Mallikarjun Mansur was one of the greatest vocalists of the Jaipur Attrauli gharana founded by Alladiya Khan. Mansur came into the limelight in the late 1930s and continued performing well into his old age. This fortnight, Iyer Foundation, the institution set up by tabla player Balakrishna Iyer, who often accompanied Mansur in concerts in the 1980s, will celebrate Mansur's birth centenary by organizing a two-day Jaipur Attrauli Gharana Sammelan. Mansur's son and pupil Rajshekhar Mansur, who will perform on the second day, will be the most senior performer at the festival. Other performers are vocalists Vijaya Jadhav Gatlewar, Shruti Sadolikar Katkar and Ashwini Bhide Deshpande.
Rajshekhar, now well past 60, has never been a full-time musician. He taught English literature at the Karnataka University, studied music under his father and provided vocal support in his concerts. He sings in a thin but flexible voice with an energy that is reminiscent of his father and mentor. “My father was a fountain of music,” said Rajshekhar in an interview from Dharwad where he is based. “If he were alive, I would not be singing but only learning. He was called a musicians’ musician simply for the fact that he has a vast range of ragas and compositions. His music was not premeditated. It was natural and emerged on the spur of the moment.”
During Mansur’s last concert in Mumbai organised by the Indian Music Group of St Xavier’s College, he was undergoing treatment for lung cancer. But he still sang his ragas Marwa and Nat kamod with such energy that the audience was transfixed. In 1988, when Mansur was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in Vile Parle, sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, who was the chief guest ay the event, showered praise on Mansur for his astonishing breath control at the age of 78.
Through his performance, Rajshekhar will attempt to demonstrate how Mansur would see unexplored spaces in a raga. “It is necessary to show how his musical vision worked,” he said. Compound and uncommon ragas were Mansur’s specialty, and Rajshekhar will most likely sing at least one compound raga in his performance.
By Amarendra Dhaneshwar on December 24 2011