In an impromptu sitting in Italy, Debasmita Bhattacharya plays Raag Jog on her sarod accompanied by two of India's finest percussionists, Patri Satish Kumar (mridangam) and Ghatam Giridhar Udupa (ghatam).
Jog comprises one of the most enduring musical mysteries of all time in Hindustani classical music. Its meend-laden phrases and the chromatic use of the pure and flat 3rd (shuddh and komal Ga) are a heady combination that create a trance-like state in the listener’s mind justifying its name that translates to ‘a state of enchantment’. The night-time visuals interspersed with scudding drone images of the well-lit, mosaicked Mediterranean city of Ravenna, adds to the enchantment evoked by this raga.
Bhattacharya elaborates Jog in drawn-out, indulgent phrases. She bends and stretches the notes gently - the wiry, lean and supple sound of her sarod tugging and releasing the taut emotions that bind the bluesy intensity of Jog. Launching into the first composition in madhyalay Teental, she steers the movements with finely-phrased tonal sentences with poised emotions and technical adroitness.
Despite an uncommon pairing of a Hindustani recital with two Carnatic percussion instruments, the spontaneity and immediacy with which Satish and Udupa blend into the composition heightens the melodic brilliance and adds credibility to the experimentation. Along with the witty flourishes and dialogues, their riveting solos make this presentation tremendously enjoyable.
She jumps to another composition in a faster tempo in Teental displaying exceptional ‘tantrakari’ - a mode of expression with meaningless syllables that typically emulate the sounds emanating from a stringed instrument. Harvesting a rich polyphony of harmonies, she engages the mridangam and ghatam in a lyrical to-and-fro in the end.
A pleasing and popular raga, Jog is a recent addition to the pantheon of Hindustani ragas – it is about one hundred years old. The most popular version of this raga employs both shudh and komal Ga (G and g) and komal Ni (n). It is similar to Raga Nattai in Carnatic Music. Jog is derived from Khamaj thaat and its jati is audav-audav. Its vadi swar is Ma and the samvadi swar is Sa. Jog omits Re and Dha (2nd and 6th) altogether from the scale. Its arohana and avarohana are as follows
S G M P n S’
S’ n P M G M g S
The other version of the raga deploys shuddh Ni (7th) as well. The treatment of the raga, as visualised by Ustad Amir Khan, lays great emphasis on Ma (4th) that adds deeper shades of pathos to its intrinsic desolate mood. In recent times the chromatic use of both Ga is in vogue. This is not permissible in Hindustani classical music, but a judicious phrase is accepted as the ‘poet’s liberty’.
Debasmita Bhattacharya (sarod)
Patri Satish Kumar (mridangam)
Ghatam Udupa (ghatam)
Raag Jog, Thaat: Khamaj, Samay: late evening