Raga Khem Kalyan
Raga Khem Kalyan is a post-sunset raga. It is charmingly melodic but rarely performed. Khem Kalyan is associated with Agra gharana. It is rare raga. It is a special raga, perhaps beyond reach without a Guru.
Kshem Kalyan (or Khem Kalyan, or simply, Khem) is a post-sunset raga of undocumented history and grammar, whose commercial recordings are also hard to find. Having to retain a distinctive identity within the overcrowded Kalyan family also makes it a raga of limited improvisational potential. This challenge is probably sufficient to explain its rarity. The raga remains in circulation even if only barely because some musicians and some audiences value the distinctive musical statement it makes.
Admittedly, there are other Kalyan family ragas, which would also answer to this description. Kshem Kalyan is, then, Yaman Kalyan with a distinctive vivacious twist. A majority of gharanas might dismiss such ragas as 'thumree material', worthy only of 15-minute rendition. But, vocalists in some gharanas treat the raga with a lot of respect, and present them, with aplomb, in Khayal style, over a full 45minute duration.
Kshem Kalyan was one of the favorite ragas of Guru, Ata Hussain Khan (Agra-Atrauli gharana). He used to sing this raga for over an hour without any repetition. Ata Hussain also described Kshem Kalyan as a 'precious' raga akin to an heirloom piece of jewelry, and advised her to perform it selectively, only for knowledgeable audiences.
This raga appears to be an independent melodic entity, conceived probably as a variant of Yaman Kalyan. The raga has been performed primarily by vocalists of the Agra-Atrauli gharana. To a lesser extent, it gained currency in the Rampur-Sahaswan gharana. In recent years, it has been performed very competently by Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande, a mature vocalist of the Kishori Amonkar lineage. The raga is virtually unknown in instrumental music.
Traditionally the Agra musicians have had a lock on this raga. The central idea here is the judicious interleaving of Hamsadhwani and Kalyan. Outside Agra territory the raga shows variance in implementation but without loss of its original kernel.
The definitive phrase in Khem Kalyan is: S, D’ N’ S G R… or N’ S G R… The nyasa on the final rishab is exceedingly pleasing. There are some reminders of Hem Kalyan harking back to the S-P’-S coupling and the use of the mandra pancham P’ as an amsa swara via S P’ or SR P’.