Pt. Jasraj’s rendition of beauteous Bihag
by Indrani Talukdar
One doesn’t usually think of Bihag as a “bhajan” or devotional raga. Yet a hymn dedicated to Lord Krishna in this lively night raga rendered in Pandit Jasraj’s platinum voice serves to transport the listener to the Braj-bhoomi of Mathura and Vrindavan. Panditji, in his flawless diction, sings Kishori teri charnan ki... in his inimitable Mewati style, carrying off complicated bol alaaps and taans with ease.
It is said that Ustad Bade Khan of the Patiala Gharana had once asked Panditji way back in 1960 to become his disciple. The Mewati doyen had, reportedly, turned down the request.
Born in the Mewat region of Hissar (Haryana)Pandit Jasraj had been initiated into classical music when he was very young. His father, Pandit Motiram who was also a classical singer, died when Jasraj was only four years’ old. Young Jasraj went on to be trained by his older brother Maniram with whom he would appear at concerts as a tabla artiste. Apparently Panditji got fed up with the second-rate treatment meted out to accompanists and left his brother’s tutelage in a huff. He also began growing his hair long vowing not to cut it before making his mark as a vocal artiste. He finally chopped off his long tresses after his first performance on All India Radio where he sang Raga Kaunsi Kanhada (an amalgam of Malkauns and the courtly Darbari Kanhada).
Pandit Jasraj’s style is deeply evocative of his Mewati school of music, which owes its vocal tradition to Ustad Ghagge Nazir Khan in the late 19th century. Some consider it to be a breakaway from the Gwalior School. Known for its spiritual aestheticism the fourth generation virtuoso enriched it by infusing emotive and devotional elements.
The present bhajan which may be heard (also viewed) by clicking the following link on You Tube Youtube
, is rendered in a raga known to be both romantic and playful.
With Gandhar or the third note as dominant, it is rendered late in the evening, well after sundown when stars brighten the hemisphere. It is also a raga of sparkling reminiscence with a full-bodied fervour spanning the entire gamut of shuddh or straight notes with a teevra, that is sharp, Madhyam (Fourth) in tow. Singers, especially novices, have to refrain from venturing into the realm of Kalyan by pondering too long on the Fourth Sharp. It is up to a maestro of Panditji’s order to turn it into a pure and mellifluous listening experience.