Genius of Niladri Kumar | Raag Shree | Music of India

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#darbarfestival | “In Harry Potter, there’s a wand choosing scene where the wand and its user need to have a connect. The sitar too broadly works in a similar style” (Niladri Kumar)
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Niladri Kumar is known for his expansive modern sitar style, stretching the boundaries of classical music. Trained under his father, a disciple of Ravi Shankar, he was recognised as a prodigy. He has since developed an extraordinary technical command of his instrument, complete with dextrous double stops, whispering string bends, and rapid taans [fast improvised lines]. He makes forays into film composition and is the inventor of the ‘zitar’ - a curious hybrid of electric guitar and sitar. Today he tours extensively with Zakir Hussain’s groups as well as a solo artist. Hear more of Niladri here:
-Bhimpalasi |
-Mishra Kafi |
-Explaining his unique sound |

Shree is a devotional sunset raga with ancient roots. The name has sacred origins, representing humanity’s material relation with the world (as opposed to ‘Om’, which represents our spiritual dimensions). It is associated with Lord Shiva, the destroyer and transformer, and Lakshmi, the giver of wealth and prosperity, and also with various Sikh saints, many of whom composed in the raga. Sitarist-scholar Deepak Raja quotes legendary vocalist Omkarnath Thakur as considering Shree to be a raga of fear: “The prescribed time for performing this raga (around sunset) is the time when nature and humans are at peace, but the disembodied spirits (of whom Shiva is the Lord) become active, and aid the black magic of Tantriks”.

It is considered among the most difficult ragas to master. Hailing from Purvi thaat, it takes the swaras SrGMPdNS, with Re and Pa as the vadi-samvadi pairing [king and queen notes]. The core of the raga is to be found in the movement between these two notes, with musicians employing all manner of ornamentations to explore their co-relationship. The raga is typically elaborated in madhya and taar saptaks [middle and upper octaves]. A range of different sruti [microtones] are used, with many variants of Re and Dha in use. Hear more of Shree here:
-Abhishek Lahiri (sarod) |
-Kamal Sabri (sarangi) |
-Niladri Kumar explanation (sitar) |

Recorded by Darbar in 2014, in London:
-Niladri Kumar (sitar)

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