Mallikarjun Mansur, one of the most revered vocalists of Indian Classical Music, was born at Manur, a small village located at a distance of five miles from Dharwad on 1st January 1911. His father, Bheemaraayappa was a farmer, a music lover and a patron of music. One of Mansur Ji’s elder brothers, Baswaraj, owned a theatre troupe. Mansur Ji, at age of 9, did a small role in a play and his father spotted the musical talent in Mansur Ji.
His father tied him up with a theatre group for whom Mansur Ji used to perform and sing. The owner of the theatre group was in love with the melodious voice of the young Mallikarjun and made him sing different types of the songs for the troupe.
Pandit Appaya Swamy, a well known Carnatic vocalist of those days happened to attend one of the performances by young Mallikarjun and picked him um as his disciple. Mallikarjun started his initial training under the guidance of Appaya Swamy. After some initial training, he started his training in Hindustani Classical Music from Nilkanth Bua Alurmath, a Gwalior Gharana Guru based in Miraj.
In the late 1920s, Nilkanth Buva took Mansur Ji to Alladiya Khan, the Stalwart of Jaipur – Atrauli Gharana. Alladiya Khan referred Mansur Ji to his elder son, Ustad Manji Khan. After the untimely death of Ustad Manji Khan, Mansur Ji continued his training under the tutelage of Ustad Bhurji Khan, the younger son of Ustad Alladiya Khan.
He received Padma Shri in 1970, Padma Bhushan in 1976, and Padma Vibhushan in 1992. In 1982, he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship.
Mansur Ji passed away in 1992 at the age of 81.
Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur in a concert.
Photo taken from the website of Shri. Rajan Parrikar.
Rendition of Composite Ragas
Ustad Alladiya Khan had a wide repertoire of composite Ragas, commonly known as Jod-ragas. Mansur ji was well known for his renditions of many such composite Ragas. Here is a recording of Mansur Ji where he is singing a rarely heard composite Raga, Kabiri Bhairav.
Exploration of Multiple Genres Including Tappa
Mansur ji, through his singing, explored multiple genres under the classical music. Quite a few recordings of him singing Tappa are available.
Here is a recording where he is presenting a Tappa in Raga Bahar. It is quite evident that his style of singing Khayals is predominantly present in his renditions of Tappas.
Foundation of Dhrupad
Not many listeners are aware that Mansur Ji was deeply influenced by Dhrupad style of singing and practiced it regularly.
Here is a rare recording where Mansur Ji is singing Nom-Tom Alapi in Raga Bhairav.
Shared here is a rendition of Rare Raga Sampoorna Malkauns by Pt. Mallikarjun Mansoor, live at a concert in Chennai in 1970.
Mansur Ji was well known for his rendition of rare and complex Ragas like Sampoorna Malkauns, Hem Nat, Shuddha Nat, Lachchhasakh, Khat, Bihari etc. His rendition of Ragas and his singing style was like a continuous flow of a spring; coming up with new improvisations without losing the Bhava.
Here are the two more recordings of Mansur Ji from same concert in Chennai. First one is the rendition of Raga Gaud Malhar and Second one is the rendition of Raga Nayaki Kanada.
- Mansur Ji was a chain smoker. In spite of this habit, he managed to have a prolonged ‘Damsaas’ (control over breath and its sustenance).
- Mansur Ji would be submerged in music all the time. Even while doing his daily chores, walking or interacting, he would always have music running at the back of his mind.
Some quick facts about Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur :
Date of birth: 1 January 1911
Death: 12 September 1992
Gurus: Appaya Swami, Nilkanth Bua Alurmath, Alladiya Khan.
Disciples: Rajshekhar Mansur, Biswajit Roy Chowdhary