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Maestros of Jugalbandi

The tradition of Jugalbandi in the Carnatic and Hindustani styles of music is an age old one, where two skilled musicians, perform together. This duet could be instrumental or vocal.

Partnership in vocal or instrumental music has been in vogue since the day of Dhrupad. Khayal is usually sung as a solo, but there have also been numerous cases of male duo singers, usually family members who learned music together. Even when two soloists perform together, they divide the improvisation between them so that there is still only one vocal part. Their music making is co-operative, not competitive and it takes considerable skill and intimacy to create a performance to which each contributes equally. What defines Jugalbandi is that the two soloists be on an equal footing. While any Indian music performance may feature two musicians, whether vocalists or instrumentalists, a performance can only be deemed a Jugalbandi if neither is clearly the soloist and neither clearly an accompanist. In Jugalbandi, both musicians act as lead players, and a playful competition often ensues between the two performers.

It is common knowledge that the popularity of Jugalbandi concerts owes much to virtuosos Pandit Ravi Shankar and the late Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Indian concert stages, which had been dominated by only soloists, assumed a new dimension around the sixties when the great musical pairs started playing Jugalbandi. However, this form was very much in existence in the decades preceding the sixties, though perhaps not as popular, thanks to Dhrupad maestros like the Senior Dagar Brothers.


Dabir Khan and Santosh Banerjee

A 20th century beenkar and vocalist, Ustad Dabir Khan was born in Rampur State in 1905. He learned veena from his grandfather, Wazir Khan. He was employed at All India Radio Calcutta and in 1969 was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. He passed away in 1972.

Born on 24th November 1931, Santosh Banerjee is a master player of the sitar and surbahar. Initially trained by Sri Aparesh Chatterjee, he later became disciple of the legendary Beenkar of Rampur Senia Gharana, Ustad Mohammed Dabir Khan, who had made Kolkata his home. His association with Ustad Dabir Khan Saheb continued for nearly 25 years till the demise of the Ustad. From the Ustad, Santosh Banerjee learnt Dhrupad-Dhamar, typical `Dhrupadi Baaz` on Sitar and also the regal, almost extinct instrument, `Surbahar`. Today he is one of the few artistes who sincerely performs the traditional `baaz` on Surbahar.

Emotion and romanticism perfectly blended into the traditional purity of Khandar Vani along with tuneful alap, vistar and variation in the rhythmic pattern are the outstanding features of his performance.

Pandit Santosh Banerjee is former Head of the Department of Instrumental Music, Rabindra Bharati University. He has conducted innumerable lecture-demonstrations and seminars in Universities in India and abroad and has participated in many prestigious music festivals all over India.

Listen to an excerpt of a jugalbandi performance by the Guru-Shishya duo.

Raga Name Duration (Min.) Audio Clip Add to myMusic
Rabkauns 32.42

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