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Article: Sawaal-Jawaab, Concerto grosso, Syncopation etc.

By Haresh Bakshi
  Sawaal-Jawaab, Concerto grosso, Syncopation and Call-and-Response

The origins of the phenomenon called "sawaal-Jawaab" have yet to be investigated. This process is not of very recent origin. "sawaal-Jawaab" is now rather commonly performed. It is something special and remarkable, perhaps, requiring less of intuition on the part of the listener, than the meditative-contemplative, mystical awareness which characterizes the khayal singing.

"Sawaal-Jawaab" is now a part of jugalbandhi between two performing artists, or between the performing musician and his accompanying tabla player. It is both competitive and collaborative. The two participants are friendly rivals.

"Sawaal-Jawaab" commences with one musician challenging the other by playing a short (often eight-beat) musical phrase. The rival musician is expected to reproduce, on his instrument, the same phrase, identical in every detail -- same number of beats, identical contours, same tempo, same distribution of notes, same rest places. This goes on, with new phrases being tossed at the responding rival, till a cresendo is reached. The performing tempo is accelerated many times. Now a breath-taking tihaai is executed. The "sam" is arrived at, with a big bang, and everyone is happy and applauding.

However, the fact remains that playing quickfire dialogue by two musicians at breakneck speeds, the senseless, needless high-speed humbug, and doing the customary "sawaal-jawaab" have become a routine. Sometimes decent and enjoyable, it can become something pretentious, silly and deceitful; a deliberate trickery intended to gain a cheap advantage and applause. For many listeners, "sawaal-jawaab" is simply spell-binding because of sheer excitement it can generate. It does have the artistic quality of effect or workmanship, showing imaginative skill in arrangement or execution.

In passing, we should mention the terms used in Western music: Concerto grosso, Syncopation and Call-and-Response. They display some similarities with "sawaal-Jawaab".




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