Raaga

There are many of us who think that a raaga is a matter of notes, just as picture is a matter of paint or a sculpture a matter of clay or marble. This statement is so far from the truth of raaga or indeed of a painting or of a piece of a sculpture, that it would be almost frivolous to utter it seriously. Yes, a raaga is matter of notes, but it is also a run of colours, of feeling, of subtle intimations of man’s immortality. This is because a raaga is a living thing; a spark of life in it and wakens every time it is sung or played. Raaga is not scientific, nor it is an art; it is organic.

There is also the fact that a raaga can not be invented, that is put together by applying the rules of raaga making. This, too, is because of its life. While it is possible to construct a raaga applying recipe of raaga making, it is not possible to give it life. And without life it is only scale of notes, some notes going up, others going down; a characteristic progression, a set of symmetries that repeats and yet a raaga is not born from this prescription. These are only the lineaments of a raaga’s structure, but not the secret of its life. Without life a raaga does not exist and you can tell it a mode or a melody but not a raaga.

All raaga’s exist in principle everywhere in our lives. But until you have discovered a raaga for yourself from the stuff of your own life, it is of no use. The source of a raaga’s life is the singer or the player of the raaga. It is the life of the singer or the player that a raaga uses for a while and it is from this that a raaga lives. This is one reason why the learning of raaga music consists, in its essence, in intensifying the life of the singer, making it accessible to him so that he may make a raaga live when he sings or plays it.

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