Megh Malhar in contemporary music

Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (EMI: STC-850738) and Munawar Ali Khan (unpublished concert of 1984) have announced a Megh Malhar, but the rendition is pure Megh as described above, without the use of the Malhar phrase with the oscillated Ga treatment. Then, Rashid Khan (EMI: STC-850498) and Latafat Hussain Khan (unpublished concert) have announced a Megh Malhar, but have used a phrase with an oscillated Ga suggestive of Darbari Kanada rather than of Malhar.

Now, consider the evidence of performances announced as Megh. Amir Khan (Ninad:0001/2), Nazakat Ali and Salamat Ali (Hannibal: HNBL 1332) Rajan and Sajan Mishra (EMI: STCS-850193), Gundecha Brothers (EMI: STC:04B-7790), Kumar Gandharva (Concord-05-014), Nikhil Banerjee (EMI: STCS-02B-2405) and Shivkumar Sharma (Music Today: A-91026), have all announced Megh and performed pure Megh as described above, without using the Malhar suggestion incorporating the oscillated Ga. However, Bhimsen Joshi (Sony-Nad:NR/0128-4) and Sharafat Hussain Khan (unpublished concert) have announced a Megh, but included in it a phrase using an oscillated Ga. Sharafat used a Malhar suggestion, while Bhimsen has veered towards a Darbari suggestion. 

From this evidence, it is tempting to conclude, that the two names are used interchangeably, and being associated with either of the two melodic forms - the bare Megh as defined above, and Megh + Malhar suggestion, as described above. However, on a closer look at the preponderance of usage, it is clear that when a musician announces a Megh, it is more likely to be pure Megh of Madhmat Sarang scale, without the phrase suggesting Malhar with oscillated Ga usage. But, when he announces Megh Malhar, he feels free to perform it either with, or without, the Malhar suggestion. There is, therefore, an implicit acceptance of Megh as a melodic entity, independent of Megh Malhar. The third variant, with a Darbari suggestion replacing the Malhar suggestion, can only be considered an occasional, and idiosyncratic expression.

Because of the acceptance of Megh as an independent melodic entity, it seems logical to attach some significance to the intention of the name of Megh Malhar, and define it as a deliberate enhancement of the pentatonic Megh by using a Malhar suggestive phrase (R-P-g-M-R-S) with an oscillated Ga.

Chalan (skeletal phraseology)

S n. P./ n. R n. S / P. n R / R M P M R / R P M R / R M P / M n P / M P n S' / P n S' R' / M' R' R' / S' R' n S' / S' n n P / M P M R R / R P Mg (oscillation) M R / P M R R / M R n.S

Bhatkhande identifies Sa (tonic) as the primary dominant tone of Megh Malhar, and considers the raga suitable for elaborate exploration in any region of the melodic canvas. Whether with respect to Megh, or Megh Malhar, this view has hardly any takers today. Although Sa is generously used as a melodic focus, the totality of the raga now revolves categorically around the middle-octave Re.

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