CAMBRIDGE, MA–Pandit Jasraj, the 88-year-old living legend of Indian classical music, won the hearts and of minds of Bostonians on Saturday with his unique style of singing devotional songs and experimenting while doing so.
“He launched in with ‘Devi Stuti’, a hymn to the divine feminine which is generally sung as an invocation. However, he sang it in Raga Pooriya as a full Hindustani khyal. Very few musicians have the courage to do such innovation with full flair as Pandit Jasraj,” said Shekhar Shastri, a singer himself and founder of Meru Foundation. “While many musicians remain stuck in meaningless ‘saas nanadiya’ kind of lyrics, Pandit ji displays immense attention in his choice of poetic lyrics that can have deep meaning and emotional engagement for the audience.”
Mr. Shastri said that Pandit ji, who was greeted with a standing ovation as he entered the stage, also experimented as he sang.
“I went in to bask in his melodious presence for a taste of the divine,” said Mr. Shastri. “In the many decades that I have known him, he always has and did it again, by opening the door to our own higher self.”
The event, which was organized by MITHAS, also capped the MITHAS 25th Spring Season.
Pandit Jasraj, the 88-year-old living legend of Indian classical music, began with his typical greeting “Jai Ho” and sang several devotional songs and bhajans, including Ya devi sarvabhuteshu; Chandraghanta dharini; Vraje vasantam navaneeta choram; Hanuman lala; and Hare krishna govind.
Pandit Jasraj was supported by vocalist Tripti Mukherjee on harmonium and accompanied by Aditya Narayan Banerjee and Nitin Mitta on Tabla.
Pandit Jasraj has rightly been called India’s best gift to the world. He created a novel form of jugalbandi called Jasrangi that is styled on the ancient system of moorchhana, between a male and a female vocalist, who each sing different ragas at the same time.
Puran Dang, chairman-emeritus of MITHAS and his wife Kamlesh, also honored MITHAS founder George Ruckert with a service award for his 25 years of service to MITHAS, which is celebrating 25th anniversary.
“My friendship with George Ruckert is the most precious gift of God to me. George was drawn to the greatest musician, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and learnt from and served him for 25 years. As his disciple and later as the Executive Director of Ali Akbar Khan College of Music, George set a record of true service to his Guru. He lived a simple life all those years as a spiritual son of his master,” said Mr. Dang.
After coming to MIT as Lecturer f Music, Mr. Ruckert again proved by his 25 years of leadership and service to MITHAS and continuing that call of his soul was more empowering than mere money, said Mr. Dang.
“He has served Mithas without taking a cent all these years. For me, George is my true friend for all time to come. He has infused not only spiritual music in my being but also made me a better person by defining to me the best meaning of ‘loyalty and true Service for a noble cause’.”