As we have seen, Raga is the purpose of presentation, or a performance. And Raga by itself is just a melodic theme, which may be quite abstract for a listener, even if the artist can render this theme just through the swara or Alaap.
The Bandish becomes the performer’s tool for development and presentation of the Raga.
Imagine the Bandish to be a song. Melodically, this song is composed to the theme of the Raga. Rhythmically, it can be composed to any Tala, depending upon the length of the cycle as may be required. And it uses a basic lyric, with words. The lyric need not be high on poetic content, but is rather useful from a phonetic viewpoint.
The lead line of this song is known as the sthayee, and will repeat itself in congruence with the cycle of the Tala. The Sama, which is the most significant point in this cycle, now carries an added purpose, and becomes the Sama of the Bandish. This Sama now will coincide with one particular letter of the lyric. The leading tagline which takes you to this Sama would be confined to only a part of the Awartan towards the end, and is known as the Mukhada.
The artist’s job now is to use this Bandish as a platform to create his musical material, which will comprise of the swara of the Raga and the words of the Bandish. The theme of his presentation now shifts to the Bandish instead of the Raga, and the musical material he develops will be (or is expected to be) matching with the Bandish he has chosen.
There would be numerous Bandishes available to an artist, set to different Talas, and to different tempos from Vilambit to Madhya to the Drut laya. Most of these Bandishes are traditionally composed over the last 2-3 centuries, and are regarded as trademarks of different Gharanas. All the traditional Bandishes normally have been in Hindi, or more particularly, the Braj dialect, which provides beautiful phonetic support. New Bandishes are of course composed from time to time by contemporary artists, but their popularity would depend upon their effectiveness in serving their purpose.
Contemporary artists nowadays announce the name of the Raga they are going to present, and also recite the Bandish in prose, clearly spelling out the words.
I think by now we have understood the broad framework of Hindustani music, and know the purpose of a performance. The artist presents a Bandish in a Raga, and the purpose is to develop the Raga through creating various musical material. Within every awartan, this material has to smoothly lead to the Mukhada, and the artist then beautifully shows the Sama…and on to next awartan….
It is now time to leave the surface and take a dip into the next level of detail…..
We will begin by exploring the concept of the Swara…