Raag Miyan Ki Malhar is said to be a creation of Miyan Tansen - the composer, musician and musical luminaire from Mughal emperor Akbar’s court from 15th century India. Legend has it that the emperor once asked Miyan Tansen to sing Raag Deepak, the light-bringing raga, which caused all the lamps near him to ignite and scorch Tansen’s body. Eventually, it was his daughter Saraswati whose evocation of Miyan Ki Malhar caused a great storm to break, finally cooling him.
The acclaimed sitar player Mita Nag presents this brooding raga with fluid lyricism at Darbar festival 2015. One of a handful of female sitarists who represents a powerful dhrupad and vocal-infused approach from the Bishnupur gharana - a style that originated in undivided eastern India of early 19th century - Nag’s performance remains memorable for the robust treatment she imparts to this meend-laden (glide-centric) sombre raga.
She is supported by Satyajit Talwalkar, one of the brightest tabla players who is known for his impeccable solos and sensitive accompaniment.
Introducing the raga in a drawn-out alap, she focuses on the application of the oscillating pure and flat Ni ( 7th) - a characteristic that brings the essence of Miyan ki Malhar. She bends the strings to drift from one note to the other in seamless, buoyant, lustrous movements.
While her deep-toned phrases in the lower octave have a trance-like quality, the middle and higher octaves are an extraordinary weave of rich tonality of the main strings. As she plays the jod, the polyphonic hum of the thirteen sympathetic strings tuned to the Malhar scale blends harmoniously in an orchestra of microtones.
The compositions presented by Nag are all set to a rhythmic cycle of Teental (16 beats), one set to a slow tempo where she demonstrates steady rhythmic arrangements stretching, bending and oscillating the notes and filling the vast expanse of the spacious time cycle. The faster composition accelerates to another ‘gat’ which she embellishes with raging, long taans executed flawlessly before ending with a reverberant ‘jhalla’.
Talwalkar morphs his ‘thekas’ (beats) with Nag piloting the rhythmic designs. He adds improvisations and modulates the tonal balance between the right and left drums, complimenting the recital with an elegant interpretation.
Raag Miyan ki Malhar is derived from Kafi thaat. Its jati is shadav-shadav. It omits Ga (3rd) from the ascent and Dha (6th) from its descent. Its vadi swar is Ma (4th) while the samvadi swar is Sa (1st). The arohana and avarohana are as follows:
S, n.D N.S, M R P, M P, n-D N S’
S’ n P, M P, g-M R S
Mita Nag (sitar)
Satyajit Talwalkar (tabla)
Seetal Gahir (tanpura)
Raag: Miya Ki Malhar, Thaat: Kafi, Samay: late night and monsoons