Jaijaiwanti is one of the most beautiful as well as formidable ragas in the repertory of Hindustani classical music. Grounded primarily in the Khamaj thaat, this vakra raga tends to slide into the Kafi thaat with a charming suppleness. So the melodic possibilities of this raga could prove to be restrictive, and it is quite a challenge to improvise it without transgressing its grammatical structure. Jaijaiwanti, therefore, offers an intellectually stimulating scope for elaboration that only the most learned musicians can work to their advantage. Recently, Subroto Roy Chowdhury, an accomplished sitar player, tackled this difficult raga with a rare mastery at a recital organized by the Bhowanipur Sangeet Sammilani in memory of Birendra Kishore Roy Chowdhury.
Roy Chowdhury began with alap and jod, which were as soaked in melody as in virtuosity. He deftly wove in the occasional meend into the pakad, R g R S, n D P R, before moving on to vigorous gamaks, as the elaboration gained pace. While playing phrases of dizzying complexity, he executed some fine toras in the manner of Radhika Mohan Moitra. Such phrases are rarely heard these days. The vilambit teental gat led to sophisticated layakari, which was prudently complemented by Arup Chatterjee’s accompaniment on the tabla. The drut teental gat, a vintage Inayat Khan composition, was played with great expertise and energy. The crystalline clarity and speed of the taans and the perfectly-timed tihais played by Roy Chowdhury’s disciple, Indrajit Roy Chowdhury, were especially memorable in this section.
From Jaijaiwanti, Roy Chowdhury shifted focus to Gara, playing a drut teental gat that has been immortalized by the late Vilayat Khan in one of his long-playing records. The choice of this raga, once again derived from the Khamaj scale, went on to highlight Roy Chowdhury’s erudition and control over structurally similar ragas.
Tellingly, Roy Chowdhury offered an unusual, even rare, version of Raga Khamaj as the second major piece of the evening. This was, yet again, a daring move on his part, and the playful allusions to several variants of this scale — with subtle shades of Jhinjhoti, Jaijaiwanti and Sorath, among many others, lingering all along this mishra composition — proved to be tonally pleasing.
The final offering of the evening was Mishra Kafi, based on which Roy Chowdhury played a sadra, a traditional composition, usually performed by dhrupadiyas in the ten-beat jhaptaal. While delineating the finer points of tala and layakari with acuity, Roy Chowdhury succeeded in invoking that note of plaintive romanticism which is traditionally associated with this late-evening melody.