Music is meditation, says Bombay Jayashri

By Sudha Jagannathan
Chennai: 16-06-2021 10:21PM
Last Updated: 16-06-2021 10:21PM

(This was originally published in 2008) 

What is music? It is not just singing, listening and experiencing. It is more than all these put together. Ask senior Carnatic vocalist Bombay Jayashri Ramnath, she will vouch for it. In a chat with Sudha Jagannathan, she asserts that music (of any kind) can play a positive impact on one who practices it and also on one who partakes in it. Music brings a sense of discipline, fulfilment and healing. In a way, it is twice-blessed - it blesses the giver and also the receiver.
Discipline is a key to be a singer in the first place, says Jayashri. To do an alapana, say in raga Kambhoji, one has to sit cross-legged for a considerable span of time. To do that, one requires a lot of discipline. “There should be control over the pitch and discovery of the raga,” she elaborates. For Jayashri, music is meditation. In this modern day when stressed-out youngsters and tired-out elders make a beeline for yoga classes, Jayashri feels music can come in handy to play the `ache-reliever' act to perfection. “Practicing music is akin to doing yoga,” she says. Practice of yoga gives one relief from physical and mental stress. Doing pranayama improves breathing and makes music presentation a lot easier. Similarly, listening and practicing music make the mind tranquil. If the mind can travel faster than light, music too can transport one to wherever he/she wishes. It depends on what the singer/listener is yearning for. "If you are a Krishna devotee, the Kannan songs could take you to Dwaraka. Bharatiyar song "Engirundu Varugirado" could be appealing to someone else,'' she says. For some rasikas, tranquillity comes through listening to their favourite singers. So much so, informal fan clubs have sprouted for many an artiste such as Vijay Siva, Sudha Raghunathan, Sowmya and others.

Even Mahatma Gandhi had a favourite artiste. He wanted to hear the now famous "Hari Tumharo" to be sung by M.S. Subbulakshmi only. The music of MS was appealing to great public personalities such as Pandit Nehru, Sarojini Naidu and others. MS did a big role in promoting Carnatic music in international sphere. After she donned the role of "Meera," her songs on Lord Krishna have become popular even to current generation of people.
One has to immerse into music, experience it and pursue it without any agenda. “If you take music for the sake of music, it will give you back everything,” says Jayashri. Practising a raga this way, you get a wholesome experience of practicing all kritis in that raga. This is what guru Lalgudi Jayaraman has taught Jayashri. She says she herself has experienced it while practicing Sankarabharanam, Begada and other ragas. “While doing an alapana, repetition is bound to happen. And, a few fumbles are also likely. A painter gets immense satisfaction while painting colours of various hues. Each and every colour will be repeated, no doubt. But a good painting will surely make the artist feel contended while his work is displayed. Similarly, while you sing each time and improvise it, you get a new experience and make the rasikas relate to the music of legends such as Semmangudi, M.S. Subbulakshmi, M.L.Vasanthakumari and others,” she says.
More than this, music has curative powers. Assorted people and organizations are still working at various levels to scientifically chronicle the curative powers of the music. Yet, there is a conviction among many that music does have a healing power. “I have heard from people that Ananda Bhairavi helps to reduce blood pressure. Likewise, Atana helps to reduce the blood sugar,'' Jayashri says, pointing to people who have experienced it. In fact, Apollo Hospital has a music therapy wing in Chennai to treat certain types of ailments.
Music, according to her, is one way to gain peace of mind. “We need something else other than the daily routine to keep us going forward. In that way, music helps us a lot. In this stress-filled world, one can't depend on anything else. Music gives satisfaction permanently. We can rely on it at all the times,” she says.