At 89, legendary classical maestro Pandit Jasraj enthralled the Capital with a soulful performance and left everyone spell-bound.
Little would one expect this classical doyen to perform at 89 without a streak of fatigue. It was full house on a Sunday morning as Pandit Jasraj came on stage with some assistance at the 72nd Shankar Lal Music Festival organised by Sriram Kala Kendra in the Capital. The Delhi heat indeed left him dehydrated. The maestro from Mewati Gharana started with a bandish based on Abhiri Todi Raga. What started with a vilambit khayal saw traditional performances of Hori, Bhajans and much more for over three hours. How could he deny when the ever-cheerful audience started demanding for more? His relentless renditions barely revealed the legend’s age. As the audience sat through, the maestro sang on. Despite the scorching sun glowing bright on his face, he sang traditional compositions with a unmatched energy.
Padmashree Shobha Deepak Singh, director and vice chairperson of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, was beaming with optimism and felt she would be honoured to invite Panditji even on his 90th year to perform at the festival.
One of India’s legendary classical vocalists, Pandit Jasraj was born in Haryana’s Hisar, in a family of classical musicians of the Mewati gharana. His father, Pandit Motiram, a noted classical singer passed away when Pandit Jasraj was just four. From a tender age, Jasraj started accompanying his elder brother and first guru in vocals Pandit Maniram as a tabla player.
During his early days, he was a state musician at Osman Ali Khan’s court. While he stayed in Hyderabad he would often travel to Sanand in Gujarat to learn the style of music of Mewati Gharana.
At the age of 15, stung by a musician’s snide remark about his lack of understanding of classical music since he was a minor artist, Pandit Jasraj decided to take up singing as a challenge. He gave his first public concert at the age of 22.
For him music is all about seeking the divine. He had earlier explained, “We just perform, but it is He, (the almighty) who makes us sing,” adding the fact that humility is important for every performer. He claims to have always been guided by the supreme voice to tread on his path.
The classical maestro believes that his vocation as a singer is in direct communion with god. “Once I had a dream where Lord Krishna implored me to sing for him. And ever since I sing for God,” Jasraj said, adding “I find spiritual enlightenment through music.”
In an enchanting tale Panditji shared his journey. Apart from him being a legendary vocalist who began his career as a tabla player, Panditji’s marriage is no less than a tale.
He is believed to have been interrogated and traced by Late V Shantaram’s manager when the eminent film-maker’s daughter Madhura had shown her interest in entering the wedlock with the maestro. Despite a measly salary that Panditji made for a living those days, Shantaram saw a great potential and finally agreed to the proposal.
Jasraj’s first playback song was for V Shantaram’s Ladki Sahyadri Ki in 1966. He sang the Bhajan — Vandana Karo in raga Ahir Bhairav.
Not content with being a vocalist, Pandit Jasraj soon took a keen interest in researching and popularising old forms of music.
He is known to have revived Haveli Sangeet, in which performances are held in temples and compositions are sung to invoke Lord Krishna. Panditji is also considered to have
innovated and created a unique form of jugalbandi called Jasrangi, in which a male and a female singer sing different ragas in their respective scales to merge their individual displays into one unified performance.
Sitting in the green-room after the performance, he looked a little tired – not his usual chirpy self. “I am feeling very thirsty,” he complained. Probably age is catching up, although one can barely feel it in his performance.