Concert Notes — from Ramneek Singh

Ramneek Singh-Vocals

Ms. Ramneek Singh is a highly accomplished performer of the distinctively meditative and serene singing style of Khayal (also spelled Khyal) championed by famed singer Ustad Amir Khan, founder of the Indore Gharana lineage and vocal style. Ms. Singh has performed widely both throughout India and North America and achieved a Visharad degree from Bhatkhande Sangeet Vidyapeeth. She is a deeply respected teacher of advanced voice in the complex and demanding Hindustani vocal tradition.

Accompanied By

Suresh Ramaswamy tabla (twin hand-drums)

Mr. Suresh Ramaswamy was initiated into tabla by Shri Nishikant Barodekar of the Punjab Gharana lineage and is currently under the guidance of Pandit Kiran Deshpande the eminent Farrukhabad Gharana lineage maestro. Suresh brings his understanding of Hindustani classical music into providing sangat fellowship in a way that provides comfort to the main artiste and enhances the concert. He has provided tabla sangat for many eminent musicians in India, United States and Canada since 2000.

Yesha Patel (harmonium)

Ms. Yesha Patel is classically trained and is equally adept at playing tabla, harmonium and keyboard. She sings light classical, ghazal as well as film songs with equal finesse and is also a composer. She has performed in Asia and Canada.


In this particular performance, I would like to showcase the different genres and aspects of Indian Classical and Semi-Classical music. Together we will experience a journey of emotions through Khayal, Tarana, Shabad (also spelled Shabda), Bhajan, Thumri and Sufiana (music inspired by the ecstatic experience of Sufi mystics).

As part of the performance, I will briefly explain the significance of the Raag (also spelled Raga) musical mode along with the specific lyrics that I will be singing. 
Together—we performers and listeners—will experience varied changes in human emotions. As is typical of this music most of these performed pieces will be improvised within particular musical modes.


The recital will begin with three compositions all from the beautiful Raag musical mode called Megh or Megh Malhar. Megh means clouds and this Raag musical mode is associated with the monsoon rainy season of India. The lyrics describe the dancing of peacocks, singing of the koyal (Asian cuckoo) bird and the excitement of enjoying with one’s beloved the release of the much awaited rains (that follow the driest, hottest season).

For me personally, I take pleasure in deriving the feeling of monsoon rainfall as symbolic to the tears of separation from one’s beloved where the entire world around me is in celebration of the change in season, as I wait to celebrate with my beloved. The shedding of tears cracks open the unburdening of my heart that naturally has been weighted with worry in the uncertainties of life.

All three Megh Malhar rain-cloud musical mode compositions revolve around the monsoon and the atmospheric scenarios that unfold. Spying lightning that is heightened against dark clouds. Dense rainfall is released. The activities of particular birds and animals many of whom sing and dance in ecstasy and celebration of these life-giving rains.

The third Megh Malhar Raag derives from a melody within the rain-cloud musical mode that is called a Tarana. The way my grand guru, Ustad Amir Khan popularized Taranas in my Gharana lineage is unique to our style of music presentation. These Taranas are sung in the authentic style as perceived by the thirteenth century Sufi saint Hazrat Amir Khusrau and are based on meaningful bols or phrases throughout.

For example, Yaali (also spelled Ya Ali) means “Please help Lord via Ali”; Tom (also spelled Tum) means “you” in the familiar or endearing form. Tanderdaani means “I would like to be one with you O Lord” and so on. This musical genre was created with both spiritual and poetic aspects in mind. Both the music and the poetry were created with the intention of connecting with the higher divine being. As the singer shortens the words we enter different phases of a mystical trance where the fully spoken words become insignificant.

The antara, second verse, of the vocals is usually a quatrain called a Rubayee (also spelled Ruba’i) from the Urdu and Pharsi (also spelled Farsi). In this particular rubaiyee, the poet says:

With the presence of the dear one, the courtyard has blossomed in such a manner as if on a wet, cloudy day, the singing birds have come while the spring season is bedecked with flowers.
All are enraptured in their love for God.
That is why Nature has provisioned the Saaqi wine bestower, clouds are pouring wine and the Bulbul bird charms with its singing.


The second piece is a Shabad by the famed poet-saint Kabeer (also spelled Kabir), which has been added in the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikh faith.

In this, Kabeer says,

O Lord, your command is upon my head and I no longer question the cycle of life and death.
My restlessness comes to an end when I come to you as you are both the river and the boatman who will safely take me to the shore of salvation.


The third piece is a Meera Bhajan devotional work which emphasizes the emotion of pure dedication in a joyful manner. The saint Meera (also called Mirabai), was passionately devoted to Lord Krishna and her poetry is dedicated entirely to him.


The fourth piece is a Thumri, which is a semi classical genre. I have composed this Thumri in Raag Kirwani—a playful musical mode that is a marriage of Carnatic and Hindustani musical styles.

The lyrics and feeling of this specific Thumri is based on a romantic poem that describes a lady in love. She is waiting for her beloved’s letter that assures her of his return. She is lost in his love and is unaware of time—how the day becomes night and weeks become months.


The fifth and final piece is a famous Sufiana Thumri piece in the Raag Bhairavi musical mode that celebrates early morning—but is often performed at the end of a concert echoing musical celebrations that lasted throughout the night until the early morning hours as well as bringing to climax the wellspring of emotion of the concert. This particular piece was written and composed by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last ruler of Awadh (Lucknow), who was exiled by the British in the nineteenth century.

While the literal meaning of the poem indicates the sadness of a newly-wed bride leaving her father’s home, many interpret it as the feeling of the Nawab when he was forcibly sent out of his beloved Lucknow to the distant Calcutta.

Babul mora, naihar chhooto hi jaae
Char kahaar mile, mori doliya sajaaven re
Mora apana begana chhooto jaae