When it gets as hot, humid and unbearably stuffy as it is these days, you can’t help but long for rain. I know that after the 26 July 2005 deluge in Mumbai, some of us may long for rain with more than a bit of trepidation, but we’ve got to be optimistic, right? If nothing else, let’s think of all the music that goes with the monsoon—the film classics, the rain dances, the Malhars, and yes, don’t forget the kajri.
Kajris are rain songs set to traditional tunes. Remember Half Ticket? Kishore Kumar jumping around singing Cheel cheel chilla ke kajri sunaaye…? And if you do want to brush up on the kajr i, here’s what I’d recommend. Order (by VPP) a book for the princely sum of Rs100, called Kajri Mirjapur Sarnaam, by Arjundas Kesari of Robertsganj, situated about 40km from Varanasi.
It’s a slim little book, and won’t get too many marks for design, layout or printing, but as far as authentic information on the kajri styles of the Mirzapur-Sonebhadra region goes, you couldn’t find better stuff if you went looking yourself. It is fairly common knowledge that the kajri is so called because of its association with dark, kohl-coloured rain clouds, but Kesari, a scholar and researcher, also tells us that the kajri originated as a song form offered in praise of Vindhyavaasini Devi or Kajjala Devi by a Muslim devotee. So pleased was she with his offering that she vowed to bless all those who composed and sang kajris to her. Thousands of kajris were, therefore, composed and written in the Mirzapur district, some of which find mention in Kesari’s wonderful little book.
Since the kajri is sung during the monsoons, the verses are bound to contain descriptions of rain, thunder, lightning, flora, fauna, rituals and festivities associated with the rains. But Kesari’s collection of kajri texts suggests that as often happens with folk music and folk arts, the kajri was adapted and contemporized to include themes other than the monsoon, too. Take, for instance, the following composition: “Khaddar ke chunari rang de chhapedar re rangrejwa/ Bahut dina se laagal man hamaar re rangrejwa...”
Nationalist fervour is evident here, while the following text from another kajri focuses on an entirely different theme: “Mora manawaa lagal baa ice-kireem ke, lada piya keen ke naa / Laake badhiyaa rasmalai, deta humke tu khavai, deve dehiya dabai doosre din ke!” (Find me an ice cream, won’t you, and a good rasmalai? If you do, I promise to give you a foot massage tomorrow.) Quite the gourmet kajri, eh?
And that isn’t all. The “Angreji Kajali” (in English, naturally) included in Kesari’s collection does indeed take the cake. I reproduce it unedited:
“After taking murali Radhe, smiling told Murari Shyam
Where ij your murali Mohan? Then began to search Bihari Shyam.
Dear darling Oh Radhe, please search my murali with me
Perhaps theft by sakhiyaan who are wanting ridicule me,
Being angry Radhika told, why are you telling thief me?
We don’t know where murali and how have been theft the….”
For those who are intrigued enough by this amazing book to order it, here is the address to write to: Lok Ruchi Prakashan, Robertsgunj 231216, Sonebhadra, UP
Write to Shubha at firstname.lastname@example.org