Pandit Rajan and Sajan Mishra
Image Credit: Sreenivasan Ramakrishnan
Bhartiya Vidhya Bhavan, West Kensington, London
“Music is our sādhanā and we would like you to join us in this pujā.” As the drones of the harmonium and taanpuras filled the air, the audience in the Bhavan Centre's sold-out auditorium eagerly awaited the performance of two of the finest exponents of khayaal vocal music, Pandit Rajan and Sajan Misra.
HEAVYWEIGHTS OF INDIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC, THE BROTHERS WERE BORN INTO A VIRTUOSIC FAMILY IN ONE OF INDIA’S GREAT PILGRIMAGE CENTERS, VARANASI (BENARAS). THIS EXPLAINS THE INTRINSIC SPIRITUAL QUALITY OF THEIR MUSIC. HAVING INHERITED A 300-YEAR-OLD LINEAGE OF THE BENARAS STYLE, GIVES THEIR OUTPOURING AN AESTHETIC RICHNESS AND TONAL PURITY. THEIR CAREER SPANNING OVER FORTY YEARS HAS EARNED THEM MANY PRESTIGIOUS AWARDS INCLUDING THE PADMA BHUSHAN IN 2007.
Despite these accolades, the brothers exuded an air of modesty and serenity on stage and as the first phrases of Raag Marwa arose with the syllables ‘Hari Om Anand Narayan’, a meditative atmosphere took over. Even now, in his senior years, the beloved Fida Husain supported the melody throughout on the harmonium with excellent skill. The majestically slow and steady twelve-beat cycle of vilambit Ek Taal was introduced by Raj Kumar Mishra and settled everyone into the performance. “Kya jagaa hai, ek taal ka.” What space Ek Taal has. Rajan ji drew our attention to the immensity of the vilambit section and the skill it takes to handle such a spacious structure. Always a highlight of the Misra brothers are their heavenly high notes. Soft and shimmering, the whistling sur glistens and lingers like a thin thread in the air, holding the audience’s breath for its elongated length until it finally disappears with purity of shruti and intonation. As the pace of Raag Marwa heightened, Rajan and Sajan ji’s skills with the swaras or notes became breath-takingly complex but still clear enough to catch all the raag’s intricate movements and moods. Just before the interval, a short and sweet ‘tappa’ was presented with the punchy rawness of a folk language but that had the jumps and fast runs requiring the accuracy of a classical artist.
THE MISRA BROTHERS THEN TOOK ON THE CHALLENGE OF CONSECUTIVELY RENDERING RAAG NAND, HAMIR AND KAMOD IN THE SECOND HALF. ALTHOUGH VERY SIMILAR, EACH RAAG WAS UNIQUE. RAAG NAND WAS SWEET, CARING AND GENTLE ALMOST LIKE A LULLABY. HAMIR WAS LIVELIER WITH PLAYFUL MOVEMENTS AND RAJ KUMAR MISRA DEMONSTRATED HIS FLAIR ON TABLA AS THEY MOVED ON TO A COMPOSITION IN THE LILTING MELODIES OF RAAG KAMOD.
To conclude the evening, an audience member requested the traditional ending of Raag Bhairavi and Rajan ji explained that Shuddh Bhairavi is a dhrupad raag that has ancient roots. The devotional feeling of ‘bhakti rasa’ was brought forth as the brothers demonstrated that it had to be rendered with extra care as not all the notes can be used unlike the more popular form of Sindh Bhairavi that was sung as a final piece. Rajan ji’s voice tugged at the audience’s heartstrings with the great thumri ‘Baabul Mora’ and weeping notes full of anguish reflected the words of a departing bride from her father’s home.
ONE CAN ONLY BE ASTOUNDED WHEN CONSIDERING HOW EXTENSIVELY RAJAN AND SAJAN JI HAVE PERFORMED, YET IT IS STILL A NEW AND NOVEL EXPERIENCE WITH A FRESH ENTHUSIASM AS THEY EXPERIMENT ON STAGE IN SPONTANEOUS CREATIVITY. AT THE END OF THE EVENING I FELT EXTREMELY PRIVILEGED TO HAVE HEARD, SEEN AND FELT TWO INCREDIBLE VOICES THAT MOVED EVERY AUDIENCE MEMBER. IT WAS SURELY A PROFOUND EVENING AND ONE THAT CERTAINLY DID JUSTICE TO THE GREAT ART OF INDIAN CLASSICAL VOCAL MUSIC.
Seetal Kaur Gahir