Raga Yaman - a duet in a former foreign Raga!

Posted on 06 March, 20215 min read

In Indian Classical music, वीणा (Veena), वाणी (Voice) and वेणु (Bamboo flute) represent a time honoured trinity of mediums for performing music. A Veena is a sensitive instrument capable of creating the most subtle of intonations, called microtones. Till recent times, many vocalists were trained to sing with the Veena, so that they could be pitch perfect and were able to master microtones. To learn more about this fascinating topic, read my post on Bhimpalasi where we present Veena and Vani in Bhimpalasi accompanied by Pakhawaj.

In this session, we present a Chandraveena - Vocal duet in Raga Yaman featuring a detailed Raga Alapana consisting of Alap and Jod, also known as Alapana and Tanam. We are pleased to feature Aparna Shastri on vocals. She is a trained vocalist under master vocalist late Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar. She has also received guidance from Pandit Uday Bhawalkar and Ustad Mohi Bahauddin Dagar.

A few words on Raga Yaman

Time and again, we have talked about the evolution of Indian classical music in different contexts. Here, I would like to share my observations on Raga Yaman, also known as Raga Kalyani. Let us first look at the basic scale of the Raga. Please refer to the Program Notes below for the notation.

Scale - Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni

In Indian musical tradition, many Ragas evolved from the Jati-Murchhana system. To put it simply, this can be understood as a system involving changes of modes/scales. The scale of Yaman as described above can be got from an ancient Indian scale - Shadaj Gram - by simply moving the Graha (home note or starting note) to Gandhar of Shadaj Gram. This scale is also similar to the Greek/Western mode called the Lydian mode.

However, there is not much mention of this scale in the Indian musical tradition till the 15th or 16th century. In some scriptures of the South, as late as 18th century, Kalyani scale has been classified as a Desya Raga (meaning, a foreign Raga)! Desya Ragas, though recognised, did not have a pride of place in the musical system, and were not recommended for extended rendition. Another example of an old Desya Raga is Todi.

Having said that though, over the last 100-150 years, Todi and Kalyani have become an integral part of South Indian music, so much so that one cannot imagine a Carnatic Kutcheri without Kalyani or Todi! In fact, extensive Alapanas with Ragam, Tanam and Pallavi are often rendered in Todi and Kalyani. Some musicians were even honored with the Raga name for their mastery! For example, Todi Sitaramayya was renowned for his rendering of Todi, and so was the great Nadaswaram Vidwan T. N. Rajarathnam Pillai.

It is fair to say that assimilation from other cultures, and continuous evolution has been a very important aspect of Indian classical music. Next time you come across a debate on the “purity” of Indian classical music - whether pertaining to different regions, schools or traditions, remember that Kalyani and Todi used to be desya ragas! And ponder over the question: “What is pure Indian classical music?”

A last point: there are some schools of thought which believe that Yaman and Yaman Kalyan are two different Ragas, based on the use of Shuddha or Komal Madhyama in the latter. I beg to differ. As a Lakshya (aesthetic choice), artists can and have used Shuddha/Komal Madhyama for ati-shringar. What does this mean? Shringar is embellishment or ornamentation, and Ati-shringar is very subtle ornamentation. The usage of Shuddha Madhyama as an ati-shringar is not sufficient to make the Raga a different one.

Program Notes

Raga Alapana in Raga Yaman

Raga Alapana is an improvisation and a systematic presentation of a Raga. This part has no rhythmic accompaniment. This has three parts - Alap, Jod and Jhala. Here only Alap and Jod are presented. This format is also known as Ragam and Tanam.

Here are some notes about the Raga and the Tala.

Raga - Yaman

Scale - Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni

Family - Kalyan

Melakarta - Mechakalyani (Sa Re Ga Na Pa Dha Ni)

Prahar - 4th and 5th prahar (equivalent to 3 PM - 9 PM)

Reading the scale

In Indian Classical Music, the seven notes in an octave are called Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni and then Sa comes again. Notes with a capitalised first letter are called Tivra (or sharp) notes. E.g., Re above. Notes written fully in lower case are called Komal (or flat) notes. E.g., ma and ni above. Sa and Pa are always written with a capitalized first letter.


In Indian Classical Music, Ragas are classified into Prahars (time periods of a day or night) which are said to represent the most appropriate time to perform the Raga.



Chandraveena - S Balachander

Vocals - Aparna Shastri


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The full video recording of this performance is available at https://youtu.be/e1Wf_nWS47I.

Purchase CD quality audio of the performance from https://chandraveena.bandcamp.com/album/veena-and-vani-raga-yaman.

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