Pandit Jasraj, a doyen of Hindustani classical music died in the U.S. after a cardiac arrest on August 17 at the age of 90. The music doyen leaves behind him a great legacy in the Hindustani classical music. He will be remembered for his great contributions and performances, especially the art of khayal singing with an unmistakable element of bhakti rasa. Once in an interview he had said that classical singing for him was a means to express and experience spiritual ecstasy. And listeners would agree that he did exactly the same and that is one reason that makes him immortal in the minds of all music lovers. He has gone, but his art and legacy lives on!
Pandit Jasraj belonged to a family which was given to music. He was born on 28 January 1930 in Pili Mandori, a village in the Hisar district of Haryana in a middle-class Brahmin family to Pandit Motiram, a classical singer. Shri Motiram died in 1934 when Jasraj was only four years old, on the day he was to be appointed as the state musician in the court of Mir Osman Ali Khan. Pandit Jasraj’s elder brother, Pandit Pratap Narayan, was also an accomplished musician and was the father of music composer duo Jatin-Lalit, singer-actress Sulakshana Pandit and actress Vijeta Pandit. His eldest brother was vocalist Pandit Maniram.
In 1962, Jasraj married Madhura Shantaram, the daughter of film director V. Shantaram, whom he had first met in 1960 in Bombay. They initially lived in Calcutta, moving to Bombay in 1963. They had two children, a son, Shaarang Dev Pandit, and a daughter, Durga Jasraj. Madhura made a film, Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj in 2009 and directed her first Marathi film, Aai Tuza Ashirwad, in 2010, in which her husband and Lata Mangeshkar sang in Marathi.
The great doyen of music left for heavenly abode on 17 August 2020 but left a great legacy behind him. He popularized the Indian classical music and especially the Mewati gharana. His musical career spanned 75 years resulting in national and international fame, respect and numerous major awards and accolades. He was the foremost exponent of the Mewati gharana who later moved away from Dhrupad and brought an element of devotional singing to khayal by employing harkats and murkis that were associated with light classical music.
His legacy includes memorable performances of classical and semi-classical vocal music, classical and devotional music, albums and film soundtracks, innovations in various genres including Haveli Sangeeth and popularizing the Mewati Gharana . Pandit Jasraj was also a great teacher of classical Hundustani music who taught music to amateur and professional students in India, Europe, Canada and the United States. Some of his disciples are highly successful accomplished musicians in their own right.