INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: What is Alap 101 Pt. I

 

Author Message
L.Chatterjee
What is Alap 101 Pt. I Dec 21, 2002 04:52 p.m.


On Alap by Ali Akbar Khan

Alap has fifteen parts. Training in alap is not for beginners or even advanced students, just as you don�t offer a drink or reveal all your property to a small child. Only when maturity and experience come do you know that one could take care of the property and use it in a proper way. It is the same in music: you must first learn all the fixed compositions and hundreds and hundreds of all kinds of ragas for the evening, morning, or anytime. Feel or try to understand how not to mix one raga with another. Only then will the guru explain what is alap, because through ascending and descending notes, you can only learn some compositions and hear some idea about the raga. But whatever compositions you learn, they don�t give a clear idea about the alap. Therefore, when you start playing alap, you must understand how to learn alap.

In alap, each note describes and explains the real mood of the raga. You have to think only these seven notes (swaras ), not make a dream or a picture like that in your mind, but just think Ni to Sa. There are thousands of ragas which go from Ni to Sa. Then how do you go from Ni to Sa in the raga you are playing? You must think, only alap. Through alap, you can realize the maturity of knowledge. Only alap can teach you what is the actual meaning of raga. Only alap can show you the right approach from Ni to Sa or Re in the raga you are playing. You cannot learn this in gat composition or tarana . To get real knowledge in your mind of how these seven notes (or six or five or eleven, whatever), of how they work, you must know alap.

When you start alap you choose not more than three notes in the beginning and try to feel them. Then you move in many different ways between these three notes. And try to feel. What do you feel? Are you feeling that there is some other raga interfering? Do you feel that it sounds like a morning raga or an afternoon raga when the alap is in an evening raga? Then you have to take out that effect and bring it back to a simple movement from Ni to Sa. If you choose Dha or Ni to go to Sa or Re let�s say, in Bilawal, then you should see the feeling of Bilawal tthat and not of Kalyan tthat. After that you take the third note. In alap you always start from middle Sa and go down towards lower Pa before attempting the middle Re. But this Sa, Ni, Dha, Pa you have to practice for long hours. Only then they start giving you a picture. Then you can find out if the picture is right or if you are getting the picture of some other raga. If you are getting the wrong picture, you ask your guru. Or, if you have experience, you find out yourself, and change the approach.

Then you still have Ma, Ga, Re, Sa, in the lower octave. You don�t touch that. After Ni to Sa, you start to give one extra note like the lower Dha and only after much later, the lower Pa. These four notes will open your mind and put you in meditation.

�. from the liner notes for: Ustad Ali Akbar Khan plays Alap � A Sarod Solo.

Russ
Re:What is Alap 101 Pt. I Dec 22, 2002 04:19 p.m.


This gives me the impression of driving a car in first gear for an hour with no intention to shift to second. I would expect there are those who play alapana only, and forget about all else. Am I right?

Time for the ol' sitar to go back into its case until January. Just a little too busy 'round here now. Ya'll have a merry Christmas & happy new years too.

Barr
Re:What is Alap 101 Pt. I Jan 24, 2003 10:08 a.m.


Hello,
Alap is truly a world unto itself. I feel that too many approach this wonderful apspect of the music w/o a full appreciation for Alap.
Barr

This gives me the impression of driving a car in first gear for an hour with no intention to shift to second. I would expect there are those who play alapana only, and forget about all else. Am I right?

Time for the ol' sitar to go back into its case until January. Just a little too busy 'round here now. Ya'll have a merry Christmas & happy new years too.[/quote]

Russ
Re:What is Alap 101 Pt. I Jan 24, 2003 11:04 a.m.


I would agree with you on that. From what I've heard, the form is complex enough whereby one could specialize in alap. But as a novice, I'm looking a things from a different viewpoint right now. I'm only swimming in shallow water for the time being until I properly learn how to swim. Then, I will take more of a challenge, such as alap.
Stephen
Re:What is Alap 101 Pt. I Jan 24, 2003 03:04 p.m.


I might be way off base here, but it would seem to me that alap is the logical place in which to start the learning process. I have no formal training yet, so I might be completely wrong, but...
As alap really has it's roots very deep into the various forms of Dhrupad which really seems to focus on notes in their purist form without a lot of ornamentation and the way that the raga is introduced within this movement, it would appear that for a budding sitarji this would be a good place to start (aside from basic foundation skills such as scales and bols).
I'm interested in hearing what people that have formal training think on this topic.
Remco
Re:What is Alap 101 Pt. I Jan 24, 2003 06:04 p.m.


Hi everyone,
I've been playing now for slightly over a year and have just started studying alap. The first couple of months were spend on fingerexercises, scales etc. In february 2002 I learned a fixed composition in Raga Bilawal and in april/may a slow composition (Maseet Khan-gat) in RagaYaman, up to now we've only been working on Raga Yaman. We started a couple of months ago on alap but never continued (guess I wasn't ready) last week we continued... My teacher explained that alap is indeed a very difficult subject. We spend a lot of time (A LOT) on just a single phrase and later come back to it.... Guess Istill have a long way to go......
I'm curious how other teachers approach alap...

Peace,

Remco

Russ
Re:What is Alap 101 Pt. I Jan 24, 2003 06:47 p.m.


Hi Remco;
Well, last May Indrajit taught me a very, very short alap to Rag Pilu, plus a little bit of a gat in teental. But I have to say I didn't really know what I was doing in the alap portion, or why. I just simply followed him note for note. I can "feel" the alap to a certain extent, but I intuitively believe this learning is better for the future.
K.K.
Re:What is Alap 101 Pt. I Jan 24, 2003 11:03 p.m.


Hi All: Here's a segment from an interview with Nihki Banerjee on this topic. You can find the interview at:
http://www.eyeneer.com/World/Sa/Profiles/Banerjee/

He's referring an incident with his guru -

"One day he told me, "Don't play alap; alap is not meant for you now. When you'll be 40 years old, when your nerves and everything will calm down, because alap is such a thing, your mind and concentration - until you calm down very peacefully to that level, you cannot play alap! Alap means that each note you'll have to feel it in your mind! Each note! And it will take a long time." Actually, alap is taught at the last stage. In the beginning, you just practice different scales, different rhythmic patterns, different techniques for at least 20 years. You learn different compositions, you play so many things, but alap will be taught at the last stage."

Remco
Re:What is Alap 101 Pt. I Jan 25, 2003 08:42 a.m.


Thanx for the link to the Nikhil Banerjee-interview: very inspiring!!! I'll turn 40 in two months, so I just started at the right time

Peace,

Remco

Russ
Re:What is Alap 101 Pt. I Jan 25, 2003 02:12 p.m.


Bummer! Next time up to the birthday cake for me, I'll be 50. Looks like I started kinda late......
Lars
Re:What is Alap 101 Pt. I Jan 25, 2003 02:35 p.m.


Hmmm, lets see....50? Half a century?
I had a nice lesson with Shivnath Mishra last year and he asked me what raag I was studying so I told him and he said, "Good, we will start with Alap" Heh heh, which is OK because personally alap is my favorite part; listening or playing. But that's not to say that I'm GOOD at it! So there are different approaches to playing, you can go the Nikhil Banerjee way and wait until 40 or just get right to it. I like the quote from Bonnie Wade's book..."The only generalisation you can make about Indian classical music is that there are no generalisations" BTW Amitava, that was a great book you recommended....enjoyed it very much!

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