Channulal Mishra's music is eclectic, featuring unmistakeable references to Benares, Kirana and Patiala gharanas, three very contrasting traditions of North Indian classical singing, which have all played a meaningful part in the singer's development. He was brought up in an atmosphere of rich musical activity in the ancient, holy city of Benares, starting his vocal training at a young age under the guidance of his father, Badri Prasad Misra. He is also the son-in-law of the late Anokhelal Misra, a great tabla player of Benares tradition.
Later his musical vision and skills were refined by Ustad Abdul Ghani Khan and Thakur Jaidev Singh. Having left his home to learn music he was nurtured in the honoured practice of 'guru shishya parampara', a diminishing tradition where the student stays in the home of his or her teacher. Groomed under the watchful eye of the Guru is devoted to the musical and spiritual growth of the student, just as a father is devoted to his own son.
In this recital, Channulal Mishra begins with a khayal, a classical rendition of raga Maru Behag. Khayal is the most dominant form of singing in Hindustani classical music, giving great scope to the imagination and individuality of the singer. Khayal singing is marked with melodic elaboration, decorative elegance, sensuousness and romanticism. It invariably combines devotion with romance. Maru Behag is a late evening raga with a romantic quality. It uses the same basic notes as Raga Behag but the key phrases lay emphasis on different notes, giving the raga its own distinctive character. Each raga is like a person, with its own unique characteristics and personality. In this performance, the vocalist is joined by three instrumentalists. Nahul Misra of Benares provides rhythmic accompaniment on tabla, and melodic support comes from Yamin Khan on Harmonium and Bharat Bhushan Goswami the stringed Sarangi.
The first composition is set to a slow rhythmic cycle of twelve beats called Vilambit Ektaal. The structure of the taal played at this speed allows the singer to develop the mood of the raga in an unhurried manner.
The second composition (track 3) 'More Balma Aja Honn Aye' -'today my beloved has not come'- is a livelier khayal, in the popular rhythmic cycle of sixteen beats, known as teental.
For the next part of the performance Channulal Mishra gives emphasis to his expertise in the field of light classical music. Thumri is a rich music form which draws on both devotional and romantic themes. In this thumri (track 4), 'Bansuriya Ab Na Bajao Shyam' based on Raga Khamaj, the gopi (devotee) is pleading with the divine Lord Krishna to stop playing the flute because of its hypnotic effect. 'Tore Naina Khilade Katar Sajani' is a Dadra composition from the Benares tradition, in which the singer is praising the lover's intense beauty as expressed through the eyes. 'Rang darungi darungi nanda ke lalan pe' (track 6) based on Raga Kafi, is a song celebrating the throwing of colours at the popular Hindu Holi Festival.