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Updated: May 22, 2014 14:24 IST

His master’s voice

CHITRA SWAMINATHAN
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Pandit Jasraj. Photo: K. Ananthan
The Hindu Pandit Jasraj. Photo: K. Ananthan

The mehfil is all set for Pandit Jasraj as the legendary vocalist takes centre-stage at the opening concert of the Friday Review November Fest

Date: November 16

Venue: The Music Academy

Time: 7.30 p.m.

With a voice as rich as his splendorous silk kurtas and dhotis and his demeanour as pleasing as his much-acclaimed khayals, Pandit Jasraj epitomises the Hindustani classical tradition. Born into a family that dedicated itself to the Mewati gharana and a court musician at age four in the durbar of Osman Ali Khan, the last Nizam of Hyderabad, Jasraj couldn’t have but made music his life’s purpose. After his extensive research into haveli sangeet, the maestro came up with many heart-warming bandish.

His impeccable grip on taal can be attributed to his being a tabla player till he was 14 years old. He would accompany his guru Maniram during concerts. But he decided to train hard and turn himself into a vocalist as he was keen to be the lead artiste of sangeet mehfils. He eventually rose to prominence as a singer. He even came up with new raags, compositions and bhajans for which he is celebrated across the world.

His sprightly sargams, spiritually-elevating swaras and tantalising taans have won him not only a huge following but awards too such as the Padma Vibhushan, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar and more.

The Hindu Friday Review November Fest opens on November 16 with a concert of this Sangeet Martand.

Q&A

How is it to perform in Chennai once again?

Like Pune in Maharashtra, this city is soaked in culture. It’s hard to find such discerning listeners, who understand and appreciate the nuances of classical music. I am always looking forward to visiting Chennai. A city with an ever-expanding community of artistes. I have good friends in musicians-par-excellence Balamuralikrishna and Umayalpuran Sivaraman. Then there’s the amazing child prodigies U. Shrinivas and Shashank Subramanyam. I recently heard Sudha Ragunathan. I think she sings beautifully.

You have been performing for several years now. How is to sing for the contemporary, restless audience?

Past was perfect but present is not imperfect either. Despite my unshakeable faith in tradition, I do not find change objectionable and like to move with the times. Many of the new generation musicians are extremely gifted and with a mind of their own. They are ready to explore and undertake risks. And they have the technological backing that makes their work easier and accessible globally. What took months for us can now be completed in hours.

Musical collaborations being the order of the day. How have you managed to keep your sangeet true to its roots and still draw huge crowds?

It’s good the walls between genres are breaking down but I do not find many of the collaborative works honest. You cannot achieve much by simply putting together different styles. There has to be a deep understanding of the distinctive elements of each genre.

In the shrinking music world, does holding on to gharanas make sense?

Gharanas are like universities or rather different streams of study. Each with its specialty. Belonging to a gharana does not mean closing yourself to the happenings around. It instills discipline in learners and helps them follow clearly a particular system of instruction. Nothing stops an artiste from being inspired, assimilate and conceive his own style.

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