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Ashwini Bhide Deshpande unravels the beauty of Miyan Ki Todi

Ashwini Bhide Deshpande brought alive every feature of Miyan Ki Todi, including its characteristic note

Ashwini Bhide Deshpande brought alive every feature of Miyan Ki Todi, including its characteristic note

There are quite a few Hindustani music raags that carry the prefix ‘Miyan’ such as Miyan Malhar, which are attributed to Miyan Tansen, one of the nine jewels of Akbar’s court. ‘Miyan Ki Todi’, a popular variant of Todi, is also one such. Pancham is a significant note here, which differentiates it from other varieties of this morning raag. Late Ustad Asad Ali Khan, the rudra-veena exponent, used to say that the ‘pancham’ of Miyan Ki Todi is stitched in a taan, which is the only way it should be executed. Even without the visibility of this note and because of the specific character of this raag, it does come across as Miyan Ki Todi.

It was a rare concert of morning raags by Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, a reputed representative of the Jaipur gharana, who performed at IIC Experience, the annual arts festival of the India International Centre. She opened with Miyan Ki Todi and its distinct character came through in the very first sur-lagaav when the komal (flat) dhaivat of the mandra saptak (lower octave) reached shadja; emerging from the meditative drone of the three finely tuned tanpuras, a pair of them as background support and the third one strummed by her.

The surprise came when she descended at the mandra pancham in her auchar (introductory aalap), and then to the madhya pancham, meandering through the middle octave, without any dramatic suspense, normally associated with this specific note in Miyan Ki Todi.

The traditional Bada Khayal ‘Mera mann yahoo rate re…’, set to Vilambit Teentaal (as prevalent in her gharana, instead of the usual Vilambit Ektaal), also treated ‘pancham’ in a welcome way. Sketching the melodic canvas of the raag, she caressed each note in a leisurely way.

Unique ‘pancham’

The Drut Khayal set to the medium tempo of Teentaal, adorned with a variety of aakar, sargam and bol-taans also treated ‘pancham’ in the same way, without creating any kind of anxiety or suspense around the note. Answering later to my query about this unconventional approach, she explained, “My guru Pt. Ratnakar Pai used to say that this is an independent variety of Todi, where ‘pancham’ in not ‘varjit’ (negated), and one should not take it to be a Goojari Todi with ‘pancham’.” She treated this raga with remarkable reverence and restraint.

After a detailed delineation of this morning raag that extended to noon, she presented Brindavani Sarang, the most appropriate choice for a second raag, keeping in mind the time theory of Hindustani music. Here the first bandish, ‘Mora jiya bekal hoye sakhi ri…’, her own composition was set to a rare nine beats time cycle. The mukhda of the bandish reached the ‘sam’ with extraordinary ease. It was followed by the famous Teentaal composition of the legendary Ustad Faiyaz Khan, ‘Sagari umaria mori biti jaat piya bin’; who composed with his mudra (pseudonym) ‘Pempiya’. Ashwini’s cascading aakar taans perfectly matched the bandish, where the opening phrase itself was studded with fast taans.

The admirable accompaniment on tabla was by Pt. Vinod Lele and on the harmonium by Vinay Mishra. Young Rutuja Lad lent intelligent vocal support. Ashwini concluded with a Kabir bhajan, ‘Chadar ho gai bahut puraani’. The lilting chanchar theka of Taal Deepchandi climaxing with a Kaherawa Laggi towards the end provided a blissful contrast to the serene atmosphere created by the ascetic thoughts in the poetry and the austere aura of Mishra Jogiya.

The Delhi-based reviewer is a trained Hindustani musician.

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