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New Delhi, August 6, 2020
Pandit Jasraj, the doyen of Indian classical music, passed away at the age of 90 following a cardiac arrest in New Jersey in the United States on Monday.
"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 read.
The renowned vocalist, who has a minor planet named after him -- Panditjasraj -- placed between Mars and Jupiter, was a recipient of the country's highest civilian honours like Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri.
His death was condoled by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, other leaders and personalities from the world of music.
Born in 1930 in Haryana, the celebrated classical singer presented the Mewati Gharana to the global music connoisseur. He was initiated into vocal training at the age of 14, and 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.
With a career spanning 80 years, Pandit Jasraj's oeuvre ranged from the world stage to Indian film music.
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". Pandit 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".
In an interview with IANS earlier this year, Pandit Jasraj had said that: "I don't feel that my relationship with music is of only this lifetime. The student in me has always been a constant and active part of my musical journey and has kept me always hungry to learn.
"I feel fortunate to belong to a generation and witness very exciting times in classical music. Right from the pre-Independence era, where Maharajas were the biggest patrons of classical music and being a court musician was a privilege, to the 1950s and 1960s when All India Radio played a pivotal role in shaping one's career graph, to the importance of recording labels which carefully curated the talent, followed by travelling worldwide to perform for varied audiences who found our classical music soulful and attractive. And from the rise of mass media in India with the growth of television to the present day modern platforms of social media and digital world which have brought music lovers much closer to their favourite musicians."
"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," Pandit Jasraj had said.
Reacting to the news of his demise, Prime Minister 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."
Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, while calling it an extremely sad day for the world of music, said, "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, Pt Bhimsen Joshi and Pt Kumar Gandharva.
"Mewati Gharana came to the limelight because of his genius. His legacy lives on timelessly. I will miss him immensely both musically and personally," Amjad Ali Khan added.
Jasraj, who also taught music in India, Canada and the US, organised a musical festival annually -- Pandit Motiram Pandit Maniram Sangeet Samaroh -- in Hyderabad since 1972.