Mia Tansen and the girl from Karachi

Posted by on Sep-26-2009

I always wondered how a Muslim girl with Pakistani roots- the Karachi chromosome, I used to tease- knows so much about Indian Classical music. Raziya is amazing in times.

She plays flute, Bansuri is the word she likes to use.

I was sick that night… I was struggling to get some sleep. Keeping my head on her lap she played a note, a beautiful note. Rag Neelambari she said in the morning. A Karnatic Raga equivalent to the Bilaval Thaat of Hindusthani music. The raga which could lead you to sleep.

“Ragas in Indian classical music could work as cure and relief.” She said.

“It could encourage sleep, elicit relaxation, make you feel the seasons, lower your blood pressure and invoke all the nine moods, the Navarasas, in you. More than anything else our emotions and sentiments finds expression in music.”

Later in the evening she told me about Miyan Tansen, the greatest Indian musician ever. Myth and truth are interwoven in that story, just like the history of 16th century, the era he lived.

Tansen’s real name is believed to be Ramtanu Pandey. He was a vocalist, composer and one among the Navaratnas (nine jewels), the nine most outstanding talents, at the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar, who conferred him with the title of Miyan. Writings of the Mughal period have several references of this musician.

Tansen was a legend in his own life time. He learned music from Haridas Swami, another luminary. Soon Tansen is said to have no equals in music other than his own teacher.

Tansen has also composed several Ragas like Bhairav, Darbari Kanada, Miyan Ki Todi, Miyan Ki Malhar and Miyan Ki Sarang. The Dhrupad style of singing is believed to be conceived by Tansen and Swami Haridas.

Tansen, the mystic musician, is believed to have performed miracles with music. He had the ability to create rain by singing Rag Megh Malhar and fire with Rag Deepak.

One incident goes like this. Tansen’s rivals at the court of Akbar forced him to sing Rag Deepak. Tansen knew the danger ahead; everything will be burned, including the singer. He asked for time to prepare and used it to teach a woman Rag Megha Malhar, the Raga of the rains.

On the day of the performance, as soon as Tansen started singing everything started heating up. The listeners were pouring with sweat. At the zenith of the rendition lamps in the court started glowing up. The singer was at the verge of his death. But the woman had already started performing Megha Malhar and soon it started raining outside, saving Tansen’s life.

It sounds like magic to me, the ability to influence even nature with music.

The genius of Tansen is believed to have authored two important musical documents namely ‘Sanggeta Sara’ and ‘Rajmala’. No wonder some scholars consider him as the father of Indian Classical music.

There is a tamarind tree near Tansen’s tomb, which is believed to be as old as the tomb. According to a legend a person who chews the leaves of this tamarind tree is blessed with the great musical qualities.

The Tansen school of music is known as Senia Gharana.

Another legend. After Tansen’s death Akbar asked many musicians to perform in his honor. Tansen’s son Bilas Khan rendered his own version of Rag Todi. The sprit of the father was so pleased that the lifeless body nodded in approval of the rendition. Now Rag Bilaskani Todi is a popular morning raga.

A music festival is held every year in Gwalior, near Tansen’s tomb. Musicians from all over India assemble, perform and pay homage to Tansen.

Should attend the function with the girl from Karachi next time.

  1. Sailors Diary » Blog Archive » Mia Tansen and the girl from Karachi < GOOGLY India BUZZ Said,

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  2. clifford Said,


    tnx for info!!…

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