Hindustani vocalists Rajan and Sajan Mishra on continuing a musical traditionYou are not just a brother, you are my guru too! SAJAN MISRA
Brothers can't think so much alike, you think. One starts talking, the other completes the sentence. And, they have always disappointed those looking for brotherly discord to spice up the gossip columns. When two people are so similar, can their music be any different? May be that is why Rajan and Sajan Misra have never contemplated singing solo. The celebrated exponents of the Benaras Gharana were recently chosen for the Padma Bhushan. The duo have performed across the world, but they're the happiest when singing to their infant grandson. A chance to interact with them is like watching two people but listening to one voice. As Subha J Rao discovered.Sajan: Everyone is amazed that we have no disagreements. But, there has been no reason to argue. From childhood, we have been together and been very close. Rajan: Since I am five years older, I have always looked after you. We played and sang together. We lived in a joint family and I guess, we learnt to lead life like our elders did. By God's grace, we still live in one house and all meals are cooked in one kitchen.Sajan: A kitchen where all kinds of cuisines are celebrated. From Lucknowi khana (Sajan's wife, Kavitha, daughter of Pandit Birju Maharaj, hails from there) to Bengali food (Rajan is married to Bina, daughter of Pandit Damodar Misra from Kolkata). Our wives have contributed so much to our careers.Rajan: For 25 days in a month, we are not at home. They have handled everything, right from the schooling of the children, etc. Today, we have grandchildren. You know, people have tried to drive a wedge between us by comparing our music. But, we have been taught to ignore such things. Sajan: We hear them out because we don't want to hurt them. Then, we ignore it. But, people still compare. They think I sing less. Rajan: They don't know about our mutual understanding. The focus should be on good presentation of music. Sajan: The idea is not to compete on stage; but to ensure the music soothes the audience. That is what our gurus and elders taught us.Rajan: I believe we sing as one. Maybe why, many music critics have complimented us by saying that our jugalbandi is as beautiful as a solo rendition.Sajan: I think that state of mind, where we have no ego clashes, reflects in our music. There is peace in it. Tell me Bhaisahab! How does it feel being chosen for the Padma Bhushan?Rajan: It is a national recognition. We were at a concert in Kolkata when we got the SMS about the award, remember?Sajan: Yes. Anything from the Government is special. Rajan: Especially this, because we will receive the award from a President who loves music. (On their concerts and approach to life)Sajan: I think interactive concerts, where the musician talks to the audience, are here to stay. We should not dumb down anyone just because we have talent.Rajan: I agree. We have talent. So does every other human being. I can't stitch shoes like a cobbler; likewise, he can't sing. The earlier we realise that, the better.Sajan: There is space for everyone. Bhaisahab! Everyone asks me how I look upon you. You are not just a brother, you are my guru too! I am proud that I get to perform with my guru. Rajan: Probably this is one reason why we have never thought of singing solo. Sajan: We have learnt that love and understanding last forever. People must understand that no one will live forever. Why carry a fight for long, then? Ego is the problem.Rajan: Listening to music can be relaxing. And, people always wonder how we relax ... Sajan: We must thank our gurus (father Pandit Hanuman Misra and gurus Gopal Prasad Misra and Bade Ramdas Misra). They always told us that we are offering our music to the God in us. Let's talk about our children.Rajan: My sons Ritesh and Rajneesh are now performing. Your Swaransh is learning too.(Is a new trio in the offing?)Sajan: That would be wonderful. It feels good that our children have also taken up music.Rajan: Especially in this age. That they want to follow tradition is great. And, they have got by on their own without any hype. Sajan: Yes. But, I think newspapers should devote more space to culture. Instead of carrying crime stories on Page 1 and depressing people early in the morning, why not allow readers to start their day on a pleasant note?Rajan: Our grandchild, five-month-old Sripad, quietens on hearing us sing even if he had been crying. His sister Radhika is also drawn to music. We love singing loris (lullaby) to the two of them. (On technology and temperament)Rajan: Technology is a great thing if used well. Like everything else, it has a good face and a bad one. We must choose sensibly. Some musicians use `pick ups' to enhance the sound of instruments. But, the natural sound is gone. Sajan: Yes. Given a choice, we use the tanpura wherever it is available. Only otherwise do we use the handy electronic sruti box. It cannot match the tanpura. Tell me, how do you like taking on more responsibility than me?Rajan: Someone has to do it. I check mails, I drive... Sajan: Bhaisahab! You do all the work; I sit back and relax.