Perspective Music

Jugalbandi — what’s the charm?

M. Balamurali Krishna and Ajoy Chakraborthy   | Photo Credit: S_R_Raghunathan

The literal dictionary meaning of jugalbandi is ‘entwined twins.’ Non-musically, the term has been used in many interesting ways. A Congress leader once said, “The Indian economy was saved in 1991 by the Manmohan Singh-Narasimha Rao jugalbandi.” Kapil Sibal, commenting on the delay in the announcement of the Gujarat election dates, referred to it as a Modi-CEC jugalbandi! There is a dessert known as ‘prune-almond jugalbandi.’ When both Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting played for Mumbai Indians in the IPL 2013, it was referred to as the ‘Sachin-Ponting jugalbandi.’

In music, the term refers to a duet — two musicians performing on the same stage, but in a different way from the normal duets. At least in the South, we call jugalbandi a duet in which one is a Hindusthani musician and the other Carnatic appearing on the same stage, the two singing common or similar ragas in the two systems separately one after the other except occasionally when they sing the same line together after every separate foray. Most often both the musicians are either vocalists or instrumentalists.

The combination of one vocalist and one instrumentalist is not common in the South. Duets in which the two musicians do the alapana and the kalpana swarams separately but render the krithis (or bandish) together are not referred to as jugalbandis. What the Hyderabad Brothers or the Dagar Brothers perform are conventional duets and not jugalbandi.

The very first jugalbandi is said to have been performed by Gopal Nayak and Amir Khusro in the court of Allauddin Khilji in 1294, the former singing in the Carnatic system and the latter the Hindusthani system. (Whatever may have been attributed to him in the film ‘Padmavathi,’ Khilji seems to have been a patron of music!) Impressed with Gopal Nayak’s veena, Amir Khusro is said to have invented the sitar for the Hindusthani system.

There is a special form of jugalbandi known as jasrangi invented by Pt. Jasraj. In jasrangi, one musician is a male and the other a female. The two sing two different ragas, the male singer taking off from the pancham of the female singer and the latter taking off from the madhyam of the male singer. The two may or may not be from the same system of music. I have not seen any such concert in the South though there are in the North.

Do jugalbandis add aesthetic value to single musician concerts or conventional duets or are they just a fad and a fashion? I have attended several jugalbandi as well as individual concerts of both Carnatic and Hindusthani musicians, but I am yet to see a musician perform noticeably better in a jugalbandi than in an individual concert or a conventional duet. By and large, jugalbandi concerts do not attain the depth or the level of excellence of conventional individual concerts or duets. Therefore they cannot be said to add any significant aesthetic value to conventional concerts.

So what are the benefits?

A gain may be to familiarise rasikas of each system with the other system thus expanding their aesthetic horizon. Rasikas already having a deep interest in , and a reasonable familiarity with, both systems will certainly enjoy jugalbandis as a variation from the usual full-length concert in either system. In fact, this is perhaps the greatest attraction of jugalbandis.

Another possible gain may be to attract more young people than would be attracted to normal Carnatic concerts, hopefully leading them to develop greater interest in due course in the Carnatic system itself.

Another possible gain is for the musicians themselves. Ajoy Chakraborty, a leading Hindusthani classical musician, was so fascinated by Balamurali’s music that he became the latter’s disciple and also placed his daughter, Kaushiki, already a promising Hindusthani musician, under Balamurali’s tutelage. In fact, she sings beautifully the thaaya raagamalika composed by Balamurali in which the entire gamut of ragas is generated by sruthi bhedam on Kalyani.

The writer is a retired IAS officer

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 10:41:14 AM |

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