Pandit Jasraj Vocal Concert – An Epitome of Musical Spirituality

Sangeet Martand Padma Vibhushan Pandit Jasraj-ji in Concert, with Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri on Tabla, Pt. Suman Ghosh and Pta.Tripti Mukherjee on Vocal Support, Amiya and Apurva Ghosh on Tanpura.      Photo: Narayan Swaminathan

Sangeet Martand Padma Vibhushan Pandit Jasraj-ji in Concert, with Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri on Tabla, Pt. Suman Ghosh and Pta.Tripti Mukherjee on Vocal Support, Amiya and Apurva Ghosh on Tanpura. Photo: Narayan Swaminathan

By Sunil Pangarkar

HOUSTON: When a child is named in India, the parents name the child for what they feel the child represents to them or for what they want it to grow-up to. The concert on 26 July in Stafford Center was named by its organizers (Center for Indian Classical Music of Houston) as the “Epitome of Musical Spirituality” and it became a reality to the packed audience. I must say that as an insider, I would be lying if I said I was surprised by that result; but I would also be withholding truth if I told you that my jaws did not drop in astonishment, inspiration and admiration.

Why should I be astonished when I know that CICMH events over the last several years have a trade mark of being probably some of the most professionally organized events? Why should I be astonished when we were listening to none other than the legendary Sangeet Martand Pt. Jasraj, legendary Pt. Swapan Chaudhuri on Tabla and the Mewati Gharana torch bearers Pt. Suman Ghosh and Pta. Tripti Mukerjee? Call it the Taj Mahal effect. No amount of books, pictures, does justice to ones’ presence with the surreal.  A work of superlative art form and the energy surrounding it has that effect.

Confluence of energetic work done by volunteers of the Saadhana Pariwar a Gurukul set up by Pandit Suman Ghosh 10 years ago, the wonderfully arranged sound & light and the picturesque stage set-up, a packed auditorium of music lovers and above all the purity of the genre displayed by the most senior Hindustani vocalist and his fellow musicians created that effect.

Inspiration can only be achieved by display of utmost perfection. Panditji is by far the embodiment of that quality. He is a superlative performer that can take a stage full of artists and the audience to a level where they may not have anticipated. Inspiration is a highly transferable feeling but it begins at the center of the stage and emanates to the surrounding, capturing all in its radiance. Panditji started with a medium slow tempo 10 beat cycle composition in Raag Puriya. It was a serene but befitting start and he later took it to the next level of energy with a faster tempo. Before the interval he left the audience soaking in the sweet sounds of Raag Khamaj Bahar. The display of the flight of a Bhanwra on Kaliyan in that bandish had such an enchanting effect that the audience returned to the auditorium within 15 minutes in anticipation for more just like a bee comes to a sweet smelling flower. The returning audience was taken to a deeply thoughtful mood of Raag Malkauns followed by a great Tarana. Then finally, Om Namo Bhagwate Vasudevaya, a bhajan based in Raag Bhimpalasi – what can I say!  The devotional energy packed by Panditji and all the supporting artists left the audience in a trance.

I could not help asking myself the question as to how has my Bade Guruji kept himself inspired by a single genre for last 60 plus years? The answer was there on the stage – he loves what he does. He loves the pure sounds of Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri’s dhir dhir kita on the tabla so he asked Swapanji to play those bols, during the concert without losing the flow. He challenged his disciples on the stage. He asked the audience to sing in chorus during a composition they know. He truly enjoys purity, creativity and performing with full engagement. That is not only the secret source of his own inspiration – but also a lesson one can take to every walk of life.

What can I say about my admiration? The grand conceptualization of the concert by my Guruji Pandit Suman Ghosh; The power of selfless work done by volunteers of the Saadhana Pariwar; The lovely speech given by the Chief Guest our Consul General P. Harish in Hindi; The supportive and respectful audience; The artists who traveled from a long distances to give us this divine experience. But I reserve my highest admiration for the Khalifa of the Mewati Gharana – Padma Vibhushan Sangeet Martand Pt. Jasraj who at his age and despite some recent medical difficulties gave his absolute best to the Houston audience.

In the closing comments by Panditji for the 10 year celebratory concert of Saadhana Pariwar, he likened the development of his musical family to a “garden” created by Pt. Suman Ghosh in Houston and Pta. Tripti Mukerjee in New York and New Jersey. He expressed his fulfillment in seeing those gardens develop and get a chance to roam around in them when he visits the United States. To Houstonians he said “take care of Pt. Ghosh because he is anmol”.