Thaat Kaafi

Classical Singer Ayesha Mukherjee
Classical Singer Ayesha Mukherjee

In the course of sharing articles on different ragas, one of the readers suggested that we share something on Audhav Sampoorna Jaati. After posting that article, the reader’s request gave me an idea. Why not share something on a Thaat, as well? Thus, this week’s expert Ayesha Mukherjee came forward to explain about Thaat Kaafi.

Thaat: Thaat is a mode or a type of scale that uses 7 notes (pitches). It forms the basis of classifying ragas. Thaat is also the parent raga from which a number of ragas emerge. All ragas within the thaat will necessarily display some characteristics of the thaat raga.

Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, one of the most significant musicologists of the early twentieth century made a detailed analysis of the ragas and classified them into 10 categories or 10 thaats or musical scales or framework. The 10 thaats are Bilawal, Khamaj, Kaafi, Asavar, Bhairavi, Bhairav, Kalyan, Marwa, Poorvi and Todi.

Difference between Jaati and Thaat: Jaati is simply the number of notes used in a raga. For example, a five-note raga belongs to audhav jaati, a six-note raga is called shadav jaati and a seven-note raga is called a sampoorna jaati raga. A raga can have mixed jaati with 5 notes in ascending and 7 notes in descending, which is called the audhav sampoorna jaati. Therefore, jaati is an attribute of a raga and all ragas are classified into various jaatis depending on the number of notes used. However, a thaat is a scale and it uses all 7 notes. We can say that all thaats have a jaati which is sampoorna jaati. All ragas have a thaat or they emerge from a thaat, but all ragas cannot be a thaat. For example, Raga Yaman comes from the Thaat Kalyan but Yaman cannot be a thaat.

Thaat Kaafi: Kaafi is a thaat and a raga. It is also called the Bhairavi of the night. It utilizes komal Ni and komal Ga while the rest of the notes are shuddha. The raga beautifully brings out the Shringaar Rasa (separation and union) and hence Raga Kaafi was also a way of telling stories in older times in areas like Multan (also known as Multani Kaafi). Therefore, it can be clearly stated that Kaafi is more famously used in semiclassical compositions (“bol” based compositions) like Thumri, Tappa and Hori where the narration of the story and expression of the state of mind in the bandish has more importance vis-a-vis the raga. Further, intelligent use of vivaadi swar makes the Raga Mishra Kaafi but can bring out the deeper essence of the raga with more clarity.

Bollywood and Thaat Kaafi: Many of Bollywood music composers have extensively used ragas from the Kaafi Thaat in their songs. Some of them are as follows:

Raga Bhimpalasi – Nainon me badra chaaye… Mera Saaya (1966)

Raga Baageshri – Aaja re Pardesi… Madhumati (1958)

Raga Bahar – Cham cham nachat ayi bahar… Chaaya (1961)

Raga Kaafi Kanada – Bairan neend na aaye… Chacha Zindabad (1959)

Raga Deshi – Aaj gavat mero man jhumke… Baiju Bawra (1952)

Raga Abhogi – Na jaiyo re sautan ghar… Kagaz Ki Nao (1974)

Raga Barwa – Khayi hai re humne kasam… Talaash (1969)

Raga Sahana – Jaa main tose nahin bolon… Sautela Bhai (1962)


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