We go down memory lane with Pandit Jasraj, learn about him and his music while his daughter Durga explains why it’s necessary to make music more accessible to the layperson
In one of his previous interviews, Sangeet Martand Pt Jasraj had said, “If you see an artist approaching a stage, you can easily spot his particular gharana’. When we met him at his Pune residence on Thursday, the import of the sentence made sense. Meeting him and his senior disciple, Pt Sanjeev Abhyankar, you realise that they have no airs about their exalted status. They are warm, welcoming, humble and willing to share all that they have learnt over the years. Elaborating on the statement mentioned earlier, the octogenarian classical vocalist, says, “If you are a keen observer of classical music and the musicians, you will notice there are certain similarities amongst the musicians of the same gharana. Of course on the stage we have our distinct styles. That’s how it should be.”
Pt Jasraj will be performing in the city today, along with Pt Vishwamohan Bhatt, Taufiq Qureshi, Subhankar Banerjee, Sridhar Parthasarthy, Bangalore Amrit, Rattan Mohan Sharma, Ankita Joshi, Shashank S and Pravin Godkhindi at SBI-Panchtatva. An initiative of Art and Artists, a company founded by Durga Jasraj and Neeraj Jaitly, the artists will bring to life one element of the Panchmahabhuta — Earth, Water, Fire, Space and Wind — to life, through their music.
It’s a little easier to imagine the compositions related to water and fire, but earth which refers to both the planet and the life-giving qualities, is difficult to discern. Pt Jasraj will be presenting the composition on this element. When asked if there are any specific ragas that he would be presenting to the audience, he smiles and lifting his hands, gestures upwards, indicating that the divine presence would dictate his choice. “I can’t tell you what I am going to play now. I never plan,” he says slowly.
His daughter, Durga, steps in to explain, “Music is intangible. It’s a surreal experience and the way the singer sings and how the audience relates to it, is different each time.”
While this sounds intimidating to those uninitiated in classical music, Durga wants to ‘open up the world of music from the rarefied atmosphere’. “In Lucknow, where we had taken this event (Panchtatva), some rickshaw pullers were a part of the audience. The organisers were miffed and objected to their presence. I had a big fight with them. I told them, ‘If Bapuji’s music or Rashidsahab’s composition resonate with the rickshaw-wallas, then why not? Who said classical music can only be appreciated by a certain section of society? The connoisseurs are our assets but in order to preserve our cultural heritage, we need a bigger audience. The initiation into classical music has to be taken up at mass level,” she blazes, just like her name.
That’s the reason why Durga and Jaitly have been working on their brands like Idea Jalsa, Jasrangi and Panchtatva, making it more accessible to the layperson, and in case of Panchtatva, making it an unticketed performance.
“We have researched a lot on this project and as I speak, we continue making additions, trying to make Panchtatva entertaining, but not trivial. We have roped in the best of the animators and VFX specialists; my mother and Shyam Gosaviji helped me with the Rig Ved shlokas. We have interspersed the compositions with poetry pieces. All these come together to represent ‘life’. The piece on ‘life’ is by Nida Fazli. All this in order to make us aware of the fragility of our existence in this world. We are just one part of the big order of life — Srishti. Music is a big influencer and that’s why we have the Panchtatva event to tell us to be a little conscientious about our eco-system. In the process, if someone also begins to take serious interest in classical music, then we are truly blessed. We have mentors like Sanjeev (Abhyankar) who can explain the finer nuances of music,” she adds.
Her father, who has been listening patiently all this while, says, “We have to be open and accepting of each other’s views. My spiritual guru, Raja Jaywant Singhji has said that music has to be open and welcoming of all. Unfortunately, now we have become matwale and refuse to listen to the other’s opinion.”
Jasrajji’s ethos are rooted in the past, and that’s what he has passed on to his students and family members. At the same time, he is at ease with technology. Reminiscing compositions like Aadha Hai Chandrama from his father-in-law Shantaramji’s film, he is stuck with the name of the film. Abhyankar turns to Google and the answer pops up — Navrang. “Google Guru ki jai ho,” chuckles Panditji. A perfect synthesis of the old and new.