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Musing over music... as ever

Pandit Jasraj, who was in Delhi for the golden jubilee celebrations of his musical career, combines the sublime acceptance of a devotee with the practical experience of a musician who has climbed step by step through the travails of life, says ANJANA RAJAN... .

INNER CALLING: Pandit Jasraj... recognition a result of devotion. Photo: S. Subramanium.

FIFTY YEARS of a golden career sit lightly on the shoulders of veteran vocalist Pandit Jasraj, doyen of the Mewati gharana, from whose name the epithet Sangeet Martand is rarely detached. As his daughter Durga Jasraj, supported by Art and Artistes India Private Limited and Data Access, flagged off the golden jubilee celebrations of the maestro's music in New Delhi this past week with the release of a commemorative music album produced by Music Today, the king himself seemed not quite of a piece with the trappings of publicity. He seems to hover in his own world, a world where melody and rhythm are mother and father, where the solid things of life count less than the intangible.

Proud as he is of the efforts of Durga and her coterie of sponsors, naming everyone sharing the dais at the press conference prior to the event seemed to cost him an effort, not from any weakness of memory but because, as he said, he is used to simply folding his hands to greet them, and because `I am a singer, not a talker."

Unlike some people, this preface was not belied by a long `speechifying' session. For aspiring artistes who struggle to catch a few wisps of grace from the Muse, it would be heartening to know that Pandit Jasraj - Padma Vibhushan - fully appreciated the ineffable quality that is the soul of art. Even an established musician cannot think of himself as in control of it. "Music to hawaa hai, pakad mein to aata nahin." The one who sings, the one who hears, is not you or I, but Divinity itself - "Ooperwaala" who can turn mediocrity into a sublime experience, he pondered. Who are we to judge whether we have sung well or not?

It is all right, however, to have devotional and humble views when one is at a pinnacle. How do youngsters today reconcile the vast truths that classical music explores with the material goals that tempt us all and indeed are required as ballast to hold down artistes in the mortal world when the mystic nature of the art threatens to lift them out of touch with ground realities? For Pandit Jasraj, the contradictions of this age of packaging have not made the situation significantly different from when he was a struggling youngster. The same hopes and aspirations ran through him, he declares.

Towards the injustice that is perpetrated when the might of money overrides the rights of talent, his answer is both philosophical and practical.

"When there is injustice there is awakening (jaagriti). If things move at a steady pace, you tend to fall asleep."

The injustice causing more harm is that done by TV, with its surfeit of film based entertainment. The responsibility for the future of today's young artistes lies with television, he avers. Pointing out All India Radio's solid contribution to the cause of classical music, he says "So many great artistes claim with pride that their career was made by All India Radio. How many can say the same of TV?"

But AIR too needs to pull up its socks, since complacency has placed its programmes too in a monotonous rut. An untroubled melange of the pragmatist and the seer, Pandit Jasraj believes that recognition and success come ultimately as a result of the artiste's tapasya. The spiritual nature of music is inseparable from its performance aspect. God dwells in music, he says, taking the example of the Padma Purana shloka in which Maha Vishnu tells Narada "I am to be found, not in heaven, not in the hearts of yogis, nor in the sun; I am there where my devotees sing."

Continuing in this vein, he says, "Though we describe God as formless and without attribute, we need a form to envision and worship."

And when does form reconcile with formlessness?

"Meera after a lifetime of singing the praises of the Lord became one with the idol of Dwarakadheesh. The perfection of formlessness - niranjan, niraakaar - was realised when she emerged from the other side."

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