Kapi – Reflection

The Raga Series Jul 5, 2020

(Read Reethi Gowla – Charisma, the previous article in The Raga Series)

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I have been asked the question, “What is your favourite raga?”, multiple times. Until two or three years ago, I had no resolute answer to this question, given my fragmentary knowledge in the matter of ragas (which still holds) and inability to even understand the impression of music on me. The question probably did not hold significance to the enquirer, but it did to me, even though I had no footing to provide an answer. Is it the raga that I enjoyed the most recently? Do I choose a raga based solely on a couple of songs that I happen to know or do I base the decision on my favourite song at present?

With such minimal exposure to an ocean of music, I was unfit to answer a question that demanded an acute approach. It was a long-drawn process to identify an underlying emotion with each raga that I listened to and find a way to relate. I still have phases where I listen to particular ragas repetitively, but the pattern is yet to falsify my latest answer – Hindolam.

As a consequence of habit, I end up asking the same question to most carnatic music enthusiasts I know. So, you can imagine my surprise when one of my friends casually answered the question without a trace of doubt, saying that it was Kapi. Initially, I disregarded her answer as a ramification of negligence on the subject. After all, she was reasonably new to the substance of a raga-rasa relationship. Curious to know more, I probed her to explain further. She simply said, “Kapi helps me think.” I was surprised by the sincerity in her statement and so, decided to make it the essence of my next article.

I understand music in relation to myself through ragas, and so it is in my nature to map these ragas to sentiments, colours or bhakti bhedas (different types of devotion) for clear perception. To accomplish this, my first step is to look for similar patterns in the raga that stand for its lakshanam (the raga characteristics). This compels me to think only about the raga, its swaras and intricacies initially. Only then do I proceed to recognise an emotion that sustains my observations.

So, on the same evening, I listened to Jagadodharana”, a beautiful kriti in Kapi by Purandaradasa. My recommender played songs after songs in Kapi, like Enna thavam seidhanai” by Papanasam Shivan, Meevalla gunadosha” by Thyagaraja, and the like. At some point, I realized that I had squandered from my customary procedure in deriving a raga-rasa relationship. I was lost in thoughts of my past and the possible future. I thought, not about the raga, but myself.

I could close my eyes to see the world or gaze into the open to see myself. I now make sense of what my friend meant. Kapi is a reflection of what ­I want to see, a mind-space where all thoughts are liberal and crude.

The songs that follow the raga’s description are a few that I often find myself melded deep into, peering into my past, present and future to live through my emotions, free from structure and rigidity to help me come out with a clear and focused mind.

Kapi is a janya raga (child raga) of Kharaharapriya, the 22nd melakartha raga (parent raga). Kapi is believed to have been a sampoorna raga (containing all the 7 swaras) by origin, but over the decades, the raga has evolved and currently taken a structure with no strict arohanam or avarohanam to its name. Often known to evoke rasas of empathy, disdain, and sadness, the raga is also a resplendent exhibit of bhakti, vaatsalyam (affection towards one’s child) in particular.

The raga is an effective blend for ragamalikas (songs with multiple ragas) like “Kurai ondrum illai” by Rajagopalachari and “Chinnanjiru kiliyeby Bharathiyar. Compositions like Janakiramana by Jeeyar Swami,Intha sowkhya” by Thyagaraja, “Radha mukha” by Papanasam Shivan are feathers in the cap of Kapi. Kapi is also a popularly adopted raga for visual art forms. “Bhaye Rani” by Tirupathi Narayanaswami, “Parulanamata” by Dharmapuri Subburayar are famous javalis in the Bharatanatyam repertoire.

The extent of Kapi’s incorporation in cinema music speaks for its quality. “Aalanguyil koovum rayil” from Parthiban Kanavu, Aalwarpeta aaluda” from Vasool Raja MBBS, Mukunda Mukunda” from Dasavatharam are successful creative deliveries of Kapi shades. “Antha Sivagami maganidam” from Pattanathil Bhootam, “Kanne kalaimane” from Moondram Pirai, “Chinna thai aval” from Thalapathy are Kapi renderings with quiet tears of raw despair. “Urugudhe marugudhe” from Veyil, “Kadhal rojave” from Roja, “Senthamizh then mozhiyal” from Malaiyitta Mangai, “Koothu over coffee” from A dream to remember by Agam are examples of lighter, romantic tones of the raga.

Immensely loved Malayalam songs like “Thumbi vaa” from Olangal, “Varamanjalaadiya” and “Aaro viral meeti” from Pranayavarnangal, “Swarna mukhile” from Ithu Njangalude Katha, “Ente Swapna veenayil” from Rendu Mukhangal are also melodies composed with Kapi’s aid.

I am someone who would prefer listening to Carnatic to other music genres. I attribute this to the fact that Carnatic music lets me feel what others claim to feel with other forms of music. But I can say with confidence that with Kapi, I find equal enjoyment regardless of the genre of music I listen to. I hope that with the recommendations I have made, you find beauty in the raga and enjoy a reminiscent, reflective evening.

The Raga Series intends to elucidate on the Raga-Rasa relationship to make your listening experience more enjoyable. The series is based on the author’s views and is purely subjective. Music tracks are shared for your quick reference and their rights belong to their respective owners.


Sandhya Ramesh

If you want to know where to find her, try the best chaat or ice cream place in town.