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Raga Yaman #2 Sep 15, 2002 01:27 p.m.

Something I haven't quite figured out. Got a CD recently of Dr. Suman Sharma on sitar. On it she plays the alap, jor, and 3 completely different gats in 3 different talas and speeds to Yaman. The gats don't sound anything alike. I guess I'm a little confused. I always thought a rag had only one "signature" gat to it, but it could be played in any mixture of talas of speeds. I think a question something like this came up quite a while ago from someone else, but we did not reach consensus on it. Anybody have some insights? Can a rag have many possible gats to it? And if so, what are the "rules" for putting them together?
Re:Raga Yaman #2 Sep 15, 2002 04:16 p.m.

My question is does yaman have a sharp 4? I am being taught that it is, but I saw in a book that it did not.
Re:Raga Yaman #2 Sep 15, 2002 04:47 p.m.

Hi Monk;
From all accounts I've ever seen, the 4th (ma) is sharp. Take a look at
Its a site dedicated to Yaman.

David Courtney also writes about Yaman in

I didn't realize just how important this rag really is.

Re:Raga Yaman #2 Sep 15, 2002 04:51 p.m.

One little mistake...geeeeez....
Re:Raga Yaman #2 Sep 15, 2002 10:55 p.m.

FAR better sources for raagdhari can be found at There is a detailed overview of Kalyan ( and Kalyani. Several other raags are also featured. I have not found a better source for the material on the net.

Kalyan is both and "Ang" and "raag". Malhar, todi, kanada, saran, bilawal, etc. - are examples of a raag and ang. Angs are the essential features of a raag that show up in other raags. However, in most cases, the latter has a suffix of the former. For example - gaud--sarang, brindavani-sarang, madmad-sarang, kaushik-kannada, darbari kannada, naiki-kannada, etc. However, there are exceptions to the rule where a name may not denote the ang.

I digress...To address Russ's original question (and a very good one).
"I always thought a rag had only one "signature" gat to it, but it could be played in any mixture of talas of speeds...(edited)..Can a rag have many possible gats to it? And if so, what are the "rules" for putting them together?"

Not true. I do not know the source of this misconception. A raag MAY have one or more signature melodic patterns, but there is no rule - that of a signature gat. That would make ICM (Indian Classical Music) extremely restrictive.
----continued in part II
Re:Raga Yaman #2 Sep 15, 2002 10:57 p.m.

Many gats may be "traditional" - but quite a few (usually most) are composed by musicians (or their teachers/influences) performing the gat. There are aesthetic rules that govern a gat - but these are broad rules. A simple discussion to go over these fuzzy rules is not practical. Vocal (gats are usually called bandish in vocal) and instrumental gats have some different aesthetic rules. One important factor that is definitely considered, is the taal and tempo. Each taal has a certain mood (or possibilities for a few moods) in a certain tempo. A good gat composition complements the rhythmic component - and the raag characteristics. Equally important is to compose it, so as to allow for a smooth transition from improvisation into the gat.

A gat has three sections - sthai (fixed), manjha (don't know the translation), antara (end). In modern performances (and teaching), the manjha is not encountered very often. The antara too is slowly becoming extinct (in faster gats). The sthai is the portion of gat that you hear the most in a performance - as it is the refrain. The antara signals the end of the vistaar/badhat (exposition of the "scale" of the raag). The manjha (normally only in medium tempo/fast gats), if played, follows the sthai early in the presentation, usually quickly after the presentation of the sthai.

A section (sthai, manjha, antara) of the gat (or bandish) has two sub-sections - the mukhra/mukhda (face) and the rest (no technical name to my knowledge). The mukhda ends in the sam. Some (very few) gats/bandishes have no mukhda and start right at the sam. A gat section (usually fast ones) can also span several avartans (rhythmic cycle of a taal).

The masitkhani gat in instrumental music is actually not a gat - but a structure of bol (strumming/pick) pattern that a musician has to fit the raag in. This bol structure is EXTREMELY important to an instrumentalist. It is by far THE structure you hear in a slow tempo teentaal presentation. The reason for its popularity fails me - but it is so.
da da ra dara | da dara da ra| da da ra dara |da dara da da
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
The mukhra starts at 12. I recommend validating the bol patterns. In actual performances, there are several variations of this basic foundation - and even within a performance by an artist, liberties are taken.

Gat's themselves can become the foundation for improvisation - but in very subtle ways, since the structure (that identifies a certain gat) has to remain intact. Listen to an artist repeat a gat during the tabla improvisation or between sections of improvisations. Sometimes the variations can be quite elaborate. In carnatic (south Indian) classical music, these variations are called sangatis, and become a part of the tradition - passed from teacher to student. Almost every carnatic composition you hear will present the "gat" (pallavi in the tradition) and go on to show the sangatis right after - before moving on to the remaining composition/improvisation.

In a performance, the artists (ideally) is expected to select gats that retain the general mood of the presentation. A raag may have several moods that can be interpreted, and the aesthetics to consider how to link them is important. The gats help with structuring a good performance and its mood transitions. There is no hard-and-fast guideline - but this factor seems to make a difference in the impact of a performance in my opinion. If you sensitize your listening/appreciating skills, you will probably become aware of the impact. Even in a slow tempo of 16 beats (and masitkhani gat), the mood variations with different gats in the same raag can be quite contrasting. If you get to spend time with a good musician, they may be able to demonstrate this for you. Select a raag like yaman - that has has a gamut of moods. Otherwise the contrast many not be that apparent.

Sorry about the long winded response.
Re:Raga Yaman #2 Sep 16, 2002 10:43 a.m.

Thanks for the detailed reply. It will take me some time to digest this. I see I have yet a long way to go before I begin to put all this together. Still don't really understand. How can one play so many different gats in the same raag, all of which sound completely different? How may one know a particular gat is in a particular raag? And finally, how is the pakad and ang related?

So many questions I have! I have a teacher (Indrajit Banerjee, who is also on the sawf site), but right now I only see him once a year for a few days when he comes in from Kolkatta. That's just not enough! Going to have to come up with a better solution to this life-long addiction to ICM that I seem to have acquired.

You sound like you really know your stuff. Might I inquire how you came about this in-depth knowledge?

Re:Raga Yaman #2 Sep 17, 2002 07:04 p.m.


Part I/II
Musicians sometimes compare a raag to a person with facets of personality. As you know, one person can seem different, to different people. Similarly a raag may have a strong affinity with you, but not with other people. Also, a person you know, will show different personalities at different times. Similarly a raag has different emotional impact on the listener (and performer) at different performances - and different phases of a performance. Your sensitivity is partially developed/learnt, partially cultural (stereotype), and partially inherited (genetically/environmentally), in my opinion. The listener�s state of mind contributes as well. Raag performances - and cooking, by the way also have some parallels.

Now to the questions "How can one play so many different gats in the same raag, all of which sound completely different? How may one know a particular gat is in a particular raag?"

To address the 2nd question. There seems to be some confusion� or I do not understand your question? A raag is not dependent on a gat (a fixed composition) but the other way round. A composition needs a raag. So the important skill to develop is to recognize raags - immaterial of whether you are listening to alaap, jor, jhala, gat, or improvisations. This by itself can take time to develop. There is no way that I know to develop this skill without (a) having a ear to recognize pitch (with relative sa) (b) sensitize oneself to pitch transitions, gamaks (ornamentation of notes) © recognizing melodic patterns (d) listening-listening-listening. One simple technique is to memorize a gat, load a CD player with several CDs of mixed raags, randomize the tracks, and listen to see if you can recognize some of the melodic patterns of the gat/raag in the performances. When listening to recognize a raag, one is looking for the characteristics. One important point to note is that a characteristic phrase (pakad) can be shared between different raags - but other phrases/melodic movements combined with this phase reveals a raag's true identity. It is very much like fingerprint analysis when one needs several "points" to match, to distinguish it uniquely from all others. However, since many raags do not have pakads or chalans (gait � manner of movement of notes), and are easier to recognize just by the scale/ascent/descent.

On a side discussion - In Yaman, Pa-Re is considered a characteristic phrase. But there is an interesting facet to this. Since Yaman permits Pa-Ma'-Ga-Re in its descent, several combinations are permissible, depending on the way you present it. Pa-Ma'-Re, Pa-Ga-Re, Pa-Ma'-Ga-Re, Pa-Re are all "legal" and aesthetically pleasing, depending on the way the transitions are rendered. Now, Gaud Sarang is another raag that has the same notes as Yaman, but different rules. Pa-Re is also a characteristic phrase (pakad) of the raag, but due to the nature of the scale (avroha), all the Yaman combinations from Pa to Re are not possible in Gaud Sarang. This also brings up the point that one should not get obsessed with pakads in the presentation of a raag. It will be an extremely dull performance. It is the mix of pakad and non-characteristics phrases (more of the latter), that shows one's imagination and renders an enjoyable performance.

So the answer is that - if you learn to recognize a raag, you can identify it from a fusion composition, western classical composition, folk song, alaap, film song, jor, jhala, or gat...I recommend attending ALL (north and south) live performances you can - and listening to recordings. Equally important, is to spend time with someone who can help digest the performance and hone your appreciation/listening skills. You should be able to find some interested people in your hometown.

Re:Raga Yaman #2 Sep 17, 2002 07:05 p.m.

Part II/II

Next time you get to spend time with Indrajit, make listening /appreciation a part of your training, as much as sitar lessons. If you are in the Bay area, visit the Ali Akbar School in San Rafael and listen to a lesson by Ali Akbar Khan. They permit visitors to sit in free. Also volunteer for local organizations that produce ICM events. It will give you the opportunity to get in touch with more musical enthusiast and hobnob with visiting artists. There may be some negative aspects to the volunteering - and you have to discover this for yourself and determine whether it is worth the trouble.

Now question #1. Note that a good gat may not capture ALL the aspects of a raag. It will have at least the raag's recognizable characteristics (some or all) - and usually includes other non-characteristic movements. Also the taal and tempo invariably give a different "feel". These factors by themselves are sufficient to "play so many different gats in the same raag, all of which sound completely different". You can combine different characteristic phrases in different ways, add different non-characteristics phrases, base them on different taals, on different tempos - and get quite a variety. Very much like - "make you own pasta bowl" (select pasta, sauce, ingredients, meats) promotion going on at the Macaroni Grill Whether someone can recognize the differences, is a matter of personal experience and sensitivity (see points made earlier). You indicated in your original post "The gats don't sound anything alike". That signals that you have some sensitivity to the phenomenon. It is difficult to explain, "how the gats are different" but this post addresses some of the reasons "why the gats can be different".

Regarding the question "And finally, how is the pakad and ang related?". A raag could have two groups of pakads (if it is a pakad based raag) - those that are traditionally agreed to by "everyone". Other pakads are "very popular" phrases, which could, in time, become a part of tradition. So - a raag, contrary to popular belief, can have alternative interpretations and/or change with time. Some "traditional" pakads of a raag are intentionally combined with other raags to form new raags (appending the names of the two raags). It is also possible that people recognize the pakads of one raag in another - and rename the latter by appending the name of the former raag. Once again, this is a general rule. There are several exceptions. So Angs usually have come about because of the popularity of some raags. In fact, some of the raags that made an Ang can be lost over time. Also just because a raag name seems to be a mixture of two other raags, there may not be a Ang connection. Some important Angs are kalyan, Bhankar, Bahar, malhar, kanada, kauns, Bhairav, and Ahir. Don't worry about Angs yet. It takes time to appreciate the impact of an Ang. Raag recognition (and performance) is more important - and required to appreciate/recognize angs. Visit SAWF and digest some of the ang/prakar (type) details.

Finally "You sound like you really know your stuff. Might I inquire how you came about this in-depth knowledge?". Most if the information I provided is really not as "in-depth" as you may think. You probably have just not found the information in books/net - or encountered them in your training yet. I have been learning (and exposed to) ICM for the past 25 years - and have a small head start. I have a long way to go. This is not a statement of humility - just of reality. You will discover that getting to a certain level may seem sufficient/fulfilling, but when you get there, you will discover that there is far more uncharted territory to cover. Despair or new enthusiasm may follow. Ad infinitum. I have been very lucky (yes luck has a great deal to do with the ICM musical growth in the US) to have some wonderful (and open minded) teachers who have helped. Indrajit is of course the latest one for the past three years.

Re:Raga Yaman #2 Sep 18, 2002 01:29 p.m.

Thanks again for all the information. I do have a few good books from the ICM academic viewpoint plus video sources, but the author(s) are not very good at writing for a western audience, which makes their material a difficult read. Plus, their definitions and applications on some things are sometimes at odds with each other and yours too. So, one source of confusion is discord and disagreement between authors, scholars, etc. And of course, we're caught in the middle as seekers of knowledge!

Got to thinking that this material really should have been approached in the Indian Music Forum instead of this one. That forum is almost dead. But since it involved sitar, I put it here. Well, my initial exposure to ICM like most of my generation, was by listening to Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan records, which for me dates back to the summer of 1967 in San Francisco. So, I think my musical "ear" is in pretty good shape over this many years and the dozens of records/CDs. But "exposure" is a good bit different than actually learning, which for me is only just recently.

Your suggestions on finding contacts locally is logical of course. There is a small local Indian community where I live in southern New Mexico, but I have not found one person yet who knows of cares about their own culture or music. Mostly scientists and engineers only concerned with their occupation so I have learned. Haven't found anyone yet that plays instrumental ICM. So, that's why people like myself reach out via the internet! And this forum does seem to work for me also.

So thanks again for your effort here.

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