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Chris ledoux: lyric & country music star

Chris LeDoux, from lyric writer & country music star to rodeo cowboy, he has done it all. A hat act with a real cowboy under the brim.

From bareback to hat act, Country Music superstar Chris LeDoux has done it all, and amazingly enough, lived to tell it all.

Chris` first "claim to fame" was winning the World Champion Little Britches Bareback Rider title in 1964. From there he went on to compete in other rodeos throughout his high school and college years, and eventually won the World Title in Barebacks.

It wasn t easy, though. He suffered torn ligaments in his knee, had his collarbone broken, and numerous other injuries. By the time he won the World Title, he was so battered and bruised that it took almost an hour to tape up his shoulder to avoid further injuries.

Along the way, Chris got married, started a family and began his venture into the music industry, since his other talents where singing and playing the guitar. Chris wrote and sang about what he knew: the rodeo life, and was encouraged to record some of his songs.

Before long, Chris found himself selling his own tapes out of his rigging bag; tapes that Chris` family had recorded and copied at home. This was the beginning of American Cowboy Songs, Inc. Chris went on to record several other records, gained many fans and was even invited to sing at the National Finals Rodeo in 1975.

Chris got his big break when a newcomer to Country Music, Garth Brooks, sang a song that mentioned "a worn out tape of Chris LeDoux." Garth`s fans wanted to know who Chris LeDoux was and this led many new fans Chris` way.

Eventually, Chris signed a record deal with Capitol Records, and now travels the country in a tour bus. But, he still sings about what he knows best. Rodeos, cowboys, and the life most people only dream of. Thanks to Chris, the rest of us can share that life through his music.


In this conspectus we turn our attention to one of the foundational blocks of the Hindustani melodic edifice - Raganga Raga Kalyan. It is denominated variously by Yaman, Iman, Eman and Aiman. Although the Raga is as old as the hills, its historical antecedents are not easy to pin down. The fog of uncertainty concerning its origins has given rise to many mythologies, such as the ipse dixit that assigns credit for its conception to Amir Khusro. In recent times several writers have reflected an awful lot of moonshine off Mr. Khusro; a recent 'study' conducted at a 'leading' American university has shown that he was the first man in the world to perform surgery on the testicles of the axolotl. This feature addresses Raga Kalyan's contemporary musical structure and performance practice.

The Raganga And The Raga

Raga Kalyan - we shall use the name interchangeably with Yaman - shares its scale with the 65th melakartA Raga of Carnatic music bearing the name Kalyani. The reader is referred to the companion feature Kalyani by Drs V.N. Muthukumar and M.V. Ramana for a considered Carnatic perspective. In the Hindustani system, Kalyan represents a thAT, a Raganga, and a Raga. Throughout the discussion, M = shuddha and m = teevra madhyam.

What does one mean by the term Raganga (pronounced "rAgAnga")? The word is a sandhi of rAga+anga and signifies a collection of tonal gestures that have been abstracted from a 'parent' Raga. For the most part the parent is drawn from the pool of 'basic' Ragas. The Raganga has a life of its own and is seen in full flower under the auspices of its parent Raga. It contributes seed material to the derivates (prakArs) of the parent Raga and may also provide support to other varied melodic contexts. The Raganga is akin to a DNA blueprint containing the key 'instructions' for the melodic conduct of the entire class of Ragas under its jurisdiction. Alternatively, it may also be viewed as a summary, a generalization of melodic 'observations,' analogous to a generalized theory or a law in science, which may then be brought to bear on particular configurations. The "Raganga Raga" is, as should be apparent by now, the supplier parent. It furnishes the building blocks for the Raganga and hence best embodies it. For instance, Raga Bhairav is the Raganga Raga of the Bhairav anga. In this instance, "Bhairav," a major Raga, is also used to denote one of the ten extant thATs. An example of a Raganga Raga that does not represent a thAT is Sarang.

< -- Pandit V.N. Bhatkhande

The Kalyan thAT, among the ten recognized by the great musician, composer, theorist and scholar, Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, takes for its basis the following set: S R G m P D N. Raga Kalyan employs all of these seven swaras which makes it a sampoorNa jAti Raga. The Raganga-vAchaka swaras (the definitive tonal clusters) are:

1) S, N' D' N' R G R S

In this poorvAnga cluster the mere hint of N' R G R S at once suggests the onset of Kalyan. Notice the characteristic langhan (skipped) shaDaj in the Arohi movement.

2) G m P->(mG)R, S

A seminal tonal sentence; the ucchAraNa (intonation) of the P->R coupling, mediated by a grace of the teevra madhyam and gandhAr, is crucial and represents a key Raganga marker. The P->R coupling also occurs in Ragas Gaud Sarang and Chhaya but is distinguished by the ucchAraNa. It is this manner of subtlety and sophistication of approach to swara that elevates Indian music to a level unmatched and unattained by any other civilization on the planet. Let us pause and digest this assertion with a brilliant demonstration by Pandit Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang" wherein he draws attention to the three different forms of tonal conduct involving the P->R sangati -

Pandit Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang" at the author's place in Goa (2001) -- >

3) m D N D P

The bridge between poorvAnga and uttarAnga movements.

4) S" N D N D P

This avarohAtmaka phrase in the uttarAnga completes the Raganga abstract.

Raganga Kalyan is verily the mother lode of several 'big' Ragas, its cornucopian range allowing for melodies to flow naturally from or through an ad hoc variation on its kernel. A sufficiently reflective and insightful musician should to be able to 'derive' the resulting linkages. For instance, the chalan of Ragas Bhoop and Shuddha Kalyan may be inferred from the Raganga. It is important to note that the historical development may not have followed this sequence and that a Raga may predate its Raganga. Nevertheless the Raganga viewpoint provides a powerful unifying framework attending the thought processes that have counseled the musician's mind through the ages.

Some additional details pertaining to Raga Yaman, the flagship Raga of Raganga Kalyan, bear scrutiny. The presence of several nyAsa sthAnas - S, R, G, P, N - is indicative of its expansive melodic space. The teevra madhyam is often elongated during the elaboration portion of the performance. Only the dhaivat gets the cold shoulder since a nyAsa on that swara is potentially damaging to the Raga spirit. Some of the launch phrases for the antarA are now outlined:

G m D S"

m D N S"

P P S"

P (m)G P P N D S"

The skipping of the shaDaj and pancham in Arohi movements - N' R G and m D N - lends Yaman a distinct locus. Some musicians (typically non-Indians) tend to view these two clusters as symmetric on account of their prima facie intervallic likeness. Considering the Raga structure solely in terms of intervals is a seriously flawed enterprise and completely misses its essence. No Indian musician worth his salt thinks in terms of intervals. Apropos of the above clusters, the vital point is that R is a nyAsa bahutva swara in both the Arohi and avarohi directions whereas D is not accorded that role.

The langhan alpatva of the S and P is sometimes observed in avarohi movements as well. To wit, R" N D m G R. Although the skipping of S and P is sui generis to Yaman's normative behavior, the inclusion of Arohi S and P is not verboten. A deliberate construct such as S R G m or m P D N is occasionally inserted in bandishes and tAns (as some of the clips will later attest). Another striking feature observed in Yaman during its elaboration is the wide leaps across G-N and N-G, m-N and N-m.

Putting together the pieces in the foregoing discussion, a sample chalan is formulated:

S, (N')D' N' R G(nyAsa), R S, G m D N(nyAsa),

S" N D N D P(nyAsa), m (G)R G(nyAsa), G m P->(mG)R(nyAsa), G R S

This completes the introduction to the lakshaNAs of Raga Yaman. It is not possible to chronicle every auxiliary gesture employed. A careful hearing of the clips is urged so that the key ideas are settled and assimilated in the mind. Kalyan is so pervasive that there is essentially no divergence in its behavior across Gharana boundaries. The differences, when they are observed, are more of proportion of particular melodic gestures rather than of principle.

The inclusion of the shuddha madhyam M in Raga Yaman gives rise to the irrationally-named Raga Yaman Kalyan (sometimes also called Jaimini Kalyan). This nomenclature is widespread but not universally accepted and one comes across the occasional musician partaking in the shuddha madhyam under the 'Yaman' label. The nature of M in Yaman is not unlike that of a vivAdi swara; soft and judicious use occasions moments of great delight. Its frequency of occurrence and swara-lagAv are matters of individual and stylistic taste with allowance of latitude on this score. Its manner of approach is, however, uniformly implemented, for the underlying aesthetic seems to have been appreciated all over. But for the shuddha madhyam-laden tonal construct in the poorvAnga the rest of the structural contours of Yaman Kalyan are congruent with Yaman. The distinguishing phrase assumes the following form (or a minor variation of it):

N' R G, m G R G, M G R S

The shuddha madhyam does not have an independent existence. It is either sandwiched between the gandhArs - G, M G - or is imparted a kaN of gandhAr - (G)M G R S. In particular, a direct approach from the pancham is to be shunned (P M G - not!). Occasionally, and especially in the lighter genres, the chromatic slide m M is heard.

These ideas are encapsulated superbly in an exposition by Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang" pinched off the telephone line. Such is Jha-sahab's sweep and precision that once he is done speaking on a Raga virtually nothing more needs to be said on the subject -

As the preeminent night-time Raga, Yaman embodies considerable gravitas. No other Raga has cut so wide a swathe across all genres of music and no other Raga has purchased so viselike a hold on the Indian's thoughts and feelings. Every child embarking on a preliminary study of classical music brings with her a working familiarity of Kalyan obtained through folk and other sources. Yaman has come to be acknowledged as the touchstone among classical musicians in calibrating a peer's quality and depth, its mastery deemed a sine qua non for any serious student. The magnitude and extent of Yaman's reach impel us to offer here a substantial listening experience both in the realm of the 'light' and the classical. In the posse of clips that follows, the Yaman and Yaman Kalyan instances are commingled.

Yaman - The 'Lighter' Side

That Yaman has seduced every creative mind of the post-recording era generation is evident from the enormous volume of documented work. Here, we must content ourselves with only a modest slice of that output. Not every 'light' composition will align with Yaman according to Hoyle, but some important, and sometimes surprising, gesture will be manifested in each of the adduced clips. To the non-Indian readers, this will be an object lesson in driving home the nexus between classical and 'light' music.

We open with an invocation to Ganesha, an Arati in Marathi, written by the 17th century saint Swami Samarth Ramdas. Hridaynath Mangeshkar's tune and Lata's voice come together in a melody that is immensely loved in Goa and Maharashtra: sukha kartA dukha hartA -

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