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5 Seva and Samaj Gayan Beside the Vallabha tradition of Pushti Marg, there are three additional Krishna sampradayas flourishing in Braj that have adopted Bhakti Sangit as their central form of devotional expression. Instead of Haveli Sangit, they have cultivated the other most important form of Bhakti Sangit, Samaj Gayan. A form of northern Pada-Kirtan, it is found in at least three distinct traditions of Seva or liturgical worship. Samaj Gayan is the most vocally interactive style among the PadaKirtan genres, yet it is much less well known than Haveli Sangit or other forms. Possessing its own unique set of melodies, Samaj Gayan is a highly complex form of responsorial singing that requires serious training and diligence to perform properly. Despite being mostly obscured from the general public, Samaj Gayan is regularly performed and cultivated within the Seva or worship practices of the Radhavallabha Sampradaya founded by Sri Hita Harivamsa (1502–1552), the Nimbarka Sampradaya founded by Sri Nimbarka (ca. 1200), and the Haridasi Sampradaya founded by Swami Haridas (ca. 1475–1580), all centered in Vrindaban. Although Samaj Gayan conforms to the definitional parameters of Pada-Kirtan, the specific terms Kirtan and Bhajan are not employed in these three traditions. Samaj Gayan The ordinary meaning of the word Samaj is “group” or “assembly,” and Gayan means “singing.” Samaj Gayan is the collective singing of devotional verses in a particular style. As a form of Pada-Kirtan that is related to the classical Dhrupad style, Samaj Gayan is based on similar notions of Raga and Tala and, like Dhrupad , incorporates a formal structure with strict rules of development requiring a basic knowledge of Indian musical tradition. Classical Dhrupad and Samaj Gayan are only sung in non-Sanskritic dialects such as Braj Bhasha and not in Sanskrit, which was believed to be the language of the gods, Narada Rishi, and the Puranic authors. But while Sanskrit is called Devanagari and is believed to be spoken by the gods, the Bhakti authors of North India claimed that Krishna and his associates, who are on a higher plane of power and intimacy than the other gods, speak and sing in Braj Bhasha, a dialect related to Apabhramsa Prakrit and medieval Hindi. Moreover, Braj Bhasha is less formal with regard to grammar and 174 • Sonic Liturgy pronunciation, has more allowance for vowel sounds, and is thus sweeter to the ear and more suitable for singing. Several differences, however, exist between classical Dhrupad and Samaj Gayan. Whereas the subject matter of Samaj Gayan is solely the glorification of Radha and Krishna, classical Dhrupad has enlarged its repertoire to include adoration of kings and heroes, descriptions of nature, and occasionally human passions and exploits. And while Dhrupad more strictly adheres to the form of classical Ragas as found in the treatises, Samaj Gayan compositions, though often resembling basic Raga structures, essentially comprise a repertoire of special melodies that are handed down orally in guru-sisya parampara, master-disciple succession. Hand cymbals or Jhanjh must always be used in Samaj Gayan but are virtually absent in Dhrupad concerts. And while concert Dhrupad must have unaccompanied Alap, there is no Alap in Samaj Gayan. Whereas classical Dhrupad is frequently sung solo, Samaj Gayan is never a solo singing event. The harmonium is almost always used in Samaj Gayan but is rarely found in Dhrupad presentations. Perhaps the principal difference lies in the fact that Samaj Gayan is always purely religious in intention and context, whereas Dhrupad had developed as courtly entertainment as early as the sixteenth century. The texts of Samaj Gayan are also much longer and comprise a significantly larger number of verses than Dhrupad. Selina Thielemann notes the complexity of Samaj Gayan in contrast to the simple fourfold structure of classical Dhrupad: “The most complex structure is found in Samaj Gayan, where the verses may comprise any number of lines from four onwards; very often the texts are extremely extended, and they have to be rendered in full during the performance owing to the sanctity of their devotional content. The sequence of Sthayi and Antara is repeated for each couplet ; Sancari and Abhog (i.e. the final couplet) are melodically identical with Sthayi and Antara respectively.”1 Many of the minor differences, however, are circumstantial and do not obscure the basic similarity in design and structure. The most conspicuous feature of Samaj Gayan is its completely interactive nature; at least two responsorial singers (Jhelas) are required to respond to each line, half-line, phrase, word, and...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781611171082
Related ISBN
9781611170375
MARC Record
OCLC
824698506
Pages
256
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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