Sahana Banerjee explores Raag Yaman in this 8 minute 44 second presentation of Darbar’s On Location series. Sahana Banerjee is an exponent of the Rampur Senia Gharana and has learned Sitar from her father, Pt. Santosh Banerjee who held an important position as faculty at the Ravindra Bharati University in Kolkata. He was a direct disciple of Ustad Dabir Khan, who was the direct lineage of Miyan Tansen’s daughter Saraswati Devi. For listeners new to Indian Classical music, Tansen was the great Mughal Emperor Akbar’s celebrated court musician, who is also called the Father of North Indian Classical music.
Sahana was first initiated to vocal classical music by her mother. When On her 5th birthday, she was gifted a baby Sitar with her name engraved on it by Amit Roy, son of legendary Sitar-maker from Kolkata, Hiren Roy. Instead of being daunted by this painful, difficult instrument, she began learning to play it from her father. After years of training on this male-dominated instrument, Sahana graduated to learning the more complex Surbahar.
Sahana Banerjee performs Alaap (melodic introduction) and Jod (melodic introduction played in a linear rhythm without percussion accompaniment) in this presentation which was shot and recorded live in the rugged landscape of Mulshi, Maharashtra. Raag Yaman, a fundamental Raag in Hindustani Classical music, is performed between 6 pm and 9 pm. It is derived from the Kalyan Thaat and is said to evoke a romantic emotion. The concept of romance in ancient Indian culture however, has always been a layered one and therefore a romantic Raga like Yaman may also be said to be one’s way of connecting to the Divine through mortal love.
An interesting observation of Sahana comes to memory in an interview given to Darbar in 2018 - “Please do not teach only vocal music or dance to your girl with the single-minded agenda of improving marital prospects.”
A statement as straight forward and positive-feminist as this is interesting because it resonates with the journey of a female musician from Saraswati Devi of the 16th century up until the contemporary female stage performer of today as Sahana. As the name suggests, the Rampur Senia Gharana was formed when a part of Tansen’s bloodline came to settle in the Rampur district of the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The lineage or connection was direct - from Saraswati Devi, Tansen’s only daughter - who was herself an illustrious musician of her time. She was married to a Veena player called Misri Singh, son of Maharaja Samokhan Singh. But history/historians picked up the “Senia” stamp and gave precedence to Misri Khan and accredited him for establishment of this third main musical branch of Tansen’s bloodline instead of bringing Saraswati Devi’s name to the forefront. If seen in the context of Sahana’s statement above, this was an ironic patriarchal move of the then Indian society in which even highly talented women as Saraswati Devi were kept away from public performances.
Darbar endeavours to bring to you the finest of Indian Classical music which can enrich mere listeners, enthusiasts as well as students of music in the same light. In the contemporary scene where there has been a certain melt-down of Gharanas, we feel this Alaap and Jod bundled into a little bouquet can also give a quick perspective to cyber wanderers who are curious about Indian Classical music.
The On Location series is Darbar’s attempt to capture the essence of a Baithak in each performance, where the musician and music blend with the backdrop of a natural setting and the feeling of an intimate soiree is conveyed.