Pandit Jasraj, Indian classical music veteran, passes away

He was the last of the golden era of Indian classical vocalists.

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Pandit Jasraj, a veteran of Indian classical music, has passed away at the age of 90. A recipient of top civilian honours including Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan, the maestro’s career spanned almost eight decades.

“With profound grief we inform that Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj ji breathed his last this morning at 5.15 EST due to cardiac arrest at his home in New Jersey, USA,” a statement issued by his family read.

Pandit Jasraj was initiated into vocal training at the age of 14. He later trained as a tabla accompanist under his elder brother, Pandit Pratap Narayan. He will always be remembered for adding elements of thumri to khayal.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to social media, saying the unfortunate demise “leaves a deep void in the Indian cultural sphere.”

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan called it an extremely sad day for the world of music.

“Pandit Jasraj’s passing away marks the end of a golden era of music. I shared so many festivals with Jasraj bhai right from the sixties. He gave a different dimension to vocal music. He was an artiste who lived life on his terms and surpassed his own time. His musical approach and genius endeared him to the planet.”

Pandit Jasraj was the last of the golden era of Indian classical vocalists which included Ustad Bade Ghulaam Ali Khan, Ustad Amir Khan, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Pandit Kumar Gandharva.

Jasraj, who also taught music in India, Canada and the US, organised a musical festival annually called “Pandit Motiram Pandit Maniram Sangeet Samaroh” in Hyderabad since 1972.

Born in 1930 in Haryana, the celebrated classical singer presented the Mewati Gharana to the global music connoisseur. His musical body of work ranged from the world stage to Indian film music.

His rendition of “Raga Ahir Bhairav” was used in Ang Lee’s global hit Life Of Pi (2012) and he also sang “Vandana karo” in the 1966 film Ladki Sahyadri Ki. Pandit Jasraj’s other soundtrack contributions are his Jugalbandi with Bhimsen Joshi in Birbal My Brother (1973), and “Vaada tumse hai” in the film 1920 (2008).

The renowned singer, who has a planet named after him (‘Panditjasraj’, placed between Mars and Jupiter) considered himself a lifelong learner.

“I am still learning so I can’t suggest any change. I always say that change is the only constant, and the change that the music industry has brought is making people more aware of the different genre of music,” he once said about changes in the music industry.

He’ll continue to be remembered for his talents, his eagerness to learn, and his unforgettable contributions to the realm of Indian classical music.

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