FIVE MINUTES WITH PANDIT JASRAJ
Age and class were on display in Pandit Jasraj’s suite last Sunday: the Nadal-Federer Australian Open final. Jasraj has been a wildly popular star since before Federer was born, and is the oldest of the living greats of Hindustani classical music. He turned 87 on January 28, and, remarkably, is still performing close to his prime. He spoke of his life in music. Highlights:
On being in excellent voice at 87
Music is yoga. It focuses the mind inward. That gives strength.
On what he listens to
Everything playing anywhere: filmi music, qawwali, bhajan. No conscious choice, except when friends insist. Listen in quantity, quality follows.
On praise from fans versus the admiration of peers
Audiences praise with feeling, musicians with understanding. I remember an old man in a dirty dhoti, trampling his way to the front row, and appreciating the way I filled in a missed sam (principal beat). Or a little girl in a mandir I was singing in, scolding me for not suiting my music to the time of day.
On spirituality and his style
Everyone is spiritual when they listen to music, even an atheist [points at me].
On developing individuality
A phrase which haunts and obsesses you; with time, it becomes yours. Anyway, if you are proud of your gharana and people want to listen to you what else matters?
For the record
Jasraj and daughter Durga support Nadal, who lost. Federer was “lucky”.