Vocalist Pandit Jasraj to turn 90

With his performances becoming albums and film soundtracks, Pandit Jasraj feels fortunate to belong to a generation which has and continues to witness exciting times in classical music

Recipient of Indias second-highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan, Indian classical vocalist Pandit Jasraj is a force to reckon with in the country's music space. The artiste extradonaire even has a minor planet named after him in 2019. As the doyen stands on the cusp of turning 90 next week, he speaks of the student in him, which is the constant might that keeps him hungry to learn.

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," said Pandit Jasraj in an interview.

A rich career behind him, with his performances of classical and semi-classical vocals becoming albums and film soundtracks, he feels fortunate to belong to a generation which has and continues to witness exciting times in classical music.

Born in 1930, the exponent has 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 audiences who found this music soulful and attractive. While recalling, Pandit Jasraj also mentions the rise of mass media in India with the growth of television.

He feels the present state is one rife with social media and digital "which has brought music lovers much closer to their favourite musicians."

Does he still feel 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 shares.

While he spends time travelling across the world, for concerts as well as teaching music, he has kept pace with how the classical music space has really grown in India and globally.

"At any given time, there are so many different musicians traveling and performing across the world. The patronage of corporates today has played a huge role in promoting Indian classical arts.

"The audiences 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," Pandit Jasraj says.

As the evolution continues to turn digital, he shares his optimistic outlook on music's rendezvous with technology.

"I have always thought that technology brings the world closer. In fact when I am travelling, I use technology myself to teach Swar (19), my grand-nephew, regularly. There is so much good young talent out there, and I feel that Classical Music has a great future with these talented youngsters of our country. I think

technology or the digital only plays a role to bridge the gaps across geographies and cultures."

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 Pandit Jasraj, who is 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 shared: "This was a big surprise for me, I wasn't aware that planets could be named after humans! When I got to know of this, I was humbled beyond words. I was told that the 'Panditjasraj' 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."

He turns 90 on January 28, 2020.

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