How Kesarbai Kerkar's Jat Kahan Ho ended up on the Voyager Spacecraft Disc
Ann Druyan made a host of essential
contributions, on both the creative and production sides of the project, and I can’t
resist quoting one of her reminiscences:
“Robert Brown had placed Surshri Kesar Bai Kerkar’s ‘Jaat Kahan Ho’ at the top
of his list of world music for outer space,” she writes. “It was an old recording that
had recently gone out of print. After hunting through a score of record stores without
any success, I phoned Brown and asked him to suggest an alternative raga.
“ ‘Well, what happens if we can’t find a copy of this one in time to get it on the
record?’ I pleaded. We had three more days in which to complete the repertoire. I was
terribly worried that Indian music, one of the world’s most intricate and fascinating
traditions, might not be represented.
“ ‘Keep looking,’ he told me.
“When I phoned him the following day after a series of very unrewarding
conversations with librarians and cultural attachés, I was desperate.
“ ‘I promise I’ll keep looking for “Jaat Kahan Ho,” but you’ve simply got to give
me the name of a piece that we can fall back on. What’s the next best thing?’
“ ‘There’snothingclose,’heinsisted.‘Keeplooking.’The other
ethnomusicologists we had been consulting told me to trust him. I started phoning
“There’s an appliance store on Lexington Avenue in the Twenties in New York
City that is owned by an Indian family. Under a card table with a madras cloth thrown
over it sits a dusty brown carton with three unopened copies of ‘Jaat Kahan Ho.’ Why
I want to buy all three occasions a great deal of animated speculation on the part of
the owners. I fly out of the shop and race uptown to listen to it.
“It’s a thrilling piece of music. I phone Brown and find myself saying thank you
over and over.”