Music

A sacred bond

SONOROUS RENDITION Anup Jalota

SONOROUS RENDITION Anup Jalota  

Anup Jalota says like good friends, good music stays forever

The winsome winter morning, bathed in golden sunshine, peaked in piety when celebrated bhajan exponent Anup Jalota sang some of his immortal songs ( in both Hindi and Bengali). Commencing with “Aisi Lagi Lagan”, he sang two Nazrulgeeti “Khelichho E Biswa Laye” and “Hey Gobindo Rakho Charane” in impeccable Bengali and continued with “Govind Jaya Jaya Gopal Jaya”, “Bolo Ram-Ram Bolo Shyam Shyam”, “Rang De Chunaria’, “Main Nahi Makhan Khayo”, “Jheeni Re Jheeni” and many more. Thousands of people were entranced by this musical, organised by the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, celebrating the 155th birth anniversary of Swami Brahmananda, the ‘spiritual son’ of Ramakrishna Paramhansa Deva at their Ashram in Sikra-Kulingram (the birthplace of Brahmanandaji) near Bashirhat, 60 kilometres away from Kolkata.

For more than four decades now, the Bhajan Samrat has been casting such spell of mysticism. One was tempted to know, is it possible to get steeped in spirituality wherever and whenever he sings? “Yes; because I come armed with the divine ‘Sahitya’!” said the maestro. “Each time I sing a devotional song, the lyrics kindle emotions (bhaav jagata hai). My father-guru (Pandit Purushottam Jalota) was an extremely erudite musician. He would say ‘Shabda pratham, Naad dwiteeya’ (the primary is the word, sound follows next); the word is capable of etching a form. This form, this idol inspires me to invent suitable melodic ornaments, culled out of ‘Naad’ to offer my tributes.”

On being asked how different is creativity from a poet, Jalota replied: “Since I am a trained musician, my melodic creativity is different from that of a poet who creates a tune to recite his poem. There too the ‘Shabda pratham, Naad dwiteeya’ theory is applicable but in my case Naad, despite being the second, is never secondary! Melody is as important as the lyrics. Yet it is very different from a classical musician’s way of treating bhajans. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi is known for his ‘Jo Bhajey Hari ko sada’ and Pandit Omkarnath Thakur for his ‘Mai Nahi Makhan Khayo’; do we call them bhajan singers? No! because even while singing bhajans their main thrust remained on raga-sangeet. Carnatic classical music is entirely based on devotional kritis of saint-poets. Despite that their focus remains on the proper delineation of the ragas they are composed in. This is a journey towards formlessness with the help of the form gifted by the lyrics.”

Having sung Bengali songs, Jalota says, one has to be careful while singing compositions of Rabindranath Tagore as compared to those by Nazrul Islam. “I am a devotee of Tagore. He was a rishi who actually saw the ‘shabda’ in a particular melodic form, colour and shade. If you alter any word of Tagore’s composition or play with its tune, it ruins the entire effect! That is why Tagore did not wish them to be altered in any fashion. For example, his ‘Ektuku chhonwa laage’ will lose its intrinsic beauty if I tamper with its musical structure. One has to sing Tagore with great care. But Islam’s compositions give a long rope to innovative musicians; because he sought musicians’ innovation. That is why I can explore several melodic vistas to interpret ‘Khelichho’.”

Connecting with audience

The singer believes that compositions ought to be done with the objective of touching the audience. Citing his case, he says, “I compose melody to suit varied emotions emanating out of the words; this melody may or may not follow the raga structure; this may not follow the track of skill-play – as, very often, we find in ghazal singing where the singer gets busy in complicating the melodic patterns by remaining oblivious of the mood of the shairs. This virtuosity may titillate your mind but this cannot stir your soul.

My father was averse to this trend. He would say, ‘One must compose tunes that are able to touch the inner core of divine lyrics of a bhajan; and by doing so earn the power of staying in our hearts forever’.”

Jalota reveals that his father shaped his thinking in many ways. Praising him, the singer says, “‘His vision helped me understand the difference between a magazine and the Ramayan. After reading a newspaper, we throw it away easily; but can we treat Ramayan the same way? No. That is the difference between a film’s item number and ‘Aisi Laagi Lagan!’ God has given us options to choose friends. Good friends remain forever; good music stays forever too. One must exercise one’s ingenuity to recognise what’s what.

For me a bhajan is like idol-worship (moorti-puja) in a closed room – with a window that opens towards ‘Anant Aakaash’. Through this path I seek the infinite Supreme Being.”

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 4:56:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/a-sacred-bond/article17355148.ece

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