Role of Lyrics in Determining the Musical Quality of a Classical Performance

Last weekend, a young kid, who is a good friend of us visited us. Music is what we spend most of our time on when we are all together. He is learning music under a teacher who has her classes near to his house. For past four years, he is studying music and sings quite well.

We started with singing a drut Bandish in Raga Hameer,

Ghar Jau Langarava Kaise

Sun Pave Mori Saas Nanandiya,

Chhad De Mohe Dheet Langarawa..


A young lover, who has come to the river, to meet her beloved and has given at home the excuse of getting water from the river, is pleading him to let her go home.

This composition has been sung by many singers, including Pt. Kumar Gandharva, Vidushi Malini Rajurkar, Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra etc.

We started with the Alap, trying to build the persona of Hameer- with the help of Dhaivat being emphasized with a tinge of Nishad. He was singing a bit softly; may be that’s how he is trained to sing. After a bit of Alapi, we actually started with the composition.

The same softness continued even in the composition and this actually surprised me. Hameer is first of all, not a soft Raga. It is aggressive. The composition that we were singing, requires a bit of aggressiveness and urgency- the girl has to rush back to her home and her beloved is not leaving her.

Though this young lad was quite good with his notes and the rhythm, he completely missed the urgency and aggressiveness in the composition.

Finally, I stopped singing and asked him to stop as well.

“What is the meaning of this composition?” I asked him

“I don’t know. Teacher had told something but I forgot.” He replied, a bit afraid.

“Do you think you can do justice to a composition if you do not know what it means and what emotion it stands for?”

I took him again through the composition, explaining the meaning of each line and each word again, highlighting the whole emotion that was packed within the composition. After explaining, I asked him to sing again.

Without giving a single musical instruction, his performance was at least 70% better than what he was singing before. Understanding the meaning was enough for him. He figured out where to pause, where to rest and where to emphasize.

Many times, Gurus neglect the lyrics of the composition which affects not only the poetry in the lyrics, but also the musical quality of the performance.

Written by : Mandar Karanjkar





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