Pandit Bacccha Lal Mishra was one of the last outstanding sarangi players of Banaras (Varanasi). I learnt from him during my stay in Banaras in 1994, and so I have several videos of lessons as well as performances including a concert which I organised for him at Amar Bhavan in the Spring of 1994. He was a sweet and gentle man with a beautiful touch—especially for playing purab ang thumri and all the other "semi-classical" specialities of Banaras, such as  dadra, chaiti, hori and kajari.

Baccha Lalji lived in Ramapura, the second-largest musicians' neighbourhood of Banaras, next door to his brother, the tabla player Ishwarlal Mishra, and very close to the houses of the great vocalist Mahadev Mishra and the sarangi player Santosh Mishra, son of Bhagwan Das Mishra. Being without any sons and daughters, he was a somewhat tragic figure. The other residents of his house were mainly relatives of his wife—her brother and his wife and family. But there was an extraordinary 95-year-old woman, Baccha Lal's grandmother, who I knew simply as "Dadiji". Although untrained in music, she had heard an extraordinary amount of music throughout her life and had retained a lot. She taught me many beautiful song compositions, chaitis and holis. She was unversed in sargam (oral notation), so her teaching style was eccentric and wildly intense—repeatedly yelling out the lyrics until they stuck in my mind.

Our video selection begins with four items from a concert which I organised at Amar Bhavan, Assi, Banaras on December 18, 1993. We start with the second item. Due to a power failure (a daily occurence in Banaras) the first item, rag Madhukauns, was performed in the dark. It was followed by rag Kamod:

 

This was followed by a beautiful bol banao thumri in rag Manj Khamaj, "jaga pari mai to piya". Singing with fingers.

 

The next item was a chaiti, one of the light classical specialities of Banaras, sung in the month of Chait, Springtime.

 

Finally Baccha Lalji played thumri in Bhairavi.

 

Now a glimpse of Baccha Lal Mishra as a teacher. The next two videos are of a lesson in Pilu thumri-playing in March 1996. The first includes tuning and talk about guru problems while we drink tea—as well as transmission. 

 

The lesson concludes with an extended session of playing, ending with Baccha Lalji telling me the words of the bol banao thumri which we had been working on, and discussing the importance of bringing out the words on the sarangi. Towards the beginning of the recording Baccha Lal Mishra laments that nowadays fewer and fewer people are singing thumri in Pilu.

 

Our next selection of four videos comes from a solo concert on February 21, 1994 at the Ganga Mahal, a beautiful but faded palace in Assi, Banaras now in an incarnation as a rooming house for foreigners. The concert was well-attended by a largely Western audience.

The first offering was of rag Yaman:

 

Then came rag Shri. Baccha Lalji was feeling inspired—playing two long renditions of grand serious rags in one sitting.

 

Next came a thumri in Pilu.

 

The programme concluded with a sweet kajri, a Banaras semi-classical speciality associated with the rainy season.

 

Now we have a lesson in thumri-style Jogiya on 7 November, 1996:

 

Two NEW VIDEOS June 2015: 

Tuning and talking on November 11, 1996:

 

After which Baccha Lalji tought me the popular Khamaj thumri "kaun gali gayo shyam":

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