When Tamil poet Mahakavi Bharatiyar despaired that he’d forgotten the face of his beloved (Kannan or Lord Krishna in this case) his words left a deep impression on his fans. Bharatiyar’s imagination resulted in the epic song, Aasai mugam marandhu poche in raga Jonpuri. The first time I heard the song on stage by Carnatic vocalist D.K.Jayaraman I was transfixed by the lyrics, the melody and the singer’s presentation.
Jonpuri is a melody that takes you on a jaunty ride. It’s heard in lighter classical pieces towards the end of a concert. In another popular Tamil song Eppo Varuvaro set to the same raga, the composer Gopalakrishna Bharathi describes a yearning for Lord Shiva (Nataraja) to appear before him. I cannot think of anyone but Carnatic vocalist Madurai Mani Iyer when I listen to this song and the flair with which the maestro concludes the finishing notes.
This raga has been heard in several Tamil movies. In the movie “Ashok Kumar”(1941), the actor/singer M.K.Tyagaraja Bhagavathar sings Sathva Guna Bodhan in raga Jonpuri and the notes are similar to Eppo Varuvaro. The actors then were also trained in classical music.
The song “Inji Iduppazhagi” by Illayaraja from the movie “Devar Magan” is loosely based on this raga.
For Hindustani music aficionados, Jonpuri belongs to the Asavari thaat. I did find traces of the raga in an old rendition by Gangubai Hangal. Do listen and let me know what you think.
For those who want details, raga Jonpuri is a derivative of the 20th Melakartha raga Natabhairavi and the notes are SR2M1PD1N2 SN2D1PM1G2R2S.