Musical notes

The music fraternity often regales interested listeners about how Dharwad established itself as a seat of gharana-based Hindustani classical music and became the Mecca for musical greats.

One such was the maestro Pandit Mallikarjun Mansoor, of the Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana, whose legacy is today being upheld by his son and disciple Pandit Rajshekhar Mansoor.

Paradoxically though, a career in music was not what his father had had in mind for him, as he was keen that Rajshekhar Mansoor first generate a source of income before dedicating himself to music. Therefore, for 35 years of his professional life, Pandit Rajshekhar Mansoor pursued a double career as a lecturer in English Literature at the University of Dharwad, and as a concert artiste at prestigious platforms nationwide.

While academics had followed a school-based routine, in music on the other hand, the talim route was directly at variance with the traditional classroom formula of learning to sing scales in the correct pitch. Instead, it was stressed that he should practise music using all the three chambers of voice production, namely the muscles of the throat, the mouth and the nose at one go, to give out mellifluous musical notes.

Creativity

When his music had progressed to a creative level, under the same principle of training, the presentation skills were not compartmentalised for the young learner. All the eight angas or passages of a raga, such as alap, bol, boltaan, and so on, were treated holistically so that the final product emerged as a comprehensive picture of the raga.

Says the Pandit, “It is said that Ustad Alladiya Khan, the founder of this gharana, used to say that innovative touches to singing is spontaneous and depends on the laya (tempo) and tala (beat) of music.” Thus, for Pandit Rajshekhar Mansoor, the tabla accompanist sets the pace and mood of his music. “If the tabla is really good, the improvisations in my concert become impromptu and free-flowing.”

Having had a hands-on approach to music education under his father, Pandit Rajshekhar sizes up the contribution of a guru as that of a visionary. According to his gharana tenets, a disciple is shown the direction and not drilled in the grammar of a raga. “I must confess that till date, I know the form and spirit of a raga, the principal notes, and it is left to me to develop it according to my imaginative and innovative skills. So, when I teach my disciples, I do not even tell them the names of the ragas.” What they imbibe from this unique form of instruction is the application of notes, in a filigree effect of spiralling cycles of syllabic patternings. The start note is never overstressed, but presented with grace so that the entire concert layout becomes one of superb elegance. Also, there are no unnatural breaks in the words so that passages become totally meaningful to listeners.

But, pandering to the demands of listeners is not what this master advocates. “These days, everything is made to sound melodious,” he laments, “but I prefer to use the nuances of our classicism, following the guru and the gharana to a certain extent, and not all the way through. I even tell my disciples that they should not come on stage for the first 10 years in order to discover the various possibilities of a raga.”

Amalgamation of ragas

Hailing from a gharana that is known for its penchant for amalgamations of ragas, Pandit Rajshekhar makes it aptly clear, “There is no mixture of ragas, but a milan of them. This is possible because the disciple in this gharana is taught to intertwine the notes of the raga in a phrase-wise system rather than in a note-by-note basis. In the latter form of learning, the disciple can learn to blend two or even three ragas without losing the individual content of the ragas. As the disciple is exposed to it unconsciously right from the start, the process of blending becomes quite easy.”

Thus, a concert performance for the Pandit invariably follows the format of his gharana tradition, not just in the manner of presentation, but even in the choice of numbers. The ragas he chooses will have inclusions such as Jait Kalyan, Bihari, Khokar, among others, but instead of the usual vilambit, followed by a fast-paced drut bandish, he invariably settles for a medium-paced madhyalaya khayal, so that the behlava aspects are presented without spelling out the notes in the sargam format. The range is gripping; the flow is smooth and the music appeals to the unconscious, elevating the listener from a passive stage of absorption into a thinking level, fathoming out the course of the ragas. Indeed, a Rajshekhar Mansoor concert is a thinker’s delight and a lay listener’s complete listening pleasure.

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