One of his compositions “Yashodhara” composed by him for me in 1978-79 is still relevant and never fails to move the audience.
As I left the Deshmukh Auditorium of the India International Center (IIC) on Thursday, October 3, I received heartbreaking news that left me stunned. A long-time colleague and my music composer-singer, Pandit Jwala Prasad, who was decorated with the Sangeet Natak award a few years ago, was no more. Jwalaji and I had worked together since 1975 until a few years ago when his health took him to hospital, and he asked his son Madho to replace him. But even after he recovered, father and son continued to sing for me and compose music for me. The last major musical composition he did for me was for my dance ballet “The Bhagwad: Ma Ganga Dhyayati” which was staged in Kamani a few months ago in an overflowing auditorium. He had accompanied me in all my dance programs and dance tours whether in India or abroad. Even though there are a number of music composers and singers, what sets him apart from others is his deep sense of musicality, whether it is absolutely Indian classical or in the semi-classical genre. He took care to understand the meaning of each word and to internalize the meaning of the text before composing. The result was a stream of beautiful, evocative musical compositions. One of his compositions “Yashodhara” composed by him for me in 1978-79 is still relevant and never fails to move the audience.
His creativity was put to the test when I asked him to compose the music for Muktilekha, a dance ballet based on the theme of human rights. As the eminent jurist, the late Dr. LM Singhvi, wanted it not to degenerate into the usual caste class so familiar to Indian society, but to encompass a succinctly global phenomenon, it was a challenge not only for me to conceptualize the treatment of dance and its execution but also for Jwalaji in terms of musical genres to use. He called me normally and told me that he could only come at 10 p.m. for my musical compositions and that we sat until 3 a.m. to compose the music. My mother was also seated, providing input during the music composition sessions. And what fabulous music he composed! The symphony was amazing, so much so that I had to play the recordings of the composition session because it was hard for people to believe that it was Jwalaji who had composed such music!
I have many personal memories and anecdotes from our travels together. It was the time when there were no Internet reservations. The difficulties of getting confirmed seats after our programs were adventures in themselves with Jwalaji and the late tabla maestro Ustad Shafaat Ahmed Khan trying to plead with the ticket conductor while I watched our instruments. When touring internationally, my three-year-old grandson, Ishan, kept Jwalaji on his toes. My little three-year-old Ishan was mesmerized when he saw Jwalaji greeting his fellow musicians with “Adawarz hai”. Since he couldn’t say the greeting properly, Jwalaji joked about giving the greeting a twist that left us in shambles. Not only did he tell Ishan with a serious face that such a greeting should be accompanied by a slight gasp. Ishan never forgot him, and whenever the two met, their greeting was with a jump – even at Ishan’s wedding reception.
There are so many things I could say about Jwalaji – his incredible musical creativity, the musical genius he was as well as the good friend and jovial, caring person he was! Where do I start and where do I end? I do not know. What I do know is that he left a void. But he will always live on in our hearts and minds; he will always delight and captivate the public with his great musical compositions!
The writer is a prominent dancer, kathak guru and dance teacher