Darbari Kanada, also simply called Darbari, is the central raga in the Darbari family of ragas, which consists of at least thirteen distinct, yet related ragas. Similar to Malkauns, Darbari Kanada is regarded as one of the most grand, and profoundly introspective ragas in Hindustani music. Several prominent musicians have even stated that it is the raga they would choose to sing before passing away! Both Darbari Kanada, and Malkauns, seems to be asking basic questions about existence, love relationships, and the meaning of life. Interestingly, both ragas are traditionally performed at midnight.
Meditating on how to approach Raga Darbari Kanada, I envisioned the main melodic voice as a prism through which the light of three different timbres emerged: clarinet, harpsichord, and trumpet. For percussion, I reached for two different composite skin drums: One drawn from Indonesian drum timbres, and the other composed of Indian bols.
My composition begins with wind bells performing a glissando inspired by the Indian swaramandala. This wash of sound is followed by the entrance of two tanpura drones, after which a clarinet, echoed by a rain stick, intones the Alap. The harpsichord performs the Jor, and the trumpet appears for the Jhala. During a pause by the trumpet, a brightly colored Indonesian gamelan bell presents another view of the opening glissando using two different timbres, one open, and the other masked.
The first gat introduces the Indonesian skin drum together with the clarinet. The second gat welcomes the Indian drum along with a jugalbandi (duet) of harpsichord and trumpet. In a format familiar to Carnatic music, Darbari Kanada’s concluding Gat features pure percussion, with the Indonesian and Indian drums weaving independent, yet confluent polyrhythms. Just as the drums have finished, the shimmering wind bells return, imparting an air of mystery, and passion in ascent.
- Michael Robinson, December 2006, Los Angeles (excerpted from original liner notes)