Writings about Music

In Memoriam Pandit Jasraj

Pandit Jasraj

Photograph by Suyash Dwivedi

Pandit Jasraj was the master of the gatra vina (human voice), the only musical instrument created by God, with all others created by humans.

It is beyond sad and beyond any words describing our grief upon learning how Pandit Jasraj has left us. Not only was he TRULY as great as any musician or composer I have ever heard in any genre, but in some ways he went beyond anyone else musically.

When I first spoke to Pandit Jasraj it was on the telephone, and he was very moved to hear how I found healing properties in his singing, even going so far as to tell me he loved me. Later on, after meeting in person, he invited me to stay at his home in India so that he might show me his favorite temples personally. While I wasn't able to actually arrange going there, I did meet with him a number of additional times here in California, and I've always kept a photo of Pandit Jasraj nearby, kissing him on the forehead every day, and am devastated knowing he has left us on this mournful day.

When I interviewed Pandit Jasraj, part of what he said was hoping I would remember him, and I was deeply moved. His humility was breathtaking. Well, I will always remember Pandit Jasraj every day, and continue kissing his forehead on the photograph, and he absolutely now and forever is living in our hearts.

Pandit Jasraj and Michael Robinson

Today, the Forest of Brinda is a brighter place for his presence, our "Sun of Music," and a genuine musician-saint.

It is impossible now, but eventually we will learn to be happy knowing how fortunate we have been to be graced by his brilliance and kindness, all completely unforgetable beyond the passing of all time.

The sorrowful Wurlitzer piano with pitch wavering in Kafi Thaat found in Night Incense is for our grief, along with the mournful chanting bell and wordless voices, the tears of the shimmering Indian bells, and the sobbing of the percussion ostinato.

And so is how Pandit Jasraj is the human embodiment of this poetry from the Rg Veda describing the sun, waking us to his vision of how love and peace must prevail over all darkness or we will have failed him.

Bright leader of glad sounds she shines effulgent:
Widely she has unclosed for us her portals.
Pervading all the world she shows us richess
Dawn has awakened every living creature.

Pandit Jasraj and Michael Robinson

Sagarmatha was directly inspired by Pandit Jasraj. A current composition I've been working on the past month was also birthed by his music, his presence all around. Sailing on the ocean of raga, it feels like a giant, benevolent tidal wave of his being has lifted us up to heaven in both spiritual and intellectual realms, affording a divine vision for aspiring to, before receding into the deep.

- Michael Robinson, August 20, Los Angeles


Read a wonderful tribute to Pandit Jasraj by NK Singh in the Hindustan Times


© 2020 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).