Indian classical vocalist Pandit Jasraj passed away on Monday following a cardiac arrest at his home in New Jersey. He had turned 90 in January this year.
Jasraj was in the US when the coronavirus-led lockdown happened and decided to stay back in that country. “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,” news agency PTI quoted a statement issued by his family.
With a musical career spanning almost 80 years, the doyen of Indian classical vocal music was a recipient of various prestigious awards and honours including Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan. He represented the last of a generation of classical vocalists, which includes 83-year-old Kishori Amonkar, the doyenne of the Jaipur Atrauli gharana.
Many noted personalities, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressed grief and paid last respects to the music legend. Taking to Twitter, PM Modi said: “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.”
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. pic.twitter.com/6bIgIoTOYB
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 17, 2020
Belonging to Mewati Gharana, Jasraj was introduced to vocal music by his father, and was later trained as a tabla accompanist under the tutelage of elder brother, Pandit Pratap Narayan. Jasraj began training as a vocalist at the age of 14, and his riyaz once used to last for 14 hours a day.
Pandit Jasraj will be remembered as the pioneer who added elements of the thumri to the khayal, giving it more flexibility and making it more audience-friendly. This would have been considered blasphemous half a century ago, when the khayal was serious business and sung without any ornamentation. Even the bandish would be sung with a certain indifference.
In September last year, a minor planet, between Mars and Jupiter, was named after him. International Astronomical Union (IAU) named minor planet 2006 VP32 (number -300128) , discovered on November 11, 2006, as ‘Panditjasraj’ which traverses the cosmos between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.