The Confluence of Parampara (Tradition) and Adhunikata (Modernity)

The Parampara

For the serious connoisseurs and practitioners who have drunk of the vast ocean of Hindustani Classical Music, the powerful stream of the Jaipur-Atrauli tradition has always presented a musical dimension that has never failed to quench the thirst of the intellect and the spirit. For both the intense listener and the dedicate learner the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana has, right from its beginning to this day, offered inexhaustible, unfathomable and inscrutable reserves of intellectual and spiritual elements through the conceptual music categories it has shaped. The Jaipur-Atrauli gharana has shaped a musical cosmos, the life of which cannot be understood and shared without integrating the mind and the soul. In other words what the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana demands of both the listener and the learner is an intellectual rigour that never tolerates complacency of thought and a spiritual discipline that does not approve of sentimentality of feeling. Thus both the listener and the learner are compelled to meet the exacting standards of this musical universe if they are to derive anything out of it for their own intellectual and spiritual regeneration.

The great master Ustad Alladiya Khan Saheb, who constructed the foundations of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana, ensured that this tradition of music did not have a monochromatic vision as far as its stylistic and emotional contours were concerned. The musical expressions that were built into the edifice of this tradition were multiple in range and depth and carried in them a grammatical structure and pattern that could always accommodate an astonishing plurality of conception and articulation.

It could be said without any hesitation or doubt that the most outstanding features of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana were upheld by Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur, one of the greatest musicians India produced in the previous century. Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur brought into his musical system the rigour and discipline of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana which he gained during his years of learning with Ustad Manji Khan and Ustad Burji Khan (the two sons of Ustad Alladiya Khan) and the solid structural base of the Gwalior style which he inherited from his first Guru Pt. Neelkantabua Alurmath of Miraj.

With extraordinary imagination and discipline Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur dug into the vast resources of his musical tradition exploring its latent potential that could be unearthed only by profound labour and uncompromising diligence. It was Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur’s firm belief that the ‘bandish’ was the basic foundation on which the essence of the raga was built and, therefore, a musician had to discern in the bandish the guidelines, outlines and the nuances of the raga he was dealing with. The great Mallikarjun Mansur was of the conviction that a sustained repetition of the bandish with a full knowledge of its potential would eventually lead to the blossoming of the raga with all the colours of the swaras and the tala emerging in unison, and in harmony. “Concord” was the supreme vision of Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur’s music.

But Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur’s music did not achieve “Concord” without great sacrifice and austerity. Today one should remember Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur for the religious austerity of his music that never, ever, surrendered its core to the trappings and allurements of the world and its markets. Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur’s music was profoundly religious and was marked by an intransigence of intellect and spirit. His music was so austere that it could just draw into its being even the uninitiated listener. This is one of the reasons why the music of Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur makes no hierarchical division between “complex”, “difficult”, “simple” and “easy” ragas. For the seeker the binary opposition between the “simple” and the “difficult” just does not exist. The austere musical tradition of Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur is one of the supreme values of Indian Culture.

The ‘adhunikata’ part of the ‘parampara’

It is a powerful enough tribute in itself if the world should acknowledge that a great tradition has been kept alive by one of the next generation. It should even be a matter of pride if the discerning should remark that the enormous knowledge of the father has been kept alive by the son who has inherited the legacy. As the shishya of a great guru and the son of an illustrious father, Pt. Rajashekar Mansur is the true inheritor of the rich musical tradition of both the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana and Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur. Pt. Rajshekar Mansur keeps alive what he has inherited from a tradition and a father in glowing terms that bring honour to all simultaneously.

But is tradition all about preservation and conservation and nothing beyond that? What does it mean if preservation and conservation of a tradition lead to mere imitation with no fresh frontiers being added to it by those belonging to the new generation? It is in answering these questions that one explains the significance of the music of Pt. Rajshekar Mansur and also foregrounds the remarkable qualities of music.

Even as Rajshekar Mansur was accompanying his illustrious father in his concerts for over two decades the careful listener could discern in Rajshekar’s renderings a very subtly nuanced shift that, even as it supported the dominant patterns of the great father, introduced new registers that were independent in conception in articulation. While Mallikarjun Mansur swept across with intense religiosity marked by a breathless ascent complimented by very austere phrases, Rajshekar Mansur introduced a parallel text into the rendering that was laced with an easy and smooth mellifluousness that wove an expansive and leisurely texture which was quite a contrast to the sharp vertical climb of the swaras of his father. The rigorous old worldly religious aesthetics of the father was being transformed into a soft tender and melodious aesthetics by the modern sensibility of the son who, however, never let go of the intellectual rigour involved in the making of the entire text. What one needs to notice is that Rajshekar Mansur was extending the frontiers of the tradition that had nourished him by bringing into its framework a modern sensibility that tempered and honed rigorous scholarly traits with a delicate and finely shaped idiom. The modern sensibility that Rajshekar has brought into the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana has given a fresh idiom and a new “rang” to the pristine form of the ancient tradition.

By N. Manu Chakravarthy