| 15 Apr 2024
Durga Jasraj - "Jalsa is a platform where musicians communicate intelligently"

Maybe it's time that the way we recall Durga Jasraj changes. She's not only the daughter of the legendary Pt Jasraj, but now, in her own right, also a producer and organiser who has been making phenomenal contributions to the Indian classical music -  more so with her business acumen and organising skills.

Durga Jasraj teamed up with Vikram Shankar and since then, there has been no looking back. The duo have worked on concepts which have been widely appreciated by music lovers. Since it's inception, her company Art & Artistes ventured into everything musical – from live theme concerts, music festivals to concept albums.

In 2000, Durga Jasraj formed the much needed body for classical musicians called IMA (Indian Music Academy) and went on to organizing world-class concerts and concepts such as Golden Voice Golden Years, Utsav, Jalsa, Tiranga and Cult Fusion.

Art & Artistes ongoing show 'Idea Jalsa' - an concert series of IMA is currently being aired on Doordarshan.'s Chirag Sutar speaks to Durga Jasraj on her latest offering to music lovers.

The TV show Idea Jalsa has been a real treat for all the music lovers, can you tell me the idea behind it?

In Jalsa, we have a legendary artiste– someone who has the capacity and ability to draw audience. And, along with the star performer, we introduce a young maestro or say an upcoming musician/ singer either teaming up or opening for these legendary artistes. The genre's spread from Hindustani, Ghazal, Carnatic, Folk, Bhajan to Sufi and Folk.

Tell us about IMA and its functioning?

It's a body of musicians and it has patrons to the academy. The key patrons are Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt. Shiv Kumar, Pt. Jasraj, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Lata Mangeshkar, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Louis Banks to name a few. I had conceived this project in 2000 and worked on it for six years.

One of the main objectives is to popularize classical music and all the patrons represent different genres so this body represents music which exists in India it's restricted to only classical music. Besides that, IMA also provides medical aid to musicians in need. Today there are more than 1000 members who are professional musicians and music teachers from across the country and there's no membership fee to join the academy.

Who funds it?

We don't believe that IMA needs funding from donations, and I am glad we are approaching in a very corporate way if anybody has to donate, it's going to be Art&Artistes. I have had people sent me cheques, but I have returned them back graciously.

Are these young maestros/ musicians (who are part of Jalsa) only from IMA?

Well, anybody can be a part of IMA if you have a served music for 10 years. IMA is a movement, it's beyond becoming just member If you feel that you want to be in IMA to be on Jalsa then you have to prove that you are better.

Jalsa is actually a mark if some young maestro has played for IMA Jalsa music series, it goes without saying that that person is a worthy musician because Jalsa exclusively gives you quality. It's a prestigious platform where musicians communicate intelligently and sensibly to communicate and break the ice between the audience and the artiste.

Did you choose Doordarshan for Idea Jalsa' to reach a wider audience?

I didn't choose the channel as much as the channel chose us. Doordarshan has certain duties towards people, but it's not that we are getting a free slot. However, I am happy that I am free to do things the way I want.

Other channels are very skeptical to touch this music even if you have an Shankar Mahadevan performing... the channels will insist that he sings suno gaur se duniyawalo and not a Marathi Abhang they are allergic to good music I don't blame them, they have very high stakes.

For us, Idea has been a great sponsor. They have never interfered in the content and their confidence has only risen in us they are focused on association. It would be disastrous if I took Jalsa with some other sponsor or to some other channel.

You had done a project in similar lines before (Utsav), what happened to that?

I did 'Utsav' in 2007 which has already been aired in America. I would say that this was my biggest successful failure' because, in my own way, I had established myself as a producer, and STAR was supposed to air it in India. Later, they signed on Amitabh Bachan (for KBC) and never looked back, eventually the channels policies also changed.

Don't you think it's much easier for you to get these legendary musicians on one platform?

Well, knowing them helps me but one has to be a professional. I am doing projects with them on a continual basis and I have to understand their likes and dislikes. All these musicians have earned their reputation and no musicians would want to associate themselves with substandard work. Musicians expect me to understand them in a better way compared to any other organization, so my responsibility level goes up it's not easy.

From a music lover's perspective, isn't 30 minutes very less for a classical music show?

In the last 25 years we have not had serious music on television and it's only when you want something more that you come back. The reason we are having this for 30 minutes is because I believe that over indulgence can kill it we are taking one step at a time.

How are you marketing/advertising 'Jalsa'?

Advertising for this is very limited, it's a baby step, because the more you invest, the more is the responsibility.

The Jalsa Live concerts have also been widely appreciated, tell me about that.

It would be safe to say that the concerts have been successful so far. In 23 months we organized around 36 Jalsa concerts. We also incorporated many new elements like having an interactive session between the musicians and the listeners. Besides that, we have been experimenting with genres and offering something new to the people. For instance, we took Ghazal's to Trivandrum and the response was surprising. There have been occasions when the young maestro's where not allowed to get up in spite of having a legendary artiste scheduled to perform right next. In the first year, we only promoted Hindustani and Carnatic Music. But as we moved ahead we have been promoting Hindustani, Ghazal, Carnatic, Folk, Bhajan, Sufi and Folk. On an average, around 3000-3500 listeners have been attending these non-ticketed concerts.

Would you be going digital with the content that you have, considering the fact that it is a major revenue generating stream?

We have the content now and in time we can explore that possibility. The content that we have has a special value it's non-bollywood, and it's not the kind of music which will get dated. In fact, �Jalsa' will have its own archival value for generations because of its timeless nature.

Why did you choose to call it Jalsa'?

Whenever a concert would happen, my father's elder brother, Pt Maniramji, always said Aaj Jalsa' Hai... - Jalsa' means celebration I really liked the name.