E Safar is based on a Javed Akhtar poem — the title, which translates to “Oh Journey” is part of a couplet that translates to:
Oh journey, be not in vain,
If not to the end,
at least lead me somewhere
It felt like a fitting text for a man traversing the breadth of the country along the continental divide on a bike, to stop and sing as he contemplated this journey.
Payton’s determination and commitment to creating these incredible journeys is so inspiring. This bandish is meant to be sung alone, immersed the wilderness — both outside and within.
Musical notes: This piece is a bandish(p/d) (so, similar to the ‘tune’ in jazz – it is simply a melody upon which to improvise) in a hybrid, two octave raag(p/d). The bottom octave is in Raag Malkauns and the top octave is in Raag Bhup — mirror images of one another. Raag Malkauns is a dark ma-based raag, which I hear, with my western ears, as searching for home in an unlikely place. And Bhup, when climbed to, in that upper octave, feels hopeful and aspirational.
To hear a recording of Payton MacDonald performing E Safar, please click here.
Special Performance Requirements
This piece requires an Indian-classical trained singer. It is simply a vilambit bandish — the singer needs to know how to improvise on it. It can be performed in the traditional setting, with tanpura/tabla/accompanying instruments.
The unusual thing about this bandish is that it spans two octaves in two different raags (see note above). This might require an adjustment of your Sa to accommodate the range, as even the bandish itself is quite rangy.
This piece was first performed by Payton McDonald on June 25, 2016 in the Great Basin, Wyoming.