transformer, Lakshmi, the giver of wealth and prosperity, and various Sikh saints, many of whom composed in the raga.
Sitarist-scholar Deepak Raja quotes legendary vocalist Omkarnath Thakur as considering Shree to be a raga of fear: “The prescribed time for performing this raga (around sunset) is the time when nature and humans are at peace, but the disembodied spirits (of whom Shiva is the Lord) become active, and aid the black magic of Tantriks”.
It is considered to be among the most difficult ragas to master. Hailing from Poorvi thaat, it takes the swaras SrGMPdNS, with Re and Pa as the vadi-samvadi pairing (dominant and sub-dominant notes). The core of the raga is to be found in the movement between these two notes, with musicians employing all manner of ornamentations to explore their co-relationship. The raga is typically elaborated in madhya and taar saptak (middle and upper octaves). A range of different sruti (microtones) are used, with many variants of Re and Dha turning up in its extensive recorded history.
Abhisek Lahiri (sarod)
Sukhvinder Singh ‘Pinky’ (tabla)
Priya Sarma (tanpura)
Raag Shree, Thaat: Poorvi, Samay: earl