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Honouring the Maestro

Honouring the Maestro
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To continue the legacy of Sumitra Charat Ram, the illustrious arts patron, who founded Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra in 1952, her daughter, Shobha Deepak Singh, has kept alive her mother’s memory through an award instituted by the Kendra. Instituted to be alternatively given to musicians and dancers with at least 30 years of art practice, the award honours the stalwarts of performing arts. This year, Pandit Jasraj was felicitated with the Sumitra Charat Ram Award for Lifetime Achievement on 17 November, at the capital's Kamani Auditorium. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, presented the award.

'I initiated the award to create a benchmark that custodians of Indian cultural forms will value, carrying forward global legacies that have taken birth in India. In felicitating the Indian stalwart Pandit Jasraj, undoubtedly the award has found an appropriate recipient of the honour. Earlier, the award has been given to Pt Birju Maharaj, Kishori Amonkar and Mayadhar Raut' says Shobha Deepak Singh.

The event also marks the commencement of the year long celebrations to commemorate Sumitra Charat Ram’s centenary birth anniversary who was born on November 17, 1914 in Meerut. After schooling in Nainital and Allahabad, she joined the Benares Hindu University, headed at that time by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, where she was influenced by the thoughts of renowned writers such as Jaishankar Prasad, Mahadevi Verma, Ramdhari Sinha Dinkar and other luminaries.

She herself organised a night-long concert to commemorate India’s new-found independence.

Sumitra ji's biggest passion was for Kathak, her biggest achievement being the resurrection of the dance form under the aegis of the Kendra. Bharatiya Kala Kendra continued to grow from strength to strength. One of its milestones was the establishment of Kamani Auditorium.

Today, the institution is a multifaceted organisation that teaches a wide variety of classical Indian dance styles, as well as vocal and instrumental music.

Pt Jasraj himself needs no introduction. Born in 1930 in Hissar, Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj hails from a family which has produced three generations of musicians belonging to the Mewati gharana.

Endowed with a rich and resonant voice, which traverses a range of three and a half octaves, Pandit ji’s style has been characterised by classical purity in delineation of raga, clarity in diction, music laden with bhakti bhava so much so that it touches the hearts of the listeners which is practically the essence of Indian music. He has done a lot of research on Haveli sangeet, and his mentor in Pushti Margi Sangit has been Pujja Goswami Shyam Baba ji. He himself has written and composed a number of compositions.

Pandit ji has been honoured and awarded with a number of titles, prominent among them include Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri, Sangeet Martand, Sangeet Kala Ratna, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and Rajiv Gandhi Award for Professional Excellence.

Apart from holding many prestigious positions in different organisations, Pandit Jasraj has been a visiting Professor at Ali Akbar Music College, USA, and has been conducting coaching classes in Vancouver, Canada.

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