He is an Indian classical vocalist who belongs to the Mewati gharana (musical apprenticeship lineage), a school of music known for its traditional performances of khayals. Pandit Jasraj is also the founder of schools for Indian classical music in Atlanta, Tampa, Vancouver, Toronto, New York, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Mumbai, and Kerala. He is known to have taught music in India, Canada and US.
Pandit Jasraj is recipient of numerous awards, honors and titles, including the prestigious Padma Vibhushan and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award during his musical career which has spanned more than 80 years. In 2019, International Astronomical Union (IAU) named a minor planet, between Mars and Jupiter, named as minor planet 2006 VP32 (number -300128), discovered on 11 November 2016, as ‘Panditjasraj’, after his name. Sangeet Martand Jasraj was born on 28 January 1930 in a middle-class Brahmin family to Pandit Motiram, a classical singer in Pili Mandori of Hisar, Haryana. His father died in 1934 when he was four. Since 1972, Pandit Jasraj has been organizing a musical festival every year called the Pandit Motiram Pandit Maniram Sangeet Samaroh in Hyderabad, India, in memory of his father.
He spent his youth in Hyderabad, while he often travelled to Sanand in Gujarat to study music with musicians of the Mewati gharana. Pandit Jasraj moved to Kolkata in 1946, where he began singing classical music for radio. He married the daughter of film director V. Shantaram, Madhura Shantaram, in 1962. They moved to Mumbai in 1963. They have a daughter, Durga Jasraj and a son, Shaarang Dev Pandit. It was his father who initiated Pandit Jasraj into vocal music. Later, he also trained as a tabla accompanist under his elder brother, Pandit Pratap Narayan and would frequently accompany his eldest brother, Pandit Maniram, in his solo vocal performances.
Jasraj credits the vocalist, Begum Akhtar, as inspiring him to take up classical music.
He renounced tabla in reaction to how accompanists were treated at the time and after that, Jasraj began training as a vocalist at the age of 14. At the age of 22, he performed his first stage concert as a vocalist. Jasraj worked as a performing artist on radio for several years before becoming a stage performer. Pandit Jasraj initially trained as a classical vocalist with his brother, Pandit Maniram and later with Jaiwant Singh Waghela, a vocalist and a beenkar, and Gulam Kadar Khan of Mewat gharana. He also trained under Swami Vallabhdas Damulji of the Agra gharana. Pandit Jasraj has sung khayals with some flexibility, adding elements of lighter styles, including the thumri, to khayal singing. Although initially he was criticized for incorporating elements from other schools of music or gharanas, it became more commonly accepted later, as noted by music critic S. Kalidas. Then he is also known for presenting a variety of rare ragas including Abiri Todi and Patdeepaki.
Besides performing classical music, Jasraj also worked to popularize semi-classical musical styles, such as Haveli Sangeet. And he sung classical and semi-classical compositions which have become albums and film soundtracks. He has tutored several students; some of them have in turn become notable musicians. Among his students are Sanjeev Abhyankar, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Tripti Mukherjee and Shankar Mahadevan to name a few. He received a standing ovation on 28 January 2017, during the celebration of his 87th birthday and 80 years of his service to music, as a classical music concert with the title My Journey, an Intimate Evening with Pandit Jasraj at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi by the production house Navrasa Duende.
Pandit Jasraj is indeed known for his lifelong dedication to music.