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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