A Simpleton’s Ode to a Music God
My skirmish with Indian Classical music date back to the days in the early 80’s when I had started my preteens. It was a battle where I compare myself to a prisoner in the jail who was made to sit in the gathering of classical singing. We lived in a two room rented house, so poor me! I had no option either to sit in the musical gathering or shut myself in the other room available. My parents were newly introduced to ghazals of Ghulam Ali, Mehndi Hassan and of all Jagajit Singh (pun intended because to my music connoisseur a parent the latter was not hardcore ghazal singer like the formers) by some of their dear friends and boy! They were hooked to it.
During those well tuned musical soirees at our house sometimes one of our neighbors with a classical music aptitude used to join the gathering to display the knowledge of his wife who was a classical singer. My parents though never into classical genre used to politely encourage the ladies singing repertoire. For me, that moment was a terrible torture (and no pun intended), a torture of difficult ghazals and on to the slow singing of Hindustani singing. There was no respite only the nine inches wall used to separate my world from their world.
Those days though gave me a great offering of a music ear, as I describe here, for me music is what’s pleasant to my ear, and with age it has evolved in something new form all the time. If the 80’s were dedicated to Jitendra’s Himmatwala, Mavali or Tohfa, to nineties when I was in my twenties to love songs of Sajan, QSQT, Jo Jeeta wohi Sikander and many others. And then came the turn of the twenty first century these twenties years I would say are the best in my music repertoire of listening to hold your breath Jagajit Singh, Pt. Rajan Sajan Mishra, Pundit Jasraj, Pundit Bhimsen Joshi, Gundecha Bandhu, as if I have become myn own parents. Though sometimes, I have to match the taste of my boys by listening to Bob Marley, Louis Armstrong, Beatles, and Simon Garfunkel. Coming back to classical music again, I would say my introduction to the magical music lies back to the listening to bits and snatches in the 80’s musical evenings in my house where ghazals and classical singing flowed each weekend.
For me the best tribute to Pundit Jasaraj would be to bow my head for his approach to making the music understandable for me and millions of fans like me. I am an admittedly classical music illiterate; I don’t know the fine difference between Raga and Taal, Gharana or Tappa. But when the voice of Punditji boomed in the music system singing, “Mero Allah Meherbaan”, makes me feel as if God himself comes down from heaven to listen to Punditji. I don’t know what a Gharana is but either it is “Mewati Gharana” or “Maihar Gharana” or “Jaipur Gharna” all have reached out with blissful music to the common man, and I and my wife am the proud soldier of the tribe. Sometimes listening to Punditji’s rendering of “Jagdamb, Jagdamb” I feel as if Maa Durga will transcend down to listen to her bhakt. In an interview in the today’s vernacular paper a flautist reminisces, what Punditji told him, “Music and Bhakti are one?” True to the core because music invokes the God among us, I feel the oneness, as we listen to the Bhakti Bhajans of Punditji and other maestros daily.
I am an aspiring autodidact, because I myself am trying to learn the fine nuances of classical singing and music. It transports me from the katzenjammer of the mundane normal life to the world of eternal bliss. It gives me peace happiness and quietude. For this world was unknown to me two decades back. I feel gratitude for the music geniuses who brought music down from the courts of kings, polite claps in the Shanmukhananda Halls of the metros to the house hold of the common man. I now love to see people listening more enthusiastically in musical gatherings in my town which is a geographical microcosm to the large world. All the credit goes to these musical gods like Pundit Jasraj who made us believe that they are reachable and we also can shamelessly clap in the soirees and cajole them with our quenchless ‘once more’. I hope the Gods don’t get embarrassed by our brashness, but Dear Gods we also love music, though we may be musically illiterate.
In my tribute to Pundit Jasraj I would not like to dive into his biographical history, oh! Everybody knows about it or can be read copiously on the internet. But I would like to pay a personal homage to him, a time when he bestowed reassurance to my distressed soul. My mother passed away in November 2012, and as a Hindu household we were going through the period of prayers and remembrance to her departed soul. One day my brother-in-law played on his cell phone the bhajan, “Govind Damodar Madhaveti” a strotra written by blind ascetic Bilvamangala Thakura. And when Punditji started with “kararvinde na padarvindam” in his clear voice it struck an instant chord inside me! I felt the oneness with Krishna, I enquired with the musically tuned wife, who was singing? (till that time my differentiation between Pundits Jasraj and Bhimsen was not great), and she replied Pundit Jasraj. My soul felt peace in those days of great loss. And that took me to the journey of appreciating and admiring the great classical singers which I travel incessantly.
Thank you, Pundit Jasraj and other musical greats who gave an ignorant soul to understand the great music. To me it was the geniuses who again brought music to the reach of common people. Now heaven must be pleased to have you in their midst.