Pandit Jasraj’s voice is legendary. Yet, speak to the maestro and he will brush it away as just a “blessing”.
Hailing from the Indian state of Haryana, Jasraj was initiated into classical singing by his father Motiram at an early age. He continued to train under his brother Maniram after his father’s death when he was four years old and later with Maharaja Jaywant Singh Waghela and Ustad Gulam Kadar Khan of Mewat Gharana [a style of Hindustani classical music]. Initially he accompanied Maniram as a tabla player but, unhappy being a secondary artist, he decided to become a singer.
Jasraj is known for singing in the Khayal style of the Mewat Gharana and for the mellifluous renditions of bhajans [hymns] in Haveli Sangeet, a devotional sub-genre of music from Rajasthan, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, which will be the highlight of the show in Dubai on Friday, September 11, at Madinat Jumeirah. Among other renditions, he will sing the popular Govind Damodara Madhaveti and Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya hymns. He will be accompanied by his disciples: Grammy-nominated flautist Shashank Subramanyam, Rattan Mohan Sharma and Tripti Mukherjee.
The recipient of the Padma Vibushan (the second highest civilian award bestowed by the Indian government) spoke about Hindustani classical music to tabloid! on the eve of his show.
How is Haveli Sangeet different from other sub-genres of Hindustani classical music?
Music is music. But Haveli Sangeet is devotional, inclining mostly towards the bal swarup [child form] of [the deity] Krishna. The songs mostly reflect the activities related to him and his naughtiness. But we will not be frivolous, as these songs can tend to become sometimes. We will narrate the devotion connected to this sub-genre. At the same time, I don’t think it’ll be right to call it a sub-genre of Hindustani classical music as it is itself huge. It has its own set of raagas [melodies] and is sung as bhajans [hymns].
What hymns could we hear from you?
Well, that’s something we haven’t decided on yet. The newness comes from the fact that the singer is different even though the lyrics may be the same and have been sung several times.
Where do you think Hindustani classical music placed in the world today?
I say Bhartiye [Indian] music includes music all the way from Dhaka to Islamabad. Even till Afghanistan you will find elements of Hindustani classical music. So, it is vastly present — you can’t say it belongs to one place. It depends on the perception of the listener. It doesn’t matter what generation you belong to. Not every person is born a virtuoso. You need to have a little training, a little understanding of the music you hear.
You know everyone has to learn the alphabet — a, b, c, d — then you connect with the English language. Similarly classical music too has its “a, b, c, d…”. Explaining it is not easy as music is vast. One needs to learn the notes first, both as a listener and a learner. There are seven notes and the entire world of music resides in them.
You are 85. How do you maintain a voice that can reach four and a half octaves and more?
It’s only because of one’s aradhana [worship], sadhana [diligence] and God’s blessing.
What does music mean to you?
Music is what can take you to heaven, yet can bring God from the heaven to earth — of course not in human form. But sometimes when you are singing you reach a state of meditation, where you connect with God. That’s the power music holds.
Don’t miss it!
Pandit Jasraj performs at Madinat Theatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, on Friday, September 11. The show starts 7pm. Tickets start from Dh100. Call Madinat Theatre Box Office on 04-3666546 or log on to madinattheatre.com.