Powerful performances by accomplished vocalists stood out in the two-day Chirantan festival

Every year since 2010, New Age Foundation of Pune has been holding a music festival dedicated to the memory of the legendary singer of Jaipur-Atrauli gharana Mallikarjun Mansur (December 31, 1910-September 12, 1992) in Delhi. Recently, it organised a two-day festival, Chirantan, at Chinmaya Mission auditorium to mark his 20th death anniversary.

Born in Mansur village of Dharwar district in Karnataka, Mallikarjun first trained in the Gwalior style with Neelkanth Bua and gained enough competence to cut a number of 78 rpm discs in the early 1930s. He was accepted as a disciple by Manji Khan, second son of the great Alladiya Khan, in 1935 and continued his training with his guru’s brother Bhoorji Khan after the premature death of Manji Khan. Mansur eventually emerged as one of the greatest Khayal singers of the latter half of the 20th Century.

The festival opened with a satisfying performance by Priyadarshini Kulkarni, a disciple of Mallikarjun’s son Rajshekhar Mansur. She chose Poorvi, an old raga said to be the favourite of the great Sufi Hazrat Nizamudin Aulia, and sang a vilambit khayal “Rasoolallah pir nabi ke” followed by a drut khayal “Chalo ri maaee aulia pee ke darbar”.

Equipped with a well-trained and robust voice, she elaborated the raga in the typical Jaipur-Atrauli style where the bandish is inextricably bound with rhythm (tala) and a musical idea has to be expressed in one avartan of the tala. Using the aakaar-laced behalawa and sprightly taans, she showed her sound grounding in the judicious use of Pancham and both the Madhyams, keeping the raga away from Puriya Dhanashree. She also rendered a charming tarana before moving on to singing two bandishes in Kafi Kanhada “Laaee ri mad pee” and “Manua daar-daar paat-paat bulaye”. Vinod Lele on tabla and Vinay Mishra on harmonium provided good accompaniment.

Shubha Mudgal has time and again proved that her forays into fusion and other forms of music have not affected her as a classical vocalist. An ardent admirer of Mansur’s, she opened her recital with the hoary raga Gauri (of Bhairav thaat) and sang two bandishes composed by her guru, the late Ramashraya Jha “Ramrang”.

The vilambit Roopak tala composition “Radhe kiyo kaun tap vash Nandnandan” was rendered with due attention to the mandra Nishad. Shubha’s robust yet captivating style was evident in the madhya laya Teen tala khayal “Mandarwa aayo na ajab”. Her bol-taans as well as aakaar taans were truly impressive without being unduly complex. Next she sang a khayal, “Tan man varoon”, in Kamod followed by a beautiful fast tempo composition “Palak moond rakho more Shyam”.

However, she came into a truly great mood in her rendition of the Khamaj thumri “Chhab dikhla ja” and a kajri-like dadra, “Lagi bayariya main soee gayee nanadi” and offered ample evidence of her solid training with the late Naina Devi. She was ably accompanied by Aneesh Pradhan on tabla and Sudhir Nayak on harmonium.