'Your transcendental music left listeners in a state of bliss': Shashi Vyas writes to his 'Bapuji', Pandit Jasraj
Pandit Jasraj's close friend and confidant Shashi Vyas writes: 'I am so gutted Bapuji that someone like you, who loved to share his every moment with people around him, quietly left us on this journey alone'
How do I react to your sudden departure on a one-way journey, that too alone, without letting anyone know, from this world to an unknown destination in this universe? This is certainly not your characteristic.
Whatever little I know about you, you always enjoyed being in the company of people. To substantiate my observation, I recall your concert at Jalgaon way back in 2005. The concert was organised by our company to celebrate the golden jubilee year of a co-operative bank.
You were the concluding artiste on the first day. The huge crowd, easily more than 10,000-strong, was captivated by your music which took them subconsciously in a state of trance. After the concert, we all returned to the hotel and I got you some homemade food at your suite. You requested me to join you for dinner; I reluctantly refused as the whole production crew and your co-artistes were waiting for me in the dining room of the hotel.
You felt a little sad and disappointed, and said: "Shashibabu agar meri jagah bade bhaiyya [meaning my father, Pandit CR Vyas] hote to kya tum aise hi unko mana karte jaise mujhe kiya? Mujhe yahaan akela chhod ke aap sab ikattha hoke maje karoge aur main is kamre me akela chhat ko dekhte dekhte apna khaana khaau? Mujhe aapke saath baithke khaaneka aur gappe lagaane ka aanand nahi doge?"
Such was your humility, that those words left me embarrassed and dumbfounded at the same time. I hastened to reassure you that my sole thought had been that you might want to rest as soon as you finished dinner, and that was the only reason you had been served in your room. With a mischievous smile, you immediately requested me that I take your meal to the dining room, where you joined the entire group consisting of your co-artistes, our production crew and some representatives from the host bank.
It was a night to remember for all of us. However, on your arrival in the dining room, the group which was busy cracking jokes and laughing loudly suddenly fell silent. You looked at them and said, "Kya bhai aap sab mere aane se naaraz hai kya jo aapne hasna band kiya?" Then you saw Jyoti, my wife, and asked her why you were not given the breakfast at a recently-held maiden spiritual morning concert where you performed. Jyoti jokingly replied that breakfast was free only for ticket holders and probably it was not served to you as you did not buy the ticket! You laughed out loud at this, and the atmosphere immediately became lively and playful. The conversation over dinner lasted over two hours!
After wrapping up, you requested a drop to the airport, with a surprise stop at your disciple’s house en route. You hugged me affectionately and said that you had a good time. I remember I asked you to take some rest and then head to the airport, but you politely replied, "Nahi, meri is shishya ko mile bagair nahi. Uske ghar coffee peene ke baad hi main airport chala jaunga."
This incident highlighted two things about you — your affection towards your students, and the fact that you are a people’s man. You are a soul who is most relaxed and happy when you are amongst people. I am so gutted Bapuji that someone like you, who loved to share his every moment with people around him, quietly left us on this journey alone.
Bapuji, your mellifluous voice moved with ease in all the three octaves. It was filled with deep emotive expressions, taking the lyrical content beyond its normal dictionary definitions and meanings, and conveyed multiple interpretations of the same through the divine musical notes overflowing like a river of imagination yearning to merge into the deep ocean of spirituality.
I remember sometime around 1975-76, you'd performed unforgettable renditions of Raga Malkauns followed by Raga Lalit in Rangbhavan. You were the concluding artist and you'd begun performing at 11.30 at night and finished at 3.30 am. We were left awestruck with your dexterity over layakari (rhythmic interplay) which was a very rare feat to achieve in classical music and only a handful of artists could do that. And then cut to just three-four years ago at the Gunidas Sangeet Sammelan in Mumbai's Nehru Centre, when you'd sung Raga Gorakh Kalyan, each and every member of the audience had tears in their eyes. Even after all these years, in your late-80s... your precision with notes, your preparation, your range...there wasn't a crack in your voice.
When I say mellifluous, with respect to your voice, I mean a lot of things: it is masculine, yet very sweet; it is filled with emotions from shringar rasa to bhakti rasa to karuna rasa — everything; it is always profound and layered, never superficial and that is something which applies to both your voice texture and the way you rendered compositions.
Your transcendental music left every listener in a state of bliss, pure joy, or as you put it: 'nirmal anand'. Personally, I titled you as a ‘listener-friendly singer’. Every time you sang 'Om Namo Bhagwate Vasudevay' (Raga Nata Bhairav) or ‘Mero Alla Meherbaan’ (Raga Ahir Bhairav) or ‘Mata Kalika’ (Raga Adana)or 'Chidanand Roopam Shivoham’ (Raga Darbari) or many such compositions, each and every person present in the audience would subconsciously immerse themselves into that ‘naad brahma’ (melodic universe) so much that all those present became your reflection, individually and holistically. No wonder for them, that very moment you were their ‘Sangeet Martand’, the title you cherished more than any other award.
Since my teenage years, I have been listening to your music. There have been many unforgettable moments. In the mid-70s, we gradually evolved from casual listeners to serious ones, from hearing to listening to the music of legendary artistes like you. You are a lighthouse for many aspiring musicians who have taken a plunge into the vast ocean of Indian classical music. Your mere presence gave all of us an inexplicable positivity and energy to help us to not only survive in this fiercely competitive and ruthless world but also guided us to enjoy every moment in otherwise mundane life.
Once again with my heartfelt protest against your one-way journey, I, as a firm believer in reincarnation theory, herewith rest my humble submission with an earnest appeal to you and the divine force that you please come back and give this world the privilege of experiencing Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj, again.
Shashi Vyas is a chartered accountant-turned-Indian classical music impresario. He is also the founder and managing director of Pancham Nishad Creatives, an organisation set up in 1996 with an objective to preserve, promote and popularise the rich cultural heritage of India across the globe.
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