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Tansen…….

Tansen (c. 1493/1500 – 1586), also referred to as Tan Sen or Ramtanu, was a prominent figure of Hindustani classical music. Born in a Hindu family, he learned and perfected his art in the northwest region of modern Madhya Pradesh. He began his career and spent most of his adult life in the court and patronage of the Hindu king of Rewa, Raja Ramchandra Singh (r.1555–1592), where Tansen’s musical abilities and studies gained widespread fame. This reputation brought him to the attention of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, who sent messengers to Raja Ramchandra Singh, requesting Tansen to join the musicians at the Mughal court. Tansen did not want to go, but Raja Ramchandra Singh encouraged him to gain a wider audience, and sent him along with gifts to Akbar. In 1562, about the age of 60, the Vaishnava musician Tansen joined the Akbar court, and his performances became a subject of many court historians.

Numerous legends have been written about Tansen, mixing facts and fiction, and the historicity of these stories is doubtful.Akbar considered him as one of the Navaratnas (nine jewels), and gave him the title Mian, an honorific, meaning learned man.

Tansen was a composer, musician and vocalist, to whom many compositions have been attributed in northern regions of the Indian subcontinent. He was also an instrumentalist who popularized and improved musical instruments. He is among the most influential personalities in North Indian tradition of Indian classical music, called Hindustani. His 16th century studies in music and compositions inspired many, and he is considered by numerous North Indian gharana (regional music schools) as their lineage founder.

Tansen is remembered for his epic Dhrupad compositions, creating several new ragas, as well as for writing two classic books on music Sri Ganesh Stotra and Sangita Sara.

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Music of the gods……..

Pandit Jasraj, who passed away in New Jersey aged 90, was one of the last great Hindustani classical vocalists. Birbal My Brother, a nondescript film released in 1975, has a jugalbandhi of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Jasraj. For years, admirers have argued over who fared better in this rare Malkauns: Joshi, the Kirana gharana legend or Jasraj, the Mewati gharana master who was eight years junior to Joshi? There is no conclusive answer because both the musicians refused to confine themselves in their gharanas and included what they liked in other schools to embellish their own personal styles.

Like Joshi, Jasraj too didn’t consider music an elite art. He added elements of the thumri to the khayal, giving the latter more malleability and making it more audience-friendly. This would have been considered blasphemous half a century ago, when the khayal was serious business and the bandish would be sung with a certain indifference. He brought haveli sangeet to the stage and introduced Jasrangi — the male-female duet in different ragas — in concert platforms. He also added bhajans to his repertoire, which enabled him to reach a wider audience.

His initial training was in tabla. But when a senior musician questioned his knowledge of music by saying he only “pounded dead flesh”, a hurt Jasraj decided to master vocal music. And master he did. The audience loved him. How could he, drawn to music in his childhood by the voice of the great Begum Akhtar, not be sensitive to his audience? He was friendly with them, never high strung and impatient, unlike many of his illustrious contemporaries. He would oblige their farmaish and sing popular pieces such as Mata Kalika and Mero Allah Meherbaan. His singing evoked the feeling of being in a place of worship, a space with a heightened level of energy, where God sat with us and listened to the music in admiration.