Keshav ki Todi

By Keshav Batish


This piece is a realization of a Hindustani classical performance for a non-traditional ensemble in rāg Todi. It explores the basic movements of Alāp, or the expansion of a rāg, and bandish, which is typically a vocal composition. A vocalist is typically accompanied by a sarangi (bowed fiddle) and/or harmonium (reed organ), as well as tablā and tānpurā (stringed drone lute). Typically a sarangi or harmonium player copies the vocalist to create an echo effect, trailing behind the vocalist’s melodic lines, while the tablā player maintains the rhythmic cycle of the composition, and the tānpurā provides a constant sonic bed of the tonic note and a “color” note, that in summation, set the intonation of the notes of the rāg. Keshav ki Todi, first is a jab at the naming of a particular interpretation of rāg Todiby the court musician to Akhbar, Miya Tansen. The way Tansen played Todi became known as Miya ki Todi, literally translating as Tansen’s Todi. The composer’s possession of this rāg is only different in that the orchestration of its interpretation has changed. The hopes are the intention or affect of the rāg remain, while also incorporating the voice of soloists in the ensemble, mainly the Rhodes and Drum Set. The Double Bass and Viol de Gamba serve as a pseudo tānpurā and sarangi without the full constraints of the hierarchy of a ‘traditional’ ensemble—the double bass serves as a fluid yet steady drone, while the Viol de Gamba holds the composition, an orginally composed bandish, as a ground bass. As they lay the sonic foundation of the rāg, the Rhodes, tuned in a modified ­rāg-intonation scheme, joins with Drum Set to create a rāg-texture informed by jazz and baroque vocabulary.