Pandit Pran Nath (1918-1996)

Ragas of Morning and Night

1. Raga Todi

2. Raga Darbari

Ragas of Morning and Night
(Todi, Darbari) Gramavision 18-7018-7 (1986)

This is a rare recording from 1968 India of Pandit PranNath singing Rags Todi and Darbari.

Pran Nath's Ragas of Morning & Night has nothing to do with entertainment, everything to do with meditation and everything to do with New Age music, so much of which is profoundly influenced by traditional Indian music. As we listen, we are drawn in, captivated and eventually transported to psycho-spiritual clarity. Ragas is an intense album for serious listeners who regard listening as a process of inner development.

Raga Cycle - Palace Theatre - Paris 1972

1. Raga Shudh Sarang (33:19)

2. Raga Kut Todi (12:10)

One of the undeniable beauties of Indian Classical Music is its strong connection to nature and especially the binding relationship of Raga melodies to their appropriate time of day. An elegant curve of melody, a subtle lowering of pitch, or an assertiveness attached to a particular note help to define the effect of a Raga. There are Ragas for all the times of the day and night as well as seasons and when they are sung at their appropriate time their effectivness is noticeably enhanced. Pandit Pran Nath's knowledge of this musical science was extraordinary and he made it hislife's work to probe deeply with his expressive voice the true character of each raga using his matchless pitch discrimination and compelling emotional range.

The Raga Cycle at the Palace Theatre in Paris, 1972 showcased Pandit Pran Nath at the peak of his powers. The Raga Cycle took place over three consecutive days: Friday, May 28th night ragas, Saturday May 29th late afternoon ragas, and Sunday, May 30th, morning and mid-day ragas. These three concerts stand as a truly awe-inspiring monument, an example of perfection of the high art of Hindustani music by one of the greatest masters of the Kirana Gharana. Kirana, a small village north of New Delhi, produced many of the giants of Indian classical vocal music. Among them, Ustad Abdul Waheed Khansahib, Pran Nath-ji's guru, and the immensely popular Ustad Abdul Kareem Khan.

Accompanying Pran Nath in these Place Concerts are his American disciples, La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, tambouras, and Terry Riley, tabla.

Terry Riley on Pandit Pran Nath (October 22, 1971)

Charles Amirkhanian and Harvey Wallerstin talk with composers Terry Riley and Jordan Stenberg about their studies with Pandit Pran Nath, a master of Indian vocal music. They describe Pran Nath's spiritual approach to music and his philosophy the true music is found inbetween the notes. Riley also describes his time spent in India studying with Pran Nath, and his impressions of the culture including contemporary Indian films and music.

Pandit Pran Nath – Dira Dira Tā Nā: Tarānā, Tīn-Tāl, Madhya-Layal Raga Bhairavī (Excerpt) 12:29

Tabla – Benjamin Wertheimer
Tambura – Shabda Kahn
Tambura, Voice – Terry Riley
Voice – Pandit Pran Nath

Pandit Pran Nath was born November 3, 1918, in Lahore, West Pakistan, of a wealthy and cultured family. He received music instruction from the age of 6 and was blessed with hearing great music performed in his house daily by musicians brought there by his grandfather. Pandit Pran Nath is fond of relating that in the morning at 4:00 AM, his grandfather brought saints to the home; in the evening, musicians. His passionate interest in music led him to leave home at the age of 13 to seek a perfect music 'Guru' which he soon found in the person of the legendary Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan Sahib of Kirana. Pandit Pran Nath lived 20 years with his teacher, gradually mastering the difficult practices of North Indian Classical vocal technique. He was fortunate to have spent his youth in the company of the last of the great vocal masters of this century, who, besides the great Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan Sahib, included such artists as Ammau Ali Khan, Pandit Dilys Chandra Vedi, Gyanni Baba of Bombay, Ustad, Rajib Ali Khan Sahib and many others. He sang his first concert on All India Radio in 1937 and was a featured artist for the radio for over 30 years. He taught the advanced vocal classes at Delhi University for 10 years and his private students included such renowned artists as Bhimgen Joshi and Salabnat Ali Khan.

In 1970 Pandit Pran Nath first came to the west and since that time has given numerous concerts in Europe and the USA. He conducted classes at Mills College from 1973 to 1984 in North Indian classical vocal music and at the Kirana Center for Indian classical music in New York. His awards included those from the J.S. Guggenheim Foundation, the Cassandra Foundation and the N.E.A. Since coming to the West in 1970, Pandit Pran Nath has done more than any other musician to bring the true spirit and sacred nature of this age old tradition to students and music audiences. In preserving the actual characteristics of these Ragas as he learned them from the last great master of the 20th century he has brought to us a powerful voice that speaks across the ages to our deepest nature.

Raga Bhairavi is special among North Indian ragas in that, although classified first as a morning raga, according to tradition it can also be performed at any time of the day or night except at sunrise or sunset. Further, it is the auspicious raga to be performed as the closing piece at the end of major concerts and festivals.

Raga Bhairavi is perhaps the most inspiring and feelingful of all the ragas, especially as its character has been portrayed by the great masters of the Kirana tradition. It is a female raga, considered to be the consort of the male Raga Bhairava. Bhairavi personifies the creative, devotional and nourishing attributes of the eternal spirit of the universal Mother Goddess in Hindu cosmology. To hear a truly great performance of the raga seems to reunite the listener's soul with the spirit of the Mother on so profound a level that the soul feels at once nourished and in a state of such rare spiritual ecstasy that it longs to hear Raga Bhairavi forever.

""Dira Dira Ta Na" attains its unique status through the fact that it uses all of the twelve pitches in the nibadh-gaan (through-composed or fixed composition). There is no other composition known to me in the history of Indian classical music which exhibits this characteristic.

Customarily, when presenting a raga which permits the use of all the twelve pitches, one performs one of the many existing fixed compositions comprised of the natural pitches of the raga, and then, in the course of the improvisations on the composition, selectively introduces and works with the remainder of the twelve pitches. My own earlier compositions for twelve pitch Raga Bhairavi followed this form and were set in the natural pitches of the saga. However, in. the creation of "Dira Dira Ta Na" I have achieved the introduction of all the twelve pitches in a natural and effortless manner and this allows the improvisations and composition to take on a more integrated relationship in the overall performance of the raga.

Stylistically, "Dira Dira Td Na" is composed in the format of a tarana. The texts for tardnd compositions are characterized by the use of traditional syllables. These syllables do not have meanings and are used by musicians in countless variations purely for the sake of their sound.

This work is to be performed in Madhyalay (medium) tempo, and is set in the rhythmic cycle Tin-tal (16 beats).

Included in this anthology is an excerpt from the 79 I V 8 ca. 12:30:00 - 12:46:30 PM Oakland recording of the premier performance of "Dira Dira Td Na" which I presented as part of a Concert of Morning Ragas at Mills College, California. I was extremely inspired and the performance was of a very rare quality. (Pandit Pran Nath with La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela)

From Music From Mills (1986)

Pandit Pran Nath in UbuWeb Film
Henry Flynt -- "On Pandit Pran Nath (1918-1996)" [PDF]