Mallikarjun Mansur was born as Mallikarjun Bheemarayappa Mansur in 1910 in a village called Mansur in Karnataka. He belonged to the Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana and excelled in the Khayal style of Indian classical music. Mansur was decorated with major national awards thrice (the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan).
His Early Years
Mansur hailed from a poor family and his parents were engaged in cultivation. However, irrespective of their financial condition, Mansur’s father used to encourage his musical growth. When he realized that his son had a talent for music, he got Mansur involved with a traveling troupe that entertained people through dance and drama.
Mansur’s lovely voice impressed the owner of the troupe and he made Mansur sing different compositions during drama performances. Once when Mansur was performing, Pundit Appaya Swamy was present in the audience and he took Mansur under his tutelage. It was Pundit Swamy who later initiated Mansur into Carnatic music.
Thereafter Nilkanth Bua Alurmath from the Gwalior Gharana gave Mansur his first lessons in classical Hindustani music. It was because of him that Mansur came in touch with Ustad Alladiya Khan and his two sons Ustad Manji Khan and Ustad Bhurji Khan. Mansur’s style of singing was largely influenced by the training that he received from them.
His Career and Talent
Mallikarjun Mansur could render rare raga compositions with aplomb and even made improvisations without tinkering with the originality of the song. During the 1930s, his music became very popular and the record label HMV came forward to record his renditions under its banner. He cut his first record during 1935-36.
Mansur was at ease with both traditional and non-traditional forms of music and could follow the styles of almost all the Gharanas. The purity and clarity of his voice and his deftness in rendering difficult compositions made him immensely popular amongst music lovers as well as music scholars.
Mansur was a man of simplicity and because of his easy-going nature; he could mingle with every irrespective of their age or status. His liberal attitude won him many admirers. According to popular playback singer Arati Mukherjee who trained under Mansur, the song ‘Raina Beet Jayee’ from the film ‘Amar Prem’ (1971) was one of his favorite songs which he often used to hum.
Mansur’s house in Dharwad sports the name ‘Mrutyunjaya’ and this spot has been turned into a museum in his memory. His son Rajashekhar Mansur, who is a vocalist, translated ‘Nanna Rasayatre’, the autographical book written my Mansur into an English version (My Journey in Music).