Written by Rashmi Joshi on 16 July 2019
A distinguished composer, musician, scholar and Guru of Hindustani Classical music, the legendary musician Pt Ramashray Jha,‘RamRang’, was born on 11 August, 1928 in Darbhanga, Bihar.
He took his initial training in Hindustani classical music from his father Sukadev Jha and uncle Madhusudan Jha. His desire to have in-depth knowledge in music brought him to Prayagraj where he learnt under Pandit Bholanath Bhatt, from Banaras Gharana, for more than twenty-five years.
He was also guided by Pandit B. N. Thakar and Ustad Habib Khan from Kirana Gharana. Pt. Jha was not just a musician but an artist at heart - apart from his training in music, he had also worked for almost 15 years with a drama company in Varanasi. This experience added more colours to his musical experiences.
Although he had no educational degrees, his excellence and panoramic knowledge in music, paved his way as Faculty Music in Allahabad University in 1968 and later, from 1980 to 1989, he also served as the Head of Music Department, Allahabad University.
Pandit Ramashray Jha has contributed to the musical world in innumerable ways especially in the following domains: -
He was a great shastrakara (author) and has published five volumes of Abhinav Geetanjali. In these exhaustive volumes, he has explained 189 popular and non-popular Ragas meticulously which show his in-depth knowledge in Khayal, Dhrupad, Thumari, Dadra and different Gayaki (style) of Hindustani classical vocal.
His minute insights and critical analysis of Ragas together with hundreds of Ramrang’s own high-quality musical compositions along with traditional Bandishes, make it extremely beneficial for present generation learners to appreciate the versatility in Hindustani Classical Vocal.
Pandit Ramashray Jha was extremely rich and imaginative in terms of musical knowledge. “Ramrang” had created innumerable “Bandishen” in which Swara (notes) and Matra (beats) are tied up together in an aesthetic way. These qualities have made his Bandishen popular among all great singers of his generation as well as the present generation.
Pandit Jeetendra Abhisheki, Pandit Ajay Chakravarti, Kaushiki Chakravarti are a few names who have been singing his compositions quite often in their performances.
Sangeetik Ramayan is another beautiful contribution where he has created a musical version of our epic Ramayan. In this, he has described all seven “Kands’ (parts) of Tulsi Das’ “Ramcharitmanas” where he has created more than 500 “Bandishes” of “Dhrupad and Dhamar” and a few in “Khayal” style. “Kevat Prasang” is highly appreciated by the audience all over.
Ramrang’s Gayaki is best appreciated by those who understand the nuances of Swara and Raga.
His Shastrapurn presentation of Ragas reveals the actual spirits of the Ragas through which the audience can appreciate the real Raga Anubhava (experiencing a Raga) and not the made-up vocal gymnastics and fast complicated Taan which he felt was technical but conveyed little emotion. His approach was Lakshan-based (bringing out the nature of the Raga) presentation of Ragas.
For nearly seven decades, Pandit ji was continuously passing his musical knowledge to countless students. He always emphasised on practising in slow speed for a longer time and gradually increasing to “Dugun” (double-speed) and “Chaugun” (fourth-speed). According to him “Raga Shudhdhata” (purity of a Raga) is more important than complicated presentation. Another thing was pronunciation for which he was very particular while teaching.
Dr Geeta Banerji, Vidushi Kamala Bose, Padma Shri Shubha Mudgal and Dr Ramshankar Singh are a few names from his long disciple list.
In 2005, The President of India had conferred on him the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his contributions to Hindustani Classical Music.
Spending his entire life in enlivening and serving Hindustani classical music, Pandit Ramashray Jha, the great musicologist and composer, passed away on 1st January 2009, in Kolkata.
He will always be remembered for his exemplary performances and invaluable contributions to Hindustani classical music.