Pandit Jasraj and Shashank do a jugalbandi on the guru-shishya relationship and all things musical

PHOTO: BHAGYA PRAKASH K.

NOTEWORTHY Pandit Jasraj, Shashank and the delicate sound of Hindustani music

Awards and titles have not only been bestowed on this doyen of North Indian vocal music, Pandit Jasraj, but have also been instituted in his name. The University of Toronto, for the first time in 200 years, has instituted a scholarship in his name for young Canadians wishing to train in the medium; an auditorium is built in his name in New York and the Rotary Club of Bombay instituted a rolling trophy in his name. All this and more are a standing testimony to the Pandit Jasraj's greatness.

It is said that even at nine months, Shashank was initiated into music even before he spoke any language. Six years into vocal music, he stunned people when he picked up his father's flute to produce spontaneous melody. Barely 14, his maiden flute concert at Adelaide in Australia was just the thunderous beginning for the boy who hasn't looked back since.

Shashank wants more melodic travel, and his plane has now touched down at the World of Hindustani in Pandit Jasraj's classes in Mumbai. The integration of the two mediums were not just in their classes, Jasraj and Shashank recently came together to perform at IDEA and IMA's `Jalsa' series in the city.

RANJANI GOVIND recorded an informal chat with the two who shared some of their thoughts on Indian classical music and their unique guru-shisya relationship.

Shashank: It is certainly very exciting for me to share the stage with you panditji. I had the honour of performing for your father's birthday back in 1993 and last year too. For a long time I have wanted to learn Hindustani Music from you. And you have been generous to accept me as your disciple. I have enjoyed every minute I spent with you for the last one year. You are a person of great eminence and a senior too. I was just born when you were already a renowned artiste in 1974.

Jasraj: Shashank, you are young in age, but mature in talent! You may have just started, yet your melody is seasoned. In a few years time, you will be known all over the world.

Shashank: Guruji, I pale before you. I cannot take these compliments.It is a dream to be performing with you in Jalsa.

Jasraj: Why should you think it is a dream? You are talented, so you are on the dais with me today.

Shashank: I remember when I saw you for the first time in Chennai when you came to receive the National Integration Award. I was overwhelmed to see you in flesh and blood. Jasraj: I have to tell you something interesting about an HMV Award that I received soon after. Only a year before I had recorded "Mano buddhi ahankara chittani na aham" and HMV released it. M.S. Subbulakshmi Amma had heard it and enjoyed it. HMV said it was a hit song and wanted to award me. They were nice enough to ask me who I would prefer to have the title conferred. I said I would like to receive the award from from the great Subbulakshmi.When HMV asked her to present the award, she said, `Only if he sings `Mano buddhi ahankara chittani na aham!' Memorable moments like these are what every musician likes to talk about. And so it isn't a surprise that you remember your first meeting with me!"

Shashank: I have pursued my dream guruji. Although I am trained in Carnatic music, the Hindustani genre has always fascinated me and I enjoy the way in which you go about it.

Jasraj: You are always two steps ahead of me in class! I have to exercise my teacher's wand to keep you in control (laughs and hugs Shashank). Believe me, his talent and focus are astounding! Har ek student ko aise lagan hona zaroori hai.

Shashank: My classes are a curious mix of many motivating factors. I get to see the scholarly world and the performing world when I sit before you.You teach me the nuances of presentations. The lyrical stresses, the demarcations of the contours of raag delineations, sense of timing, the choice of raags, concert packaging... well the list could go on and on.

Jasraj: The very fact that you observe so much goes to show that you are way above. Bhagawan chahe, sabko aisi student ho! Do you remember how you called me at 1.30 in the morning to tell me about your recording of raag Sohini the next day? I got enthusiastic and sang a few compositions in the raag at that hour! By the way, what do you enjoy while learning?

Shashank: I enjoyed learning Bhairav for starters from you, and the fact that you started the raag on Guru Purnima Day was a great feeling. The beginnings in Carnatic are with the equivalent, Mayamalavagowla, and I enjoyed the style in which you made me tread on swars that detail the Hindustani shyli. I am now awake to the medium. If a South Indian artiste can integrate some of the values of Hindustani music, it could be more enjoyable in terms of variety in raag alaaps and clear lyrical intonations.

Jasraj: Every school is rich in content and every musician adds to the general flavour. In 1955 Bade Ghulam Ali Khan had commended Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer's voice range and the selection of kritis after listening to a four-hour concert. Do you know that Indian musicians can sing in three-octaves and the Westerners are in awe of this quality? Madonna had come on stage and told me after a concert in New York that Indians had amazing tone and timbre!

If there is one advice I would like to give it is practice, perfection and purity of notes that one has to be constantly be working upon. Music learning is an ongoing class. Nobody passes out. Every musician is a student forever.