Friday Review » Music

Updated: October 14, 2010 17:13 IST

Moments for masses

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Kunj Bihari Mishra in performance. photo: Special arrangement
The Hindu
Kunj Bihari Mishra in performance. photo: Special arrangement

Kunj Bihari Mishra is taking forward the legacy of Vidyapati Sangeet with utmost sincerity.

Is an artiste just a person with unlimited talent and skill? Interacting with Kunj Bihari Mishra, immediately after his delightful concert of Vidyapati Sangeet, one realises an artiste is also a preserver of culture and promoter of traditions. The singer from the Mithila region of Bihar was invited to perform in the sangeet marg section of Desh Parv, a festival of performing arts of India organised by Sangeet Natak Akademi. Desh Parv was held as part of ‘Delhi Celebrates', a bouquet of cultural activities designed for the just concluded XIX Commonwealth Games 2010.

Those familiar with the genre of Vidyapati Sangeet and even those who are unfamiliar with the tradition made a beeline for the artiste, particularly the JNU students. They wanted his coordinates in order to consult him on their research.

Madhubani-based Mishra is indeed a special artiste, one among the very few, who possess such a deep knowledge of the subject. Although trained in dhrupad, Mishra is more inclined towards Vidyapati Sangeet as the genre faces the threat of extinction.

At the concert, Mishra rendered some of the most famous songs penned by the courtier, scholar and prose-writer Vidyapati. Although the language was Maithili, everybody seated in Meghdoot II auditorium could connect with it primarily because of the easy hummable tunes and also due to the unique style that seemed to be a confluence of dhrupad, thumri and even ghazal.

“Darbhanga Amta Gharana has a long association with Vidyapati Sangeet. My guru, late Pandit Ram Chatur Mallik sang Vidyapati songs for the first time on All India Radio in 1953. That was probably the first time Vidyapati Sangeet was presented on AIR”. The compositions are usually set to Kalavati, Shivranjani and Maithili ragas.

Vidyapati, the great Maithili poet wrote tirelessly on the love story of Radha-Krishna that later came to be known as his love songs.

With equal fervour, he penned scores of songs on Shiva and Durga. Culled from this collection, “Jai jai bhairavi, asurbhayavani, pashupati bhamini maya”, a well-known song in the region, featured in the concert. “Sometime during the 14{+t}{+h} century, the poet gave birth to the folk tradition. The inherent spirituality in his compositions appealed to the masses,” says Mishra adding that his songs lend themselves to various day-to-day activities of a common man.

Songs for occasion

“Travelling by road used to be a task in those days so, Vidyapati songs would come to their rescue helping them to survive that difficult journey, for instance, there was ‘Asak lata lagaul sajni mein' where a woman is pining for her lover. Such songs together came to be known as ‘Batgamni', a category within the framework of Vidyapati Sangeet. Women would grind spices and sing his songs, farmers would till their land and hum his compositions,” tells Mishra, who was trained in Vidyapati Sangeet by his father late Ram Nandan Mishra.

Besides Batgamni, domkachh, sama, jhijhiya, lagni, barahmasa, chaumasa and a few others are the other sub-categories of songs in Vidyapati Sangeet.

“While Domkachh comprises teasing naughty songs sung by women after a wedding whereas Barahmasa has songs of separation in which a woman away from her lover or husband describes her agony in detail ,”he adds.

Mishra has a vast collection of Vidyapati songs which he says were preserved by various scholars and artistes but the core collection is in the custody of Nepalese government. “At that time, there were no borders. Nepal was part of India and Vidyapati used to travel to this area frequently,” informs the artiste.

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