Vaishnav Jan to Tene Kahiye was one of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite bhajans. Written by Narsinh Mehta, a saint-poet from fifteenth-century Gujarat, the song-text carries a potent message of empathy, humility, truth, equality, and spirituality, for followers of Vishnu, the Hindu deity, but which could equally be a message for everyone particularly in these times of intolerance, hatred and self-aggrandisement.
This bhajan has also become a favourite with Hindustani vocalists and instrumentalists. Sung or played in solo recitals or duets, this bhajan has often been treated musically as a dhun or a melody that can be elaborated. Anchored in Khamaj, a raag that is popular for its thumris and dadras, this bhajan seems to have therefore been treated almost like a thumri. The excursions out of the main raag stand witness to the capacity of trained singers and instrumentalists to even turn a simple melody into a display of ornate melodic elaborations, at times taking listeners away from the substance of the song-text into the realm of melody and rhythm and also drawing them to the virtuosic skill of the performers.
Rashid Khan and Shahid Parvez
The first track features well-known vocalist Rashid Khan and sitar player Shahid Parvez in a duet. They are accompanied on tabla by Akram Khan and on harmonium by Mehmood Dholpuri.
Bismillah Khan and VG Jog
The second track features an instrumental duet between shehnai wizard Bismillah Khan and violinist VG Jog.
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