So far we focused on getting the foundation right by getting clean discrete notes out of the Bansuri. However, Hindustani Classical music is all about the slides, glides and smooth transitions between notes. As a matter of fact, many prefer to see the octave as a continuum of notes rather than discrete notes.
The beauty of music comes out better when the musician glides over notes, prolongs them, shakes them or varies volume. When all these possibilities come together, the music produced sounds much richer.
These variations that enrich the Hindustani music are called gamaks. Gamaks are very aptly described as ornamentation. A tasteful ornament enhances beauty. Tasteful use of Gamak, has the same effect on music. Without gamaks, music would sound monotonous.
In Bansuri, there are three basic ways to produce these ornamentations:
- Fingering – These ornamentations are produced by playing sequence of notes in a specific manner with varying weights given to each note. Many of these are discussed in this chapter.
- Tonguing – These ornamentations are produced by using tongue to break the flow of air being blown into the Bansuri. Different effects of sounds can be produced by using different syllables such as tu, ku, ru etc.
- Blowing – There are mainly two types of ornamentations produced by varying breathing. These include vibrato or controlled shaking of notes and volume control or varying the volume of the note without changing its pitch.
There is of course, the forth possibility. An ornamentation can be a combination of two or more of these basic ornamentation.
Types of Ornamentation
The concept of Gamak is essential to understand for any performer of Hindustani classical music – in both vocal and instrumental forms. The term Gamak refers to controlled shaking of notes. In the process, other notes may or may not be used. The important Gamaks are:
Meend is a slow slide from one note to the other. Both starting and ending notes are equally articulated and played as if there is a continuum between the two. Meend may or may not involve adjacent notes. If it skips notes (e.g. S->G), the notes skipped in between are not significantly articulated but are treated as part of the continuum between the two notes.
In Bansuri, meend is played by slowly shifting fingers from one note to the other. Because of the break between Ma and Pa, it is not possible to play Meend between them or across (Ga to Dha for example) with conventional Bansuri. Many Bansuri players have used innovations in grips or extra holes to overcome some of this limitation.
Andolan literally means “Oscillation”. Andolan Gamak involves slow oscillation of the note with higher or lower note in such a way that emphasis is still on the main note. Andolan is articulated in Bansuri mainly through fingering.
Kampan literally means “vibration”. In western system, this is called vibrato and it is articulated in Bansuri through blowing. One should alternately blow harder and softer in such a way that the note “vibrates” around its normal position. Andolans or oscillations move the note much more than Kampan or vibrations.
This refers to a grace note. If for example, you are playing kan of Ni for Sa then the Ni is articulated for very small duration. The grace note is usually adjacent to the main note but does not have to be so. It can also be on either sides of the main note. Intensity of the grace note can vary.
Murki is fast ornamentation around the main note and may have a number of swaras. It refers to a short, sharp figure of two or three notes so uttered that it occurs within a short span of time, wrapped around the central note. It can be described as quivering notes, including microtones. Murki is used more commonly in lighter forms of music, such as Thumri.
When a series of Murkis are performed in quick succession, they lead to the Jamjama, which is like a spiraling fast pattern.
This is similar to both the Murki and the Kana. The Khatka is a faster improvisation of the principal note. The speed of execution gives it a jerky movement.
Here is a wonderful demonstration of all these by Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia.