Shubha Mudgal has succeeded in attracting a new generation of listeners to Indian classical concerts inspired by her refreshingly eclectic approach tosinging.
Her sense of musical adventure combined with a willingness to tap into her own creative instincts have led her to become one of India's most popular and admired young female vocalists. Even a music culture as vibrant and self sustaining as that which exists in the Indian sub-continent sometimes needs the injection of a personality who is not afraid to move forwards.
Her musical thinking based on sound, authentic training embraces diverse musical styles without sacrificing the essence of classical traditions, drawing on folk, film, devotional and pop music influences. At the heart of her musical outlook is a belief that India's prized Raga music is a living, breathing and vibrant form open to innovation as opposed to a museum art set in stone ready to be put on display when boasting about cultural heritage.
Born in 1959 into a musically dedicated family, Shubha Mudgal received her training from some of the finest musicians and musicologists in India. Trained initially as a Khayal singer by Pandit Ram Ashreya Jha in Allahabad, her place of birth, Shubha later moved to Delhi where she received the guidance of Pandit Vinay Chandra Maudgalya and Pandit Vasant Thakar. She went on to polish her stylistic techniques from well-known maestro Pandit Kumar Gandharva, who has left a profound influence on her aesthetic outlook. Furthermore, she also received training in thumri from Guru Smt. Naina Devi and is thus one of the most versatile and popular performers of the new generation of Hindustani musicians. Though her basic training was in the tradition of Gwalior gharana, she has assimilated other influences, thus not claiming lineage of any particular gharana.Her spirited experimentation has sometimes courted controversy often bringing her into conflict with some of the more orthodox practitioners. Her first album, a collection of Sufi songs, was an immediate hit with the public but generated some criticism from traditionalists. Her album 'Ali More Angana' set young people all over the country dancing to an originally devotional song, and became a favourite at discotheques.
In addition to being a popular concert artist, Mudgal has won recognition as a composer. Her repertoire of medieval devotional poetry has received acclaim in India and abroad. She wrote music and played a cameo role in the hit film 'Kama Sutra', directed by Mira Nair.
For her Saptak performance, given on the 3rd January 2005, Shubha Mudgal chose to sing Raga Rageshri, a pleasing and popular evening melody. The khayal composition "Kah naa gaye saiyyan" is a composition by her guru of over two decades, Pandit Ram Ashreya Jha, one of the most prolific and well respected composers or "vaggeyakars" in the world of Hindustani classical music today. His creations bear the pseudonym "Ramrang" and in this khayal it is placed in the last line of the antara (second part of the composition). The recital begins with a short alap, a mood enhancing intro, outlining the main phrases of the raga, followed by the main khayal set to Rupak, a seven beat rhythm cycle played in a moderately slow tempo.
Tabla accompaniment is provided by accomplished percussionist Aneesh Pradhan. A disciple of the revered tabla maestro the late Pandit Nikhil Ghosh, like many of the prominent tabla players in India Aneesh started his training at an early age, as a student receiving recognition as an exceptionally gifted musician.The drut khayal is a "Daras Piya" composition that is now sung by musicians of many gharanas. Daras Piya or Mehboob Khan was one of the great masters of the Agra Gharana.
In Rageshri, the first (SA) and fourth (MA) notes play a prominent role, and the fifth note in the scale (PA) is omitted completely. Rageshri is born from the Khamaaj that. According to Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1936), one of the most influential musicologists in the field of North Indian classical music in the twentieth century, each one of the several traditional ragas is based on, or is a variation of, ten basic thaats, or
musical scales or frameworks.
The text translates into English as: 'He left no word of when he would return home.
He left the palace so suddenly (says "Ramrang") that I could not even tell him what
I had held in my heart for so long.
Drut Khayal : 'He comes now, he who is dark of hue and whose ways are wild.
He comes to me now at the break of dawn,
So, where could he have spent the night?
His sleep-laden eyes say their story
"Daras Piya", do you not know how I have tossed and turned through the night?'
The classical raga is followed by a thumri 'Preet Lagi Tab Laaj Kahan' from Shubha's extensive 'light classical' repertoire. The thumri text is romantic and devotional in nature, and mostly revolves around a girl's love for the Hindu God Krishna. The language is a dialect of Hindi called Braj Bhasha. Thumri is characterized by a more flexible and interpretative approach to the raga. Based on Raga Khamaj, notes from outside the perimeters of the raga are woven skilfully into the recital. The Thumri is initially set to Deepchandi, a lilting 14 beat rhythm, then moving seamlessly towards the finale into a more active four beat Keherva. The concluding laggi allows the tabla accompanist the opportunity to demonstrate his versatility and technical prowess.