Pandit Jasraj's voice reverberates across the Velliangiri hills at Yaksha 2011
“Aagya Baba?” Pandit Jasraj asks Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev if he can start his performance. A little ritual follows. We are too far to see what exactly it is, but he touches something to his eyes reverentially and puts it away. His two young protégés arrange themselves around him, and his musicians too. Pandit Jasraj raises his arms and begins to sing.
It requires a certain arrogance to comment on a personality such as Pandit Jasraj, especially so when one is unschooled in classical music. But, may be that is why he is so great - he can keep his listeners riveted, be they connoisseurs or complete greenhorns.
So, as he sings Om Sri Ananta Hari Narayana… Mangalam Bhagwan Vishnu, Mangalam Garuda Dhwaja….in raag Durbari, there is just awe.
As Pandit ji builds up the tempo from the alaap, it is as if he is playing with the notes. He gathers them up, lets them loose, a note at a time, sometimes a torrent, and then reins them in again. The sargams dance and the flames of the oil lamps dance gleefully along. It is breathtaking.
In the introduction to Pandit Jasraj we are told that his vocal range extends across three and a half octaves. Those in the know of classical music acknowledge this with wonder, while the rest of us can only marvel at the way his voice rises, dips, thunders and soothes in turns. The accompanying singers, his disciples one presumes, Ankita Joshi and Shaugat Banerjee hang on to every nuance and movement of their guru. It is like magic, the way they step in the second Pandit ji pauses. Sheer instinct one would think, as there is no way they could have rehearsed such a spontaneous outpouring. Every time they accomplish a particularly difficult bit and their guruji says wah wah or shaabash their faces light up. What a privilege it must be to be learning music from an icon such as Pandit Jasraj.
Swami Vivekananda's composition follows. It is a rousing Har har har bhoothnath pasupati. Vijay Kate on the tabla, Sashank Subramanium on the flute, Sridhar Parthasarathy on the mridangam and Mukund Phetkar on the harmonium add to the grandeur of the vocal performance. He Mata Kali, sings Pandit Jasraj next. It is entreating and at the same time sends a tingle up the spine. This is followed by Radha's plaintive complaint, Dekho more rang mein bhigoye daali meri nayi chunariya… The evening concludes with a reverberating ode to Jagadamba. Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev sums up the Jasraj experience. He says, “Panditji just walked us through creation.”
Yaksha 2011 was a music and dance festival organised by the Isha Yoga Centre. The media partner for the event was The Hindu.