Raag Bhopali has a therapeutic effect on Ustad Amjad Ali Khan
Raag bhopali,an evening raga,has stayed on with me for many years now. Also known as Bhoop,the raga rendered in any form overwhelms me. It acquired a different aura for me when classical doyen,Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan,sang it in his baritone. I heard a bandish by him for the first time when I was 12 and since then Bhopali has had a kind of therapeutic effect on me. I have fresh memories of admiration for the raga when Lalgudi Jayaraman played it on the violin for the album South meets North (1983),which we did together,and when T.R. Mahalingam rendered it on flute on my fathers first death anniversary in 1973.
Extremely folk in nature,with an intrinsic purity of its own,Bhopali conjures up visions of beautiful hills. Like a childs innocence,it has the capacity to take me into the world of absolute joy and beauty. The raga communicates well at the emotional and spiritual level. In fact,Chinese folk tunes are also based on Bhopali as the basic line of melody of both is the same.
The pentatonic raga (with five notes) acquires a totally different aura when played on sarod. Bhopali was more like a taboo for sarod as the raga is devoid of the swar ma (madhyam) and the first string that we generally pluck on sarod is ma. It is really difficult to play it on sarod and other string instruments. Also,in order to bring out the authentic contours of this raga,one needs to stay clear of ragas that exist with the same set of notes. So,whenever I am a bit lonely,I go back to this raga. It is,overall,not rigorous or difficult but a playful yet complex extemporisation of symphony.