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Article: Terms: Jugalbandhi

By Haresh Bakshi
  Jugalbandhi [from Sanskrit "Yugala" = a pair, a couple; Sanskrit "bandh" = to join, unite, fasten, put together, so arrange]

"Jugalbandhi" means (a performance by a) duet. It is said to have taken place when two performers perform an item together, during a (musical) performance.

The announcement of a jugalbandhi in a programme is a promise, seldom fulfilled by the quality of the duet performance: it hardly goes beyond the gimmick of attracting larger crowds by inclusion of two big names in a single recital. Neither artist forming the duet can do justice to the mystical awareness that Indian classical music is capable of producing.

Jugalbandhi is typically a musical attempt thrown out of orderly function, disjointed, lacking coherence, marked by lack of orderly sequence and utterly incomplete and unsatisfactory. A notable exception to this broad generalisation is a typical jugalbandhi in dhrupad singing. But there is a reason for it to be an exception.

How many kinds of jugalbandhi exist? The following types have been noted:

(1) Dhrupad singing (Dagar brothers)
(2) Instrumental of identical class (Sitar/Surbahar)
(3) Instrumental of a similar class (Sitar/Sarod)
(4) Instrumental of dissimilar classes (Santoor/Flute; Shehnai/Sitar)
(5) Instrumental of experimental type (Piano/Harmonium)
(6) Khayal singing (Rajan and Sajan Mishra)
(7) vocal innovative (Hindustani/Karnatic)
(8) Percussions (Tabla/Pakhavaj, taal kachahari) etc., etc.

What is raison d'etre for the existence and justification of Jugalbandi? Under what circumstances? When is a jugalbandhi justified? How would the individual member of the duet fare if he performs as a single performer? Also, what is the share of each of the duet members in a performance? Equal? -- I doubt.

In the above list of eight types of jugalbandhi, we probably have the following sub-classes: (i) the first two in the list, and, perhaps, the sixth; (ii) the remaining types. In the (ii), we have several sub-categories. The distinction here is based on the principle that the duet members of the successful teams belong to closely knit backgrounds. This background is interpreted in terms of either sameness of gharana or very close similarity between the pairing instruments.

And, lastly, when did the jugalbandhi phenomenon start? And, how did it start? The question of "when" is a matter of tracing the history of jugalbandhi. The question of "how" can be speculated upon -- perhaps like this:

Recall the age-old tradition of the shishya (pupil) always accompanying the Guru (the eacher) during a performance. The accompanying student is encouraged to sing, but usually his contribution is small and secondary. My speculation is that this is the origin of jugalbandhi. I think there can be circumstances in which the student may assume a more important role when accompanying his guru. For example, the student may prove to have an exceptional calibre and his guru may think it fit to assign to him a more significant role. Or, the student may demonstrate sufficient maturity and mastery. Or, the guru may decide, for his own reasons, to play a relatively subsidiary role.

This hypothesis, of course, needs to be examined in the light of known and factual cases.




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