Legendary vocalist Pandit Jasraj dies: The Raga continues
With a career spanning 80 years, Indian classical vocalist Pandit Jasraj’s oeuvre ranged from the world stage to Indian film music. His demise has left a deep void among the music connoisseurs around the world
Recipient of various prestigious awards and honours including Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan, Indian classical vocalist Pandit Jasraj was a force to reckon within the country’s music space. The doyen who turned 90 in January, passed away on Monday following a cardiac arrest at his home in New Jersey.
“With profound grief, we inform that Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj ji breathed his last this morning at 5.15 EST due to a cardiac arrest at his home in New Jersey, USA,” a statement issued by his family said.
A rich career behind him, with his performances of classical and semi-classical vocals becoming albums and film soundtracks, he felt fortunate to belong to a generation which has and continues to witness exciting times in classical music. With a musical career spanning almost 80 years, he has taught music in India, Canada and the US.
Reacting to the legend’s demise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “The unfortunate demise of Pandit Jasraj Ji leaves a deep void in the Indian cultural sphere. Not only were his renditions outstanding, he also made a mark as an exceptional mentor to several other vocalists. Condolences to his family and admirers worldwide. Om Shanti.”
Born in Haryana, Jasraj belonged to the Mewati gharana and was introduced to vocal music by his father.
His rendition of Raga Ahir Bhairav was used in Ang Lee’s global hit of 2012, Life Of Pi and he also sang Vandana Karo in the 1966 film Ladki Sahyadri Ki. Jasraj’s other soundtrack contributions are his Jugalbandi with Bhimsen Joshi in the 1973 film, Birbal My Brother and Vaada Tumse Hai in the 2008 horror film, 1920.
Recently, in an interview he had shared that after over 80 years in music, he doesn’t feel that his relationship with music is “of only this lifetime.”
“In different stages of life, one plays different roles — early in life, you are only learning, later you are practicing hard, after which you start performing a lot and then comes a stage where you are imparting your knowledge. I feel fortunate that all these stages in my life have remained constant and evolving. For instance, while I teach, I am learning a lot. Every individual has something to give (to) another. The student in me has always been a constant and active part of my musical journey and has kept me always hungry to learn,” Jasraj had said.
Born in 1930, the exponent had seen the evolution from pre-Independence era, from Maharajas as the biggest patrons of classical music to the 1950s and 1960s when All India Radio was pivotal in shaping one’s career.
Then came recording labels, followed by music tours worldwide, which took musicians like himself to varied audience who found this music soulful and attractive. Jasraj had also mentioned the rise of mass media in India with the growth of television. He felt that the present state is rife with social media and digital “which has brought music lovers much closer to their favourite musicians.”
Even at 90, he felt the zeal to do more. “When I am on stage to perform, I am equally nervous and excited to create something new, as I was probably for the very first time,” the vocalist had shared.
While he spent months travelling across the world, for concerts as well as teaching music, he kept pace with how the classical music space has grown in India and globally. He had said, “At any given time, there are so many musicians traveling and performing across the world. The patronage of corporates today has played a huge role in promoting the classical arts. The audience have grown manifold in numbers — the following has increased from only serious connoisseurs, to masses who attend concerts in large numbers for the simple love of music. I find the future brighter than ever before.”
In September last year, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) had named the planet 2006 VP32 (number -300128) in the name of the doyen as ‘Panditjasraj.’ With this minor planet named after him, who was the first-ever Indian musician to get this honour, it is also a recognition of his valuable contributions to the arts and the society.
Asked about the news, he had shared, “This was a big surprise for me, I wasn’t aware that planets could be named after humans. When I got to know this, I was humbled beyond words. I was told that this planet is situated between Mars and Jupiter and since Jupiter is considered to be Guru, I felt that my Gurus willed it and later when I started to understand the enormity of this honour, I felt like dedicating this to Indian classical musicians and music lovers.”
—With inputs from agencies
Tuesday, 18 August 2020 | PNS
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