Highlights of 2004

  • The Hindu - Lalgudi Felicitation

    Fitting tribute to a great vidwan

    Violin Maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman (fourth from left) being felicitated on his 60 years of achievement in the field of music and dance with the Swarna Jayanthi Special Award presented by V. Shankar (extreme right), President, Sri Shanmukhananda Fine Arts and Music Sabha, Mumbai. — Pics. by V. Ganesan

    IT WAS a colourful, unique function organised by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, which whilst celebrating its Swarna Jayanti, also took the opportunity to felicitate the violin maestro Lalgudi G Jayaraman for his remarkable contribution to the cause of classical Carnatic Music. The morning session packed with musicians, rasikas and admirers of Lalgudi began with a prayer by Saketharaman who belongs to the Lalgudi School. S. P. Ramh, one of the torch-bearers of the Lalgudi bani presented a heartwarming vocal concert.

    Sujatha Viajayaraghavan presents a lecture-demonstration on Lalgudi's contribution to dance. — Pic. by T. A. Hafeez

    A very engrossing lecture demonstration by Sujata Vijayaraghavan on the Vidvan's compositions suited to the art form of dance was appreciated and fervently applauded. The music of Sujata and the dances by Kritika, Sumitra Nitin and Sudharma for some of Lalgudi's dance creations were highly commedable efforts. The young support singer Janani made an endearing impact with her sensitive articulation. A panel discussion emphasising the superb vidvat and creativity of Lalgudi were brought to the fore by Prof.

    Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal of Kanchi Math blesses Lalgudi Jayaraman.

    T. R. Subramaniam, Prof. Karaikudi Subramaniam and Vidushi Sulochana Pattabhiraman. Group singing by several Lalgudi students, a vocal concert by Lalita Krishnan, Lalgudi's student and daughter-in-law,and a violin duet by the Lalgudi siblings, Krishnan and Vijayalakshmi, were included in the programme. The evening segment beginning with an invocation by Bombay Jayasri Ramnath and the welcome address by Nalli Kuppuswami Chettiar, was followed by the presentation of the Swarna Jayanti award and a purse of Rs. 1 lakh to Lalgudi on behalf of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha by V. Shankar, President Shanmukhananda Sabha, Bombay. The first copy of the Swarna Jayanti commemoration volume and an audio album of Lalgudi's live concert in tandem with his sister Srimathi Brahmanandam in 1970 under the aegis of the Krishna Gana Sabha were released. ``Panchali Sabatham," a solo dance-drama for which Lalgudi has scored the music was presented by Urmila Sathyanarayanan. The august presence of the Sankaracharyas of the Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam enhanced the quality of the ambience. Felicitations to Lalgudi focussing on his multifaceted genius were offered by R. Venugopal, Chitra Visweswaran and R. Thiagarajan. Shawls and mementos were presented to Jayaraman and Sri Yagnaraman on behalf of Shanmukhananda Sabha, Bombay. Lalgudi in his acceptance speech acknowledged the valuable support he has always received from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha. The entire proceeding was compeered by Va.Ve.Su. The event was a fitting tribute to a great vidwan.

  • Sulekha Blog - Padmini Natarajan - Bombay Jayashri- A Feature

    Jayashri is like a mountain pond, quiet with hidden depths. The stone cast in the waters creates quiet ripples. She has clawed her way through life and established a space around herself. This space reflects the individuality, a sharp intelligence and an incisive intellectual reaction to time, events and achievements....

    There is a great sense of calmness and peace in the demeanour of Jayashri as she performs this season in Chennai. There are no fireworks or facial distortions that have become the hallmark of popular singers. Her eyes close as she internalises the music. The spectator can easily perceive that her music is now a sublime experience, a divine exaltation. Her cassettes too reflect this bhakthi bhava
    Shravanam combines the Carnatic and Hindustani bhakthi singing to evoke a tremendous sense of the divine in the listener.
    Jayashri is like a mountain pond, quiet with hidden depths. The stone cast in the waters creates quiet ripples. She has clawed her way through life and established a space around herself. This space reflects the individuality, a sharp intelligence and an incisive intellectual reaction to time, events and achievements. She is straightforward, painfully honest, and cool with glimpses of emotion that filter through like sunlight in the forest green.
    Her business card reflects this involvement with the elements -- fire, earth and water, graphically represented by a peacock in the different colours and images of the elements. Her music too is a reflection of this sublime and elemental existence. A small refrain from an advertisement for a jewellery shop swirls through the room with just a word -- Shree. The sonorous voice tugs at some feeling deep within the listener and calls out to the very essence of Shakthi and life.
    First impressions are of a simple lady, no frills, no embellishments, just herself and her music. The home reflects this minimalism -- spacious, uncluttered, bright and tidy.
    Jayashri takes you back to her childhood in a Mumbai suburb. Her home was filled with childish voices singing the basic notes again and again in different pitches. Her parents were music teachers and from 7 am to 10 pm, there was always somebody to share the space and relationship with her parents. She did not realise that there was anything like quality time with her parents. Her father was engrossed in music for its own sake. Her mother saw it as an instrument to take her beyond the boundaries of a life where music was just a pastime or talent.
    By the time she was eight, her father passed away and her two brothers and she were taught to focus on each one's particular talent by her mother. Jayashri's phenomenal gift was trained, honed and polished by the ambitions of her mother who had seen the singular achievements of an MS or MLV. She was a tough disciplinarian and nothing other than music was allowed to enter Jayashri's life.
    She was woken up at 4 am and the important Brahma muhurtham was utilised to imprint the rudiments and niceties of classical music. "That is the time when the voice is fresh after a good night's sleep, the mind is clear and what is learnt leaves an indelible imprint on your personality, explains Jayashri. "No distractions were allowed. It was schooling at St. Antony's and music at home. I did not read any Amar Chitra Katha's, or know who Tin Tin was or realize that Mills and Boons were common reading material for teenagers in my circle.
    Soon her mother realized that Jayashri needed a more qualified guru to broaden her knowledge and skills. Smt. T.R. Balamani in Matunga was chosen and Jayashri's life expanded to include daily trips on the 8 Ltd. bus, along with her friend, to her teacher's house where she spent 3-4 hours practising, learning and adding to her repertoire. This was the routine for seven years. "I have been lucky with my gurus, confesses Jayashri. "Balamani teacher made learning music so interesting. It was not just learning a krithi or a raaga. It was delving into the lyrics, learning about bhava and laya. I learnt music with her for the sheer pleasure of singing. There was no thought about making it a career. I also enjoyed the freedom of travelling across the city. It was also hard work. Then, the prizes began to come my way. Any competition concerned with music attracted me and I won so many prizes. Extracurricular activities too centred on music. I was pampered and allowed to totally focus on music. Ironically, even friends contributed to music. Our only indulgence was the radio and we grew up listening to Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Asha and Lata.
    Jayashri has no regrets about this circumscribed atmosphere of her childhood. "My brothers were good at studies too. My older brother Balaraj decided to go to work after his B.Sc. to help my mother run the family. My other brother Sabesh went on to IIT Kharagpur and then did an MBA from Bajaj in Mumbai. Meanwhile, I got into Poddar College to do a B.Com and my interest to learn Hindustani music took root.
    The learning curve continued to rise and Jayashri expanded her horizons to take in ghazals, bhajans, Urdu and French. With wider exposure to the world of college and music, her self-confidence grew. "In the five years in college, I won every prize in music. I also developed the undying spirit to win.
    Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman was a friend of the family. On a visit to their home, he heard her sing and invited her to come and learn music from him in Chennai. That season in Chennai, she took part in the Music Academy competitions and won prizes. Jayashri was soon convinced that she was not going back to Mumbai until she had done her Gurukulam with Shri Lalgudi.
    "Lalgudi sir's way of teaching, his insight into music and the way he transferred that knowledge to his students was inspiring. If he took up a raaga, say Kalyani, it was not merely the raaga and its interpretation that were discussed. He would explore the rendering of the raaga by various composers, performers and dissect our own interpretation. He would identify the best interpretation and ask us to imprint our own sense of aesthetics into the rendering and make it our own. He is a guru in the true sense of the word. His approach was open and he made us listen to all kinds of music, including diverse music by Ravi Shankar, George Harrison, Rafi or Lata and other doyens of Carnatic music.
    Jayashri describes her guru's holistic approach to music. "He was orthodox, very south Indian in character but truly international in mind. His home is like a temple but his mind is free from superstition and rigid codes of behaviour. He became a father figure for her and helped her to totally focus on music. "His approach to music was never stifling. He encouraged us to put across our viewpoint. We were a great group consisting of Vittal Ramamurthy and Ramdas -- the violinists, S.P. Ramh, Shankari, Lalitha Krishnan -- his daughter-in-law, and daughter Vijayalakshmi. There was no fixed time or schedule. From morning to night, music enveloped us. Today each of us has gone our own ways but continue to interact."
    Back home, her mother started to worry that the bird had flown the nest. She was 23 years old and thoughts of marriage began to enter her mother's scheme of things. Jayashri was not ready to perform yet, but soon small opportunities came her way. Her cassettes first appeared in the public. The change between Mumbai and Chennai was an opportunity for Jayashri to discover herself. The new city, new people, even a new language different from the Palghat Tamil she spoke at home made a deep impression on her. She was intrigued to create her own space, to take the different aspects of music and life and to stamp it with her own personality. Mumbai was left behind.
    In '92, her brother Sabesh took a transfer and came to Chennai to give Jayashri the moorings of home and family. In '96, she met Ramnath. "His sister plays the veena and a friendship grew. The families were glad to clinch the alliance, and suddenly one day, we were married. I was initially nervous about handling another person. I was now used to being on my own. I wondered whether I could devote time and think beyond my music about another human being. I was adamant about not giving in on certain things. My anxieties were set to rest from the word go and we just clicked. He works from home as an accountant. I have my den upstairs and can read, sing, listen to music whatever."
    Amrit was born in '98 and Jayashri took time off from public appearances for 7 to 8 months. The space around her had now enlarged to include another human being. Soon she bounced back into circulation and began to perform and travel with the baby in her bag. She now teaches students and her husband looks after her fortune!
    Jayashri's learning curve continued to grow. She found that she could not appreciate western music. Analysing this mental block, she decided to learn to play the piano to appreciate the nuances of western music. Reading on musicology, religion and philosophy is part of her daily routine. "My legs on wheels have taken me far and wide. I enjoy giving performances in Europe where the audience is tremendously appreciative of Indian music due to Ravi Shankar. Sri Lankans have come together to promote Carnatic music in a big way. I make it a point to see the places I visit apart from my music commitments.
    "It is tough being a parent and a musician. My son is still small enough to travel with me without worries of missed schooling. Ramnath's working from home helps that way. Any ill health of the child does worry me when I am away. But once the first notes flow out of my lips, it is then me, my space and my music."
    I have had some strange events connected with my performances. Once I was singing in Phoenix. Parents of a child came to me before the concert and said that their child would only eat and sleep if one of my songs was played. At the concert, he was sleeping in their arms and woke up after my repertoire was over. He started wailing and I immediately sang the song. Miraculously he quieted down. That was truly a wonderful experience. Another child loves my rendering of "Ranganayakam" and calls me Ranganayakam Aunty.
    A linguist, speaking English, Tamil, Marathi, Urdu and Hindi, Jayashri seized upon an opportunity to discover the classic books of Kalki when she was hospitalised after a freak accident that left her bed-ridden for 2 months. A friend visited her and had discussions on Bharathiyar's poetry, its meaning and metaphor. He also gave her homework to study a few of the poems and then helped her analyse them. Her knowledge of Tamil was greatly improved.
    Amrit hums quite well. Sabesh's daughter sings beautifully and so does Ramnath's niece. The focus and dedication of Jayashri's mother is not there in any of these mothers. "I would like to help them develop their talents. But, my own career as a musician does not give me that single-minded devotion that my mother had to develop my talents. My guilt at not spending time with my son takes over and I can't be that tough. Today I realize what she went through as a single parent to make me what I am today. I am learning to cook special dishes for my son though as my mother kept me away from the gas stove all these years! My mother-in-law too has seen to it that I do not have to be bothered about the kitchen from the time of my marriage to Ramnath," confesses Jayashri.
    Simplicity in dressing is a hallmark of Jayashri's style. "My mother still gets worked up about my lack of dressing up skills for the stage. I do not like jewellery and I have stopped buying silk saris. As long as I look neat and tidy, it is my music that should impress my audience," says Jayashri.
    Raaga Sahana is Jayashri's favourite for it is a medium to express varied emotions -- from sorrow to confusion, reflection to pathos. She says, "I like the Navavarnams a lot for their tremendous range in music and meaning. They are not ethereal but basic and easy to understand. I sang a lot of jingles in Mumbai in the early days that have helped me a great deal in understanding voice production, usage of mikes, volume control and techniques of recording."
    `Paahimam Shri Rajarajeswari' was her first song for films. It was a classical piece rendered for Ilayaraja. Next was a period piece `Nerumugai' for `Iruvar' in Khamas. "`Vaseegara' just happened. When Harris Jayaraj asked me to sing it, I was not happy with the high pitch demanded by film music. He gave me the freedom to choose the pitch on the synthesiser and my normal 51/2 scale gave that song its special quality. It reminded me of the old, husky, Asha Bhonsle numbers. Fans of all ages have commented on the simplicity and universality of its appeal. It is very challenging to walk into a studio, learn a number, sing it and then to leave it behind to make it to the charts or fall by the wayside. But it is not my cup of tea," concludes Jayashri, though she does sing on and off for films.
    The space around her protects her from the invasions of the outside world into her privacy. Her music speaks to her listeners. The sapthaswaras cling to her like armour from behind which she coolly observes the world. A very private person, the emotions peep out when she talks about her son, her guru, her husband, her mother and siblings. The face resting on the stem of the tambura, as the music flows like a glowing stream of sunlight that illuminates the dark corners of human existence, make Jayashri somebody very special.

  • Dinamalar - Karthik Fine Arts Concert Review - Chennai