September 2, 2015

Chord Progression for Bhinni Rainariye Chamkan Taare - Raag Asa

In response to someone who has asked for the chords for Bhinni Rainariye, I am posting this.  But I want to post a little more than just the chords, so it can help future composers.

When I started composing music in my pre-teen years, I used to compose using very simple chords I had learned from my friends in school. When I did my composition training at Berkeley, I moved on to very complex chord progressions. But lately I have gone back to the roots. Most of my compositions use very simple chords and progressions.

Bhinni Rainariye is not any different. There are just two 4 bar chord progressions that are repeated in the shabad:

1. "Chamkan Taare": Eb Eb Bb Bb
2. All other phrases: Bb Eb Bb Fsus

If you use a different key than Bb, you can use:

1. IV  |  IV  |  I  |  I  |
2. I  |  IV  |  I  |  Vsus  |

In general, if you use I and IV, you are reigning in Raag Asa!  And the classic resolution of Asa is from IV to I.  The classic Tunde Asraje ki Dhun can be sung using (1) IV IV I I ... just in 6/8 instead of 4/4.  Try it!  And notice how you can repeat it again and again and then focus on the words.

Repetition is essential.  Most popular music has repeated chord progressions.  There is a reason for it.  Not only does the repetition make it simple, it also  makes it beautiful ... and approachable ... and meditative.  All these three aspects are very important for kirtan.  Beauty, in addition to truth, has been considered to be the connection to Godliness ... Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram!  Approachable makes it easier for everyone to sing and play along.  And meditative makes it catchy.  It stays with you longer.

Most importantly, repetition helps in subtracting out the music, which in the end is only the instrument to connect to the highest consciousness.  You can even say it is noise.  The human brain has this remarkable capability of canceling out noise.  If everything else is being repeated, it tends to focus on what's changing. With the repetition of chords, you tend to focus on the words -- which are the only thing that is changing. 

This goes to the central aspect of gurbani.  It makes it shabad pradhan.

Happy singing and composing!
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June 6, 2014

Karima Rahima Allah Tu Gani - Raag Tilang

I recently started a youtube channel and I will be posting more of the videos from that channel here in the coming weeks. Following is a lyric/translation video of the Bhagat Namdev's shabad "Karima Rahima Allah Tu Gani" in Raag Tilang.

Central idea: This shabad inspires us to remember that compassion lives at the doorstep of our hearts.  We often don't open the door at our heart and let this compassion come in, but it is there. It is present here and now.

Importance of Rahao: Despite this being a popular shabad, I couldn't find any recordings that used the rahao tuk as the refrain. The shabad is usually sung beginning with the line "Main Andhale Ki Tek."  The more I meditated on Gurbani, the more I have found that the essence of any shabad is most easily understood through the "Rahao tuk."  Therefore, in my newer compositions like this, I try to adhere to the Rahao tuk as the refrain.

Raag Tilang: The shabad has been sung in the traditional form of Raag Tilang. Most of Tilang compositions these days are in Mishra Tilang in which komal gandhar and several other notes are added.

Taal: While one can sing this composition in Dadra, it really is a 24 beat taal with 4 cycles of 6 beats each. Repetition of long cycle taals add to the meditative aspect of any composition.  Unfortunately, such long-cycle taals are becoming extinct in this day.

Recording: The melodic composition of this shabad is only around 2 years old. I recorded the music on my laptop mostly during a trip to the east coast.  I recorded the vocals in my home studio in Northern California.  The harmony track was added by a friend, Fontain Riddle, who is an accomplished singer and songwriter from Southern California.  I thought this was apt for Fontain to sing because her son's name is Karim.  Fontain is married to my high school friend Farhan Khan who plays the guitar and the sitar.
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October 3, 2012

Jo Mange Thakur Apne Te - Raag Dhanasri

Last month I had the pleasure of singing this evergreen shabad at my parent's anniversary celebration kirtan.  I first sang the shabad in the old Pahadi raag tune and then a dhanasri tune. Dhanasri is the Raag of thanksgiving (see earlier post: The Meaning Behind Raag Dhanasri)

Here is a recording of the live program:

I also made a piano-only composition of the Pahadi tune.  Leah Senibaldi, a young pianist and composer did this arrangement.
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January 8, 2011

Jin Prem Kiyo - Raag Asa

In the hope that I can prosper love in myself, I have been singing "Jin Prem Kiyo" in Raag Asa, or the Raag of Hope. I just recently published a version of what I have been singing at home. If you don't see a widget above this paragraph, you can go here to listen to it: Jin Prem Kiyo - Raag Asa

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November 21, 2010

Happy Gurpurab!

Happy Gurpurab Everyone! Lets remember Guru ji's message today ...

Also sharing a nice article from "The Province" in Canada:

As the legend goes, Nanak Dev was only 12 when his father, a revenue official of Talwandi village west of Lahore in Pakistan, decided to test the business acumen of his son.

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November 16, 2010

Raag Devgandhari Compilation

My Favorites Devgandhari Shabads
Mai Gur Charni Chit Laiyeh - Dr. Gurnam Singh
Tera Jan Raam Rasaayan - Bhai Mohinder Pratap Singh
Sabh Kich Jeevat - Bhai Darbara Singh (Bad recording)

List of Devgandhari Shabads:
Mere Man mukh har har boliyeh - Prof Kartar Singh
Mai Gur Charni Chit Laiyeh - Bibi Varinder Kaur

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October 8, 2010

Ramkali - Dhan Dhan Ramdas Gur

Someone reminded me today that it was Gurpurab (Guru Ramdas), so I was reminded of the shabad I have heard so many times, Dhan Dhan Ramdas Gur.

I checked, like I do now for every shabad when I hear it, it was written by Guru Sahib in Raag Ramkali.

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September 8, 2010

Which Tanpura Should One Use?

One of the readers of the blog wrote to me recently about the usage of a real Tanpura versus electronic shruti boxes.

I must say having a well tuned tanpura resonating near your ear helps in recognizing and consolidating harmonies (its the same reason why avergae singers sing a lot more in tune in a 4-part choir). However, tuning, bridging and threading, apart from finger pressure and positioning, make tanpura playing an art; if you have not done it for a long time, it is not as easy to learn as it would seem. It might actually be quite cumbersome if you are in the middle of learning vocal technique.

Before buying a Tanpura try this

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July 23, 2010

How do I know I am singing Raag Dhanasri?

Following the posting of a new shabad in Raag Dhanasri earlier this week (Ab Main Kaun Upao Karoon), I received a couple of inquiries on how to sing Dhanasri. People often ask me about styles of singing, and especially definitions of several raags. And because I get these questions often, I think its appropriate to put the response on the blog.

The request reminded me of my last lengthy discussion on Dhanasari -- which was memorable one. A few years ago one beautiful afternoon, after the normal Gurudwara program, I had the fortune of sitting with the gifted Bhai Gurmeet Singh Shaant and his jatha in the Norwalk Gurudwara in Connecticut, and we were sharing Dhanasari bandishes with each other; In his opinion this would be categorized as a Thumri in Dhanasari, not a Khayal, the more popular Kirtan style prevalent nowadays. The best way to learn the musical aspects of Dhanasri is to listen to accomplished musicians sing it. Please see a Compilation of Dhanasri Shabads for more examples of singing Dhanasri.

If I stopped here, I would be wrong.

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July 20, 2010

Ab Main Kaun Upao Karoon - Raag Dhanasri

Following is a recording of Guru Tegh Bahadur's shabad "Ab Main Kaun Upao Karoon" that I recently finished mastering. This is the first of six shabads I collaborated with Pandit Rajendra Prasanna, an eminent classical musician from Delhi. The shabad is sung in Raag Dhanasri, and a downloadable version of this shabad, like others, is available on Reverbnation. Hopefully I will post some more shabads from that collaboration, and from others that I currently am in.

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