After 40 Years, Indian Music Still Echoes Through Space

When the music was chosen there was an entire committee of people deciding on it, including the famous Carl Sagan.

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At about 11 billion miles away from Earth, there is a vessel which carries the Indian sounds deep into space 40 years after they have been sent there.

This month is the 40th anniversary of NASA’s Voyager-2 mission which carried a golden record with various sounds from the earth along with several pieces of international music, including Indian.

Voyager-2 took off in 1977 and it was the first vessel ever to fly by all the four planets that are on the outskirts of our solar system. The Indian music sent on this journey is a Hindustani classical composition named “Jaat Kahan Ho”, performed by Surshri Kesarbai Kerkar, a khayal singer. The entire record lasts for 3:25 minutes.

When the music was chosen there was an entire committee of people deciding on it, including the famous Carl Sagan. He was the chairman appointed directly by NASA. In the book “Murmurs Of Earth – The Voyager Interstellar Record”, which was published in 1978, Sagan’s wife Ann Druyan, remembers that Robert Brown, who was at the time an executive director for the Centre For World Music in Berkeley put “Jaat Kahan Ho” at the top of his list of world music for outer space. After a rather long and fruitless search, Druyan finally located the record at a shop in New York.

Brown commented: “If I could extend the list, it would include the following: a lively mridangam solo from India in a tala of five beats played by Palghat Mani Iyer who may well be the world’s best drummer …”

Timothy Ferris, who served as a producer of the Voyager Golden Record also commented on this by saying: “One of my favourite transitions on the Voyager record comes when ‘Flowing Stream’ ends and we are transported, quick as a curtsy, across the Himalayas to the north of India and from the sound of one musical genius, Kuan Ping-hu to another, Surshri Kesarbai Kerkar. The raga heard on Voyager is formally designated for morning performance, but its popularity has led to its use as a closing number, a kind of encore, for concerts day and night.”

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