Bombay Jayashri at Sydney's Opera House

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Despite being an incredibly talented classical musician, Jayashri has the advantage of humility and compassion
Bombay Jayashri -Opera House
To quote Bombay Jayashri’s own words, “It is every artist’s dream to perform at the Sydney Opera House and I am truly grateful”. This simple statement encompasses the humility of a great artist, which is undoubtedly what Jayashri is all about.
Jayashri received a warm welcome in Sydney. Her music concert at the Sydney Opera House was sponsored by Gayatri Krishna of Bhoomija (Bangalore), and organised by her Sydney partner and volunteer, Nalini Shankar. Renowned within classical music circles, Jayashri recently captured the attention of music makers across India and abroad thanks to her nomination for an Oscar in 2013, for a song that she wrote and sang for critically acclaimed movie Life of Pi.
Bombay Jayashri’s impeccable musical career spans over 30 years since her first public concert in 1982. She is a singer, author and composer with a highly commendable reputation.
Her early training in Carnatic music was with TR Balamani and in Hindustani music with Mahavir Jaipurwale and Ajay Pohankar. Her guru was the late violin maestro, Lalgudi G Jayaraman. Jayashri’s versatility and uncanny ability to adapt has seen her blossom in Carnatic and Hindustani classical music, light and fusion music, as well as cross cultural musical collaborations at the international level.  Jayashri has performed globally, in jugalbandis with Ustad Rashid Khan, Ronu Majumdar and Richa Sharma, besides winning several awards for playback singing. She has also released a few albums of devotional music.
Bombay Jayashri’s concert at the Sydney Opera House was simply superb, as she entranced an audience of nearly 500. Over two and a half hours, it was full of deft touches and classicisms which seemed to flow with little effort to repeated applause.
Despite her short but busy schedule, Jayashri even took time out to conduct a workshop for students of Carnatic music.
So what makes this talented lady such a great artiste? We find out as she speaks exclusively with Indian Link here.
Malli Iyer: Having already achieved celebrity status in the field of Indian classical music, how much longer before you reach legendary status like your guru, the late Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman?
Bombay Jayashri: My focus at present is to preserve his legacy, his bhani and style, which in itself is a huge responsibility. With the grace of God, I hope to eventually chart my own course and work towards promoting music, while developing my style of solo concerts.
MI: How do you nurture your voice, your most valuable asset?
BJ: I follow guidelines for general well being and good health. I practice praanayaam and do yoga, and do not exert my voice too much, or put unnecessary strain on it. Indian and Carnatic music are very natural to the voice. I do not believe in using medication to assist in caring for my voice.
MI: As you have done some work in this area, how do you go about creating healing and therapeutic music for the sick and mentally disabled young?
BJ: From an early age, I have been trained to believe in the healing properties of music. I sang to my grandfather in the last two years of his life, which soothed and calmed him. This is now implanted in my mind.  Nursing mothers have told me that my music is a lullaby that helps their children sleep easily.  I have done a few workshops with autistic children and have noticed that the calming effect of music makes them respond and show improvement. The success of this experiment has egged me on.  We know the impact of music on the nerves and neurological receptors is not exactly measurable, but music is healing and therapeutic because it soothes and calms, especially in autistic children.
MI: Great composers like Saint Thyagaraja and Purandaradasa were inspired by their ‘bhakti’ or supreme devotion to God.  What or who is your inspiration?
BJ: Music is not just an occupation, it is a philosophy of life and I am devoted to the Goddess Saraswathi, who is my inspiration to learning. My guru has definitely been my inspiration, he always taught me to learn the nuances of the art, and that it is a continuing process throughout life.
MI: Do you feel you have a role in the continued evolution of Carnatic music, akin to your guru whose compositions have rendered him immortal?
BJ: Currently I have no definite plans except to maintain my musical involvements, but I may respond to any challenges at my level. I have a ceaseless quest for quality music in any form as can be gauged from my track record in classical, light classical and fusion music. I hope to develop further the legacy of my guru in time to come, but it is difficult to define the exact direction that I would take in the future.
MI: Your training in Hindustani classical music has made your music more pitch perfect, with improved purity of shruti.  Do you believe that these attributes are a casualty in the way a number of Carnatic musicians approach it?
BJ: Hindustani classical music traditions and their system calls for emphasis on voice training and purity of shruti and it certainly makes it very pleasing to connoisseurs.  Carnatic music has a much larger syllabus and the range of talas and ragas bring more complexity.  Additionally, Carnatic music is sung in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada, as well as in Marathi.  The mathematical connection for Carnatic musicians is greater, and therefore ‘adherence to shruti’ might appear to be less important; but advanced students of Carnatic music train hard to achieve peak levels in all respects.
MI: What is your contribution to musical accompaniment to dance, which is a different art form?
BJ: I learnt Bharatanatyam in my early life and have always seen dance music as adding to the beauty of music.  After moving to Chennai, I composed a dance ballet for Leela Samson and it was a complete surprise for me to see music being given expression by another art form.  The perception of music when seen through the eyes of another art makes it wonderful.
MI: How has your upbringing in Mumbai influenced your music, thoughts and feelings about your audience?
BJ: I am grateful for my upbringing in Mumbai; it is a pulsating and vibrant metropolis. Musically it is multicultural with enriching ingredients like ghazals, Bollywood, Hindustani classical, dance and cultural connections from all over India. The audience too is very receptive and appreciative of entertainment from diverse cultures and communities.
MI: Have the accolades from Pi’s Lullaby changed your perspectives and outlook?
BJ: I welcomed the opportunity to perform for director Ang Lee, and to the music of Michael Danna.  I enjoyed the experience, shaping and delivering the song and later on, the Oscar nomination. It has been a challenge – with my Guru’s blessings, I hope for more future opportunities. It has not changed my perspectives in any way because I like to learn and I respond to tasks that give vent to my creative urges.
On this tour, Bombay Jayashri is travelling next to China for a 6-city tour of world music, and will follow with performances in Finland, France, Singapore and finally, at the Carnegie Hall in New York.
More on Bombay Jayashri: despite being an incredibly talented classical musician, Jayashri has the advantage of humility and compassion, writes MALLI IYER.

Malli Iyer
Malli Iyer
Malli has over 25 years experience in creative writing and has been a contributor to Indian Link for over 10 years. He is also an accredited cricket umpire for Cricket Australia.

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