Pt Rajan Mishra

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Shruti Sadolikar Katkar on Rajan

May 1, 2021: The Times of India

Pt Rajan Mishra with his brother Pt Sajan Mishra was one of the foremost exponents of khayal gayaki. He was a Padma Bhushan awardee.

The brothers belonged to the Banaras gharana (“a crucible for many Hindustani greats including Sitara Devi, Pt Ravi Shankar, Bismilla Khan and Birju Maharaj”) and were trained by legends like Bade Ramdas Mishra and Gopal Prasad Mishra.

According to Namita Devidyal of TOI, they kept duet singing in khayal music alive, which is not very common in this repertoire as opposed to Dhrupad music. “After Nazakat and Salamat Ali Khan and Niaz and Fiaz Ahmed before they parted ways, there really hasn't been anybody who has managed to create this amazing stereophonic quality, where there were two voices, but they were really one voice. It was an incredible achievement. I'm not sure we're going to hear something like this now with Pt Rajan Mishra gone.”

Both brothers were five years apart in age, he was the elder brother, and owe their roots to singing in the temples of Banaras when they were five and ten years old. “They brought great respectability to the gharana,” she says. “They crossed all genres, from most profound khayal music to bhajans and thumris, they did it all with masterful ability.” In an audio conversation, Shruti Sadolikar Katkar, one of the foremost exponents of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana and the recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Hindustani vocal music, spoke to us about the passing away of Pt Rajan Mishra, his life, art and legacy, and how it has left a massive void in the world of music and her heart.

“He, along with his younger brother Sajan ji, started a new way of presenting the music. They come from a tradition, in Yugal Gaan, a jugalbandi of sorts, in which you always need to maintain the dignity of that form while showcasing your art… to be able to bring about such positive creativity and showing a form of glory in a new dimension can only be done by very seriously gifted artists,” she says.

But what really set him apart, according to her, was that he had the ability to “explain the melody and the bandishein” to even a layperson. “So he used to explain the bandishein very precisely and take the time out to explain its tradition in his performances,” she says. “He had the strength to pull even a common man towards the music and make them understand. Because a listener can't connect to the composition that does not have a meaning.... This is the thing I would like to thank him for the same as he did a really big thing.”

She says both brothers would complement each other’s singing beautifully. He was also extremely encouraging towards his brother and would look at him lovingly when they would perform. “The vocal attachment of bhaiyaji, the very reach of his voice, was the result of his spiritual practice. He was not only an exceptional singer, he had also mastered the art of singing with his brother in complete harmony, which only comes from years of practice,” she says.

Katkar also talks about Pt Rajan being an extremely lovely person to be around with who would maintain a harmonious and courteous relationship with fellow artists, a testimony to how great he was. “He never let his personal life bother with his singing. Though there are many ups and downs in a person's life, whenever he would present himself, he was always a joyous personality,” she says. “I don't know if I should I tell this you or not, sometimes I used to feel jealous, because when he used to laugh, and he would blush, and I used to wonder this ruddiness [on his face] should have been on someone else’s... (laughs) He was a jovial and colourful personality. He always maintained a lively environment around him. That is why it is bothering that bhaiya, who used to make us smile and kept us laughing, has left us.”

She tells us that it was very saddening to hear about his demise because he was such a good singer and had majorly contributed to the world of music. And without him that tradition of music has lost a key part.

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