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#Musings with Nitin Amin: Raga pahadi

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

21 song salute to the great Lata Mangeshkar

Pahadi - as the name suggests, is a raga of the mountains. It is right up on the top when you think of folk tunes of India and it is no wonder that the Santoor and the Bansuri find the raga pahadi so fitting. Music composers in India have widely used pahadi in film songs that have gained extreme popularity over the years.

As an advancing listener of Hindustani classical music, when you look at raga pahadi from close quarters, you will find that it is more than a raga - it is a melody. It enjoys the malleability of the so called ‘light’ ragas like kaafi, pilu, khamaj which you can mold to your liking and are an excellent fit to folk tunes and semi-classical forms like thumri and dadra.

Within this category, pahadi is still more flexible than many of these ragas in terms of attaching additional notes, moving through different ragas and coming back to the original form of pahadi.

Once you get more familiar with the various ragas, you can think of raga pahadi as raga bhoop in disguise. While some believe that raga pahadi originated from bhoop, there is a huge possibility that it was the other way around. It shares the same set of notes (sa, re, ga, pa, dha, sa) but the presentation of bhoop has a distinctive pattern characterized by very long meends or smooth curves. If you take raga bhoop and transpose the sa to ma then you will find yourself getting closer to raga pahadi. On paper this may sound a little confusing but you can find this part explained very well by Nitin Amin at 15:00 in the link of the live session pasted below. When you take away the additional ornamentation and the seriousness from this version of bhoop, you will find yourself in the fresh and free embrace of raga pahadi. Advancing listeners of classical music can learn to differentiate between bhoop and pahadi on the ‘seriousness’ of the presentation.

Additionally, there are very typical movements which resemble the rocky, up and down terrain of the mountains. This is very distinctive in raga pahadi and you will notice this quite immediately in a vocal or instrumental presentation.

To mix things up, you can also add the madhyam (ma) and/or the nishad (ni) and make raga pahadi more expressive. The Hindi film industry in the past was quite infatuated with the snow capped mountains and the beautiful lakes of northern India and switzerland. What better fit to introduce this visual delight than an audio accompaniment of raga pahadi? We can safely say that every popular composer of that era has used raga pahadi somewhere or the other in their repertoire.

If you wish, you can begin your journey of raga pahadi with some hindi film masterpieces linked below. It is wonderful to see how each melody flows into the other.

Protip: You can find a lot of western music that corresponds to raga pahadi due to its pentatonic nature. If you are interested in furthering this discussion in that direction, we would love to hear from you in the comments section.

The full live session hosted for participants of Suntey Raho can be accessed here

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