Pandit Jasraj

Pandit Jasraj
Pandit Jasraj has even performed at the Oceanus Lounge. It was the first Indian classical concert in Antarctica. There were people from over twenty countries in the audience., Photo Credit: Prashant Panjiar

The Indian classical vocalist recollects crossing the Drake passage in Antarctica on a full-moon night as a terrible experience

Kavita Devgan
April 01 , 2014
03 Min Read

Pandit Jasraj: Earlier this year I travelled to Antarctica. From Mumbai, I flew to New York with my son. Then we took a flight to Ushuaia in Argentina (via Buenos Aires), the southernmost city in the world. This is where we boarded the Sea Spirit cruise to Antarctica, where on January 8; I performed at the Oceanus Lounge. This was the first Indian classical concert in Antarctica. There were people from over twenty countries in the audience and our music was very well received.


Among the other unforgettable experiences on board, was the crossing of the Drake Passage — a body of water where the Atlantic, Pacific and the Southern Ocean meet — on a full-moon night. The waters were so turbulent we were falling off our beds, and the ship was rocking and bouncing in the water like a ball. And then we got lost! Often during the course of the trip, we would board smaller inflatable boats to explore the icebergs and wildlife. On one such occasion, we couldn’t find our way back. Since the ship couldn’t be anchored, it had moved from its original location. We were unable to establish contact on the walkie-talkie and it took us four (intimidating yet exciting) hours to locate it.

OT: Did you travel as a child?

Pandit Jasraj: My earliest travel memories are of travelling by train with my mother and older brother from our village Pili Mandori in Haryana’s Hissar district to Wardha in Maharashtra, where my father, Sangeet Ratna Pt Motiramji, was. I remember seeing him on the platform, waiting to receive us. Later, when he passed away in Hyderabad — I was four years old then — we moved there.

OT: Do you identify with any country’s music?

Pandit Jasraj: The music of Pakistan and Bangladesh resonates with me because they are both very close to Indian music. I also appreciate symphonies in Western classical music.

OT: Where did you go for your first tour out of India?

Pandit Jasraj: I was about twenty-two and had been invited to perform in Nepal. After my very first rendition, King Tribhuvan awarded me 5,000 mohurs. I was very young then and was humbled by his gesture.

OT: Your most memorable performance/s?

Pandit Jasraj: By the grace of the Almighty, there have been numerous performances all over the world. But my performance at the Rome Festival in 1980 stands out. There were close to 4,000 people for the recitals preceding mine. But by the time I took the stage the audience had dwindled. Every artist was scheduled to perform on two days. For my second concert, there was a huge turnout on the basis of reviews, and though the police arrived to tell us to wrap up early (there was some sort of trouble in the city), the audience just didn’t want to get up!

OT: What are the three things you always pack?

Pandit Jasraj: My instruments, my scripts and my concert clothes.

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