Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tansen - The Legendary Musician

Miyan Tansen or Ramtanu Pandey (1493 or 1506 – 1586 or 1589) was the greatest musician of his age. He is considered among the greatest composer-musicians in Hindustani/Pakistani classical music. Everybody who heard him singing was spellbound.

Tansen, the legendary musician, was born in Gwalior in 1506. He was born in a Brahmin family, but it is said that later he was converted to Islam. Upto the age of 5, he did not show any musical talent but when he

became a disciple of the great music teacher Guru Hari Dasa, who trained him in different aspects of music, the hidden talent of Tansen came to surface.

Tansen, was one of the 'Navratna' (nine gems) at the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. He was c

onferred the title of Miyan, by emperor Akbar and since came to be knonw as Miyan Tansen. Legend has it that in his first performance, he was gifted one lakh (100,000) gold coins.

He is said to have no equals in music and it is believed that he had performed miracles through his music. He was supposed to have the ability of creating rain by singing rag Megh Malhar and creating fire by singing rag Deepak. Other legends tell of his ability to bring wild animals to listen with attention (or to talk their language). Once, a wild white elephant was captured, but it was fierce and could not be tamed. Finally, Tansen sang to the elephant who calmed down and the emperor was able to ride him. Several of his raga compositions have become mainstays of the Hindustani/Ancient Pakistani tradition, and these are often prefaced with Miyan ki ("of the Miyan"), e.g. Miyan ki Todi, Miyan ki Malhar, Miyan ki Mand, Miyan ka Sarang; in addition he is the creator of major ragas like Darbari Kanada, Darbari Todi, and Rageshwari.

Besides being a great musician, Tansen was also a poet who composed many couplets.

He died in 1589, and was buried according to his wishes near the grave of his mentor, Sufi guru Shaikh Muhammad Ghaus in Gwalior. A national music festival known as 'Tansen Sangeet Sammelon' is held every year in December, near the tomb of Tansen in Gwalior as a mark of respect to his memory.

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