A few months ago, Anand and I posed a question: “Why do some songs sound similar?” En route, we introduced a key concept that we believed, had a major role to play in the said similarity of tunes: the Carnatic idea of ‘raga’. We also explored compilations of some of the most popular ragas used in Malayalam movies, thereby trying to nudge you to think of music in terms of permutations and combinations of notes. (Do check out the article for better context to this one)
The response we got was surprisingly good. People seemed to genuinely enjoy thinking in such a framework, and so we thought: why not have more fun, and explore a few more ragas in the same fashion?
Jog (derived from KhamajThaat, Hindustani equivalent of 28th raga, Harikamboji)
In a study published under the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the researchers aimed to group ragas under emotion labels based on the reaction they evoked in people. Jog was one of the few to be included in the “Happy/Calm” space. Kind of explains why it has been extensively used in popular music!
Shubhapantuvarali (45th raga)
There are very few ragas that invoke the level of sorrow and grief in the listener as this one. Considering the already depressing times we’re in, it may be wise to vibe to happier tunes now, but feel free to dive into the pathos. Dark adicha njangale parayalle!
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Brindavanasaranga (derived from Kaafi Thaat, Hindustani equivalent of 22nd raga, Kharahapriya)
Another Hindustani raga that has great appeal, Brindavana Saranga is part of the Saranga family of ragas. Here’s a little trivia: one of the oldest and most popular compositions in this raga is Rangapura Vihara, which was given a rocking (pun intended) tribute by Agam in 2018.
Reethigowla (derived from the 22nd raga, Kharaharapriya)
Though the number of film songs in this raga is relatively less, it’s an audience favourite (the comment section of part one stands testament to this!) One of the best melodies in the last 3 years came out of this raga; can you guess it before it is played at the end of the following video?
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Charukeshi (26th Raga)
A raga that deftly accommodates both the pang of love and longing (Shringara), as well as feelings of devotion and surrender (Bhakti). Sounds like a weird mix, sure, but history proves that it has worked great for both situations!
Abheri (derived from 22nd raga, Kharaharapriya)
This pleasing raga has found many takers over the years. Its most popular composition “Nagumomu” has seen multiple versions over the years; from the OG version by Thyagaraja in the 18th century, to thousands of Carnatic vocalists immortalising it through live concerts, to Malayalis digging it even more post the release of Chitram.
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Hamsadhwani (derived from the 29th raga, Sankarabharanam)
Often termed an auspicious raga, Hamsadhwani is a marker of good beginnings. Be it the start of a day or the start of a concert or the start of a new venture, Hamsadhwani is said to give the listener a warm, reassuring feeling.
Anandabhairavi (derived from the 20th raga, Natabhairavi)
One of the oldest and most “classical” of the lot, Anandabhairavi has a divine quality to it. Probably why it has been used for a lot of prayers and devotional songs!
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Bageshri (derived from Kaafi Thaat, Hindustani equivalent of 22nd raga, Kharahapriya)
According to popular folklore, the raga was pioneered by Tansen (the musician at Akbar’s court). Wikipedia says that it’s “a popular raga of the late-night, meant to depict the emotion of a woman waiting for reunion with her lover”. Maybe all you long-distance couples should try listening to this raga and let us know if it hits right in the feelz!
Can you think of more songs that strike you as the derivative of any of these ragas? Fire away in the comments!