Kafi is in equal parts countryside melody and classical Raga. It can be robust (Tappa), romantic (Thumri/Dadra), flirty (Hori), and in good hands, can bring forth pathos as well (the komal ga – komal ni combo). Any Indian that can carry a tune in a bucket can probably hum a ‘Kaisi ye dhoom machaai, braj me hori rachaai’ quite faithfully. Such is the popular appeal of a Kafi dhun. With its strong ambit of characteristic phrases, and ornamentations, Kafi has a strong ‘screen presence’ in the light classical realm. And that makes it special. So special in fact, that we don’t typically sing it expansively, as a Bada Khayal for instance. (Ajoy-da has released recordings of Khamaj, Kafi and Bhairavi–all rare ragas for Khayal–explored in great vistaar. But that’s Ajoy-da. Always exceptional!)
The recent week of Durga Puja/ Navratri/Dussehra rekindled this beautiful ‘Ramrang’ bandish in my mind. It also brought to mind a rather poignant exchange from my childhood. My father prayed to the goddess Bhavani (our family deity) every day. I found it interesting that a man so gentle and compassionate, would pay obeisance without fail, to this rather fierce looking woman with many arms and weapons. ‘Its precisely why’ he had said. ‘She gives me what I don’t have. What I need. The courage to think and act decisively….in the interest of people who depend upon me.’ This simple commentary on the complementary nature of the Divine and the Devotee is the closest I have come to understanding Dvaita/Duality. Maybe, they complete each other, and together become “The One” Bhavani-Dayani-Janani-MahishasuraKhalaBalaDalani….
Kafi/ Teental/ Pt. Ramashreya Jha ‘Ramrang’
दुर्गे भवानी दयानी जननी तिहारी महिमा किनहु न जानी
महिषासुर खल दल बल दलनी, सुर मुनि मनरंजनी अघ-हरिनी, ‘रामरंग’ पर कीजे कृपा महारानी
Featured here is original art by my gifted friend and local artist Shuba Iyer.