How Pt. Jasraj continues to inspire artists

The two-day Pt. Jasraj Sangeet Samaroh was a celebration of rhythm and melody

The two-day Pt. Jasraj Sangeet Samaroh was a celebration of rhythm and melody

Pt. Jasraj Sangeet Samaroh is an annual event presented by Prastaar. Founded by eminent shehnai artist Lokesh Anand, the festival is an ode to his guru, Pt. Jasraj. Introduced to the basic techniques of shehnai playing by his father, Lokesh trained with Pt. Anant Lal and Pt. Daya Shankar before Pt. Jasraj took him under his wing. Lokesh learned almost all the compositions of the Mewati Gharana and often accompanied Pt. Jasraj on the shehnai during his concerts.

The two-day sangeet samaroh presented art in its entirety as defined by Sharngadeva in his Sangeet Ratnakar, ‘Geetam vaadyam tathaa nrityam/trayam sangeetam uchchyate’. It was held at the Stein Auditorium in New Delhi.

Meaningful sentences

Pt. Sajan Mishra with his son and disciple Swaransh Mishra.

Pt. Sajan Mishra with his son and disciple Swaransh Mishra. | Photo credit: special arrangement

The inaugural evening climaxed with the restful rendition of raag Jhinjhoti by Pt. Sajan Mishra with vocal support from his son and disciple, Swaransh Mishra. The raag’s introductory auchar (aalap) created a divine aura for the well-voiced bandish, ‘Mahadeva Maheshwar’, set to slow down Jhaptaal. Sung like a vilambit khayal, the traditional composition explored the attributes of Shiva through the bol-aalap. The progressive vistar (exploration) with meaningful phrases from the raag etched its outline before the taans adorned it aesthetically.

Skilfully accompanied on tabla by Akram Khan of the Ajrada gharana and Sumit Mishra on harmonium, the Mishras went ahead with the chhota khayal ‘Roko na gail Mohan mohe jane do’ in Teentaal, which had a flavor of Shringar and looked like a ‘Bandishi Thumri’. Curls of sargam and aakar taans and rhythmic tihais with hide-and-seek like ‘ched-chhad’ (playful) with the bowls of the bandish brought back memories of the late Rajan Mishra. Both brothers had an amazing ability to anticipate each other’s movements, contrasting soft and vibrant stretches. Swaransh did his best to make Pt. Sajan Mishra feel comfortable. The final Bhairavi, “Dhanya bhaag seva ka avsar paaya” seemed most appropriate because the lead singer presented the composition as a haaziri (ode) to Pt. Jasraj.

Neelima Bery.

Neelima Bery. | Photo credit: special arrangement

Neelima Bery, the graceful Kathak dancer from Lucknow Gharana, kicked off the festival with flying colors. Trained under Pt. Birju Maharaj and Munna Shukla, Neelima opened with Krishna vandana, ‘Barnat chhavi Shyam-Sundar’, written and composed by Pt. Birju Maharaj. She then presented the nritta segment set to a cycle of 14 beats of the difficult taal Dhamar with thaat, amad tode-tukde, paran, etc.

The same 14 beats were converted to a different chhand when she danced to the tarana at Drut Ada Chautaal, interspersed with bandish and lehera at Dhamar. It proved his mastery of laya and taal, while his abhinaya prowess came to the fore in a jhoola composition, ‘Jhoolan kamuna koolan’, on Drut Ektaal in raag Malkauns. Neelima then demonstrated crisp footwork, preceded by a ‘Dhittam dhittam dagdag thun tak thun’ with the lehera, the musical chorus, changing to raag Bhairavi, ending with 25 chakkars (pirouettes) which captivated the audience.

Treaty of raag crafted

Rattan Mohan Sharma.

Rattan Mohan Sharma. | Photo credit: special arrangement

The second evening began with a vocal recital by Rattan Mohan Sharma, nephew and greatest disciple of Pt. Jasraj, and current torchbearer of the Mewati Gharana. He chose the dark evening raag Puriya, and developed it at length. His treatment revealed his good understanding of raag while presenting bada khayal ‘Phulan ke harwa’, tuned to Vilambit Ektaal, and chhota khayal ‘Shyam Kunvar more ghar aaye’ to Teentaal, ending with a Pada of Haveli Sangeet. Pt. Ashish Sengupta’s superb accompaniment on his large pakhawaj-like tabla, and Zakir Dhaulpuri’s intuitive harmonium playing added to the concert’s appeal. No wonder Rattan Mohan Sharma forgot that a senior artist was waiting to perform after him, leaving little time for Pt. Nityan and Haldipur.

  Pt. Nityan and Haldipur.

Pt. Nityan and Haldipur. | Photo credit: special arrangement

Completely devoid of gimmicks and gimmicks, Pt. Nityanand Haldipur’s moving flute recital warmed the hearts of rasikas from Bihag’s first note. A senior disciple of the reclusive guru Annapurna Devi, Nityanand inherited the essence of his music. Introduced to the art and aesthetics of the transverse flute by his father, Niranjan Haldipur, himself a disciple of the legendary Pt. Panna Lal Ghosh, Nityanand further trained under Chidanand Nagarkar and Pt. Devendra Murdeshwar. Such a diverse background along with his own sensibility has enriched the tonal quality of his music, making it deep, dignified and mature.

Accompanied on tabla by Shailendra Mishra, Pt. Nityanand opened raag Bihag in gayaki ang with a Bada Khayal, tuned to Vilambit Ektaal, with controlled skill and immense musicality. Teentaal’s mid-tempo bandish was so complex and risky that it misled Shailendra a bit, before the theka was pointed out to her by the flautist. The melodious Dhun to Gara brought the Benarasi flavor to Shailendra’s tabla during the final laggi. Pt. Nityanand Haldipur’s performance provided a fitting finale for Pt. Jasraj Sangeet Samaroh.

The Delhi-based writer specializes in classical arts.

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