The deaths in recent times of great exponents of Indian classical music like Ravi Shankar, Bhimsen Joshi and Ali Akbar Khan have “left us very poor,” said renowned vocalist Pandit Jasraj here on Friday.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a function to announce the 61{+s}{+t}edition of the Dover Lane Music Conference, Pandit Jasraj said these deaths had left the fraternity and music lovers bereft but there are encouraging signs in the way young talent is coming up and performing.

 Speaking about his association with the Dover Lane Music Conference, a premier event for Indian classical music lovers in Eastern India that has over time acquired an international reputation, Pandit Jasraj said that he had played at the very first conference that was organised 61 years ago.

 “The age of 61 years is when a musician steps into his youth,” said the octogenarian singer wishing the organisers of the music conference success.

Recalling the first conference held in “dingy Dover Lane”, he said that it had transformed into an event of repute.

When sitar player Nishat Khan, who is the son of surbahar player Imrat Khan and nephew of Villayat Khan, spoke of his excitement over his maiden performance at the Dover Lane conference, Pandit Jasraj said, “When you have played here, it is a sign that you have arrived.”

 The maestro, who will perform at the conference this year, speaks fluent Bengali and calls Kolkata “my home”.

The other musicians who will be performing at the four-day event starting on January 22 each had their memories to share. Tabla exponent Swapan Chowdhury became visibly emotional when he recalled the occasion when he accompanied Ustad Ali Akbar Khan in his last performance here.

 Tabla player Samar Saha recalled his memory of the conference in the days of his youth when he could not afford a ticket.

“We would try to sneak a peak into the proceedings by hanging around the venue and wait for some people to leave the concert so that we could beg them to hand over their tickets to us. From sneaking around to actually playing on stage, it has been an amazing journey,” said Samar Saha, adding that he hoped young artists who might be sneaking around the venue today may also have the opportunity to play on stage some day.