Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bombay Jayashree - A Rendition with a Difference

When I found the program listed on Indianstage, “...Bombay Jayashree...”, I knew it to be a Carnatic classical concert.
While I have grown up listening to Carnatic Classical music and also have a few performers within my own family, I wouldn’t buy tickets to a classical concert in Bangalore, the reason being that I tend to appreciate and enjoy only those ragas and compositions that are familiar to me.
Also, I come from Mysore, the cultural capital of the state where Kutcheris (concerts) are an almost every day event, the artists being the best in the domain – usually artists from Madras who have decades of training and the organizers don’t charge you anything.

But when I read the by line ‘The Journey of a Raaga’, I thought this one was different.

The concert was so delightful that I bought tickets for the next day’s performance as well knowing it would be a repetition of that day’s performance.

I had instantly become a fan!

There were several things to this concert that struck me as new and unique as different from typical classical concerts.

The feature that stood out (in my eyes) was serenity on stage.
Usually most of the classical vocal renditions are packed with individual prowess. Power packed.
Singers both male and female, sing as if they are trying to explode the mike.
Contorting the face, animating their bodies, throwing out their arms and moving their heads – these are things we are all familiar with, because they are visible.
What may have escaped the attention of many is the aggression with which they sing, as if they are battling the swaras (notes), or using the swaras as weapons in a battle.
Singing in abandon is one thing, and we must sing in abandon, without holding back. But aggression is quite another thing.

In contrast with the above, what made Jayashree’s concert different was the softness of her rendition.
There was a pronounced serenity on stage. There was restraint and grace.
Although there were 7 singers in all, groups of 2, 3 and 5 singing at a time, there was serenity at the mike all the time in those 2 plus hours.

She is trained in Carnatic as well as Hindustani music. While I thought that itself was a lot, she revealed she was trained in Ghazals as well.
She sang a composition of a Tamil poet (Bharatiyar) and then a composition of the Kannada poet Kuvempu.
She sang a film song – ‘Aapki Nazron Ne Samjha’, of raga Natabhairavi or one of its family, namely, Darbari Kanada or Atthana.
What she had to say about film songs – that there is film song for every situation in life and in our happiness and our sorrows, it is a film song that we think of – while being very true, was a pleasant surprise, coming from a classical musician.

Most classical musicians tend to be puritanical in their views and sing only classical music, never lending their voice to film music, nor ghazals, nor any other and quite often have disdain for films and film songs.
While puritanical views and their proponents are required, in order that original and pure forms of music may be preserved, perpetuated, in order that there may not be complete fusion, it is good to have some musicians like Jayashree who dabble in everything.


Jayashree, in between songs, spoke to the audience; about music, about ragas, about the songs she was going to sing etc. These few words helped her connect with the audience. Also, her words helped us remember the songs after the concert, which is usually difficult.
The pieces of information given out about the songs served as a handle or key using which to identify them.

“...A Raga having five notes is called pentatonic. It’s amazing how you can create magic with just five notes...”
So saying she sang Samaja Varagamana from Hindola is a pentatonic.
If I remember correctly, so is Brindavana saranga, in which MD Pallavi sang ‘Bhakta Jana Vatsale’ very beautifully.

“Of all the means through which one can reach God, music is the easiest, the best, and this is especially true of Raga Saramati”
She sang ‘Mokshamu Galada’ in Saramati.

The inclusion of Piano in the concert not only produced some wonderful effect, like the notes of a cuckoo in silent hours, but also added to the beauty of the stage! How grand the thing is.

Flute, by now I know, is my favourite instrument. The way its turns breath into melody is sheer magic. When I heard Jayashree saying it was raag ‘Mohana’ that was just played on it, I was surprised I had enjoyed it so much, for Mohana isn’t really one of my favourite ragas. But that’s what the flute does! Magic.

MD Pallavi was incredibly good. ‘Deepavu Ninnade, Galiyu Ninnade’ is a beautiful song, but she took it to a different level altogether. It was truly hair raising performance.
It was a gracious gesture on Jayashree’s part to invite Pallavi to perform by her side.

The second day’s performance saw the inclusion of a few more songs, particularly the ‘Thillana’ in the end, but that, due to time constraints, led to fewer words from Jayashree which I missed very much.


The stage was done by MS Satyu, the famous theatre personality. It was simple, subtle and beautiful. The two oil lamps, hanging down to the stage from above were a good choice.

All the musicians were dressed in traditional outfits.
The women were in silk sarees of various hues, chosen to blend well with one another.
Only the women at the centre stage, Jayashree, wore a bright orange that rightly stood out.

Only when I saw, on the next day, all of them wearing the same costumes as they had on the first, I became sure that it was by design and not by coincidence.

While most classical concerts present ‘music’, the attention paid to these details made this concert a ‘celebration of music’.

1 comment:

Pramod said...

"Of all the means through which one can reach God, music is the easiest, the best" - so true! Sufis have always upheld this feeling. I have always loved Jayashree... Her "Enna Thapam Seyva Nee, Yashoda..." is so haunting. So comprehensive, your post!