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Merging styles, the Pandit Channulal Mishra way
Channulal Mishra served a pristine treat at the Music Academy on the second day of the Hindu Friday Review November Fest on the evening of November 18, 2009 with his melodious voice. An easy approach, relaxed rendering and engaging method marked the concert of this traditionalist-musician. It was also a fine effort in the art of communication as he entertained the audience for over two hours. He made his music enjoyable by converting his concert into a lec-dem of sort on Hindustani classical music. What stood out however, on this day was his ability to adapt to different styles with effortless ease.

Hailing from Kirana Gharana, Mishra was trained by Abdul Ghani Khan. A disciple of distinguished musicologist Thakur Jaidev Singh, he has also adopted various styles of singing from other schools as well. Even as he explained the assorted aspects of the Hindustani sangeeth, he urged the Chennai audience to get familiar with Hindustani music, especially the distinctive Benaras style and its superiority. It was almost twenty years since he had visited Chennai last, he said. He began the evening with a Purya Kalyan. The occasion made him to begin with this raga instead of Yaman Kalyan that he had originally planned.

In his opening remarks prior to the concert, he said the stage he was sitting that evening was like a temple. Quoting Padma Puran and the words of Saint Narad, he said God always resided in places where the devotees sang in HIS glory. Mishra then went on to sing a vilambith khayal in ektal “Aaja So Banaa” (Puriya Kalyan) and decorated it with a garland of sargam. He elucidated the rishab of Purya Kalyan and how it was sung distinctly from the Marwa and Purya. He sang a drut khayal “Bahut Dina Beethe” in teental. As he gave full expression to the lyrics, he explained how Radhika was waiting for Krsn to come. Alas Shyam (Krsn) didn’t come! The next composition was in raga Hamsadwani. Mishra demonstrated how this raga was sung differently in the South and North India. To elaborate this, he sang “Vatapi Ganapathim” of Dikshitar, sprinkling it with attractive swaras in his own unique style. He said he had learnt this while strolling on the beaches of Marina in Chennai many summers ago.

He then sang “Aye Sajan more” of the North Indian origin in Hamsadwani.

A Benaras Tumri in Kamaj, “Vyakul Bhai Braj” contains famous verses such as “Bansuriya Ab Na Bajana Shyam”. He explained the gamakas such as murki and the usage of pukar or calling. Bismillah Khan, he said, used to play these verses so well in his shenoy. And, he went on to sing it the way it is sung in Punjab. This song is a conversation between Gopis and Krishna. Mishra explained how a newcomer would sing the song. Such humour-based expressions were aplenty during his concert. He then took up a Dadra “Tore Naina Khilade Katar Sajani” in Maru Bihag. This is an Ishq or love-based song, he said. Ishq made a person as a person and even a stone into a God, he added. He sang a Diwali ka sangeeth. The song is about the kind of articles used for the Diwali pooja and about the deities, who are worshipped on the occasion. He sang a bandish “Jai Hanuman”. Mishra made the evening pleasanter with a Kajri of Benaras, “Barsan Lagi Kari Badariya” in Piloo. He combined it with a few ragas such as Malhar and Miyan Malhar etc. He then took up a different kind of a Holi – that of Shankar Bhagawan. He sang this one with so much enthusiasm and in the way Shankar Ji of Varanasi played Holi in Mashaan (graveyard) without any colours. Here was no Shyam and Radhika. No Gopis and Gopas were present. Neither was there any Sajan or Ghori. Shankar plays the Holi with bhootas and snakes with his damaru. This Holi song, he explained, would bring `mangal' or good to those who listened to it. Finally, he brought the curtain down with a Kabir composition in raga Nand as “Duniya Darshan ka hai Mela” in a philosophical way and created a lasting impression on the Chennai audience. He was accompanied by percussion artistes Ram Kumar Mishra and Harmonium player Brijesh Mishra, who gave him a good percussion support during the entire concert.