Another treat from Dharwad

Jayateerth Mevundi  

As doyen Abdul Karim Khan would have attested, coming to the south of India plunges you into a hotbed of musicality. Earning plaudits from the Raja of Mysore in the late 19th century, Karim Khan stayed longer and absorbed more Carnatic music than any Hindustani musician before him. He began to use more sargam (solfage) in his Kirana gayaki renderings. And he dwelt on the higher octaves for maximum emotional impact.

His successors have been many, and the Kirana gharana has a rich tapestry, counting among its stars Abdul Wahid Khan, Gangubai Hangal, Sawai Gandharva, Bhimsen Joshi, Firoze Dastur and many others. The latest addition to the list is Jayateerth Mevundi.

Born in Hubli, the 44-year-old has a humble as well as humbling persona. If Arjunsa Nakod-ji laid the foundations of his career, Shripati Padagar, a student of Bhimsen Joshi, chiselled Mevundi’s oeuvre. His authentic emulation of the Dharwad genius has earned him fans as well as detractors.

“I have been inspired greatly by Bhimsen Joshi, my guru’s guru,” he agrees, but he has more influences than his genealogy indicates. “I studied Merukhand taan in all three octaves. My learning is plucked from various greats of different gharanas.”

Recipient of the Swar Bhaskar Puraskar, Mevundi is known for the ease and felicity of his singing style. Mevundi sings complex taan patterns effortlessly, without the hint of a grimace.

The taan is said to be his forte, both bol-taan and bol-alaap. Mevundi says he owes his expertise in merukhand taan to Amir Khan of the Indore gharana, who was deeply influenced by Abdul Wahid Khan. The merukhand taan is a style of rendering swars in a structured manner, akin to the improvisational kalpanaswaras in Carnatic music.

Mevundi is also a good friend of Pt. Venkatesh Kumar, the other genius from Dharwad that Chennai is familiar with. Venkatesh Kumar sings in both the Kirana and Gwalior styles, and Mevundi takes inspiration from him too.

Riyaaz or rigorous practice is a key aspect of Mevundi’s daily life. It includes deep breathing and long omkaars (chanting Aum). The meditative quality of these activities percolates into his singing. “Kirana is all about svar ka lagaav [depth of notes]. It is unique in this respect from other gayakis. Drawing bliss is important in the use of swar.”

In recent times, the audience’s bandwidth is shrinking, laments Mevundi. They prefer packaged songs with clear-cut motifs. Bhajans and abhangs are popular, while dhrupad and khayal get smaller audiences. And equally, it is Mevundi’s abhangs and bhajans that are very popular. Does he enjoy rendering the short pieces more than the heavy classical ones? “No”, he says, saying he prefers the strictly classical, with a fondness for the free-flowing khayal to the more rigorous dhrupad.

Mevundi will perform this evening at the Krishna Gana Sabha (6 p.m.) for Idea Jalsa, an initiative by Durga Jasraj and Neeraj Jaitly.

Jalsa will also include a Carnatic duet by flautist S. Shashank and vocalist Abhishek Raghuram. For details call 99604 96956.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 4:04:20 AM |

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