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Bombay Jayashri, Music & Philosophy
"It may be well said that it is in her music that the neglected and
unnoticed needs of internal life receive their due"

CHENNAI, January 26: Thanks to the festive music season in Chennai, it has helped us get rid of the fast pace of modern living and the busy clamour of Chennai. Come December, nay, November in the recent years, Chennai city buzzes with live concerts of young talents and trained stalwarts of Carnatic music at various destinations of music. Yes! One really confronts mental block in selecting the artiste to be heard, and destination to be chosen. One has to make wise choices to enjoy good music. Of course for those who are already longing over a year after the last music season to listen to the most preferred artiste, selection does not pose any problem.

Higher experience
Yes! The die-hard fans of Smt. Bombay Jayashri Ramnath do not excuse themselves for any reason to miss her concerts even if the hall is out of reach. One may come across the same set of audience in all the halls. Has anybody deliberated upon the fact why her fans throng to her music? What is it that distinguishes her from others? Yes, it is precisely the philosophy which she has set of her own and also for her own that makes her audience look at her with awe and wonder. One can easily understand that her music is not certainly meant for those who look for a social meeting every Sunday morning where they can display their good clothes and ornaments. It is indeed for those who yearn for something great in life to which they can give themselves. And, it is also for those who cannot rest satiated with just one concert.

A penance
In December 2013 during the music season, Smt. Jayashri performed at seven places beginning from 12th of December and ending with 30th of December with an interval of three days among each concert. Perhaps she designs her schedule like this to provide adequate rest to her vocal chords, and also to ensure that she gives a soulful performance in every concert. This shows her concern and respect for the audience also. Also, it echoes her strict adherence to the sanctity of perfection, which answers for the admiration of the audience in her. Any serious connoisseur would endorse the fact that every concert of hers is a penance for her. This penance requires an all-round effort. It calls for the discipline of emotions as well as the purification of character from egoism, the practice of the art of meditation as well as religious devotion and prayer, and constant reflection about experiences of life to learn the lessons behind them. It is in this context that mention has to be made that she carries no flask with her and even without a sip of water during the concert, she travels with effortless ease even in the upper octaves. Her passion and commitment for music seem to be a matter of habit in Smt. Jayashri, and not a matter of inclination.

Who is her Ishtadevataa?
In her concerts this season, with the exception of one or two, she chose to invoke the blessings of Lord Ganesa in the opening krti. Thereafter, it was followed by either ‘Manavyaalakincara’ in Nalinakanti or ‘Gaanamurte’ in Ganamurti or ‘Bhaagaayanaiya’ in Chandrajyoti or ‘Teliyaleru Rama’ in Dhenuka in the various halls whereby she made the audience spell bound. Taking up for short alapanas for some of the ragas such as Simhendramadhyama, Bahudari, and Sriranjani initially, she switched over to detailed delineation of ragas such as Mohanam, Kharaharapriya, Kalyani, Sankarabharanam, Thodi and Kalyani in these concerts. In the krti ‘Mohanarama,” she brought out the beauty of both Sri Rama and that of the raga Mohana. ‘Chakkaniraja’ in Kharaharapriya was vibrating at The Music Academy, and ‘Rama nee vadhu kondhuvo’ in Kalyani at Narada Gana Sabha was a class apart. Again, the Svarajati of Shyama Sastri in Bhairavi in the same concert made the audience spell-bound. ‘Kanne en kanmaniye’ in Kurinji raga in the last concert still rings in one’s ears. "Subtle intangible quietness of soul invades one. It is pleasant, and soothes the nerves, mind and heart. The sense of peace that envelops the audience, who sit so quiet, gently swells up into bliss ineffable, and into a marvelous serenity. This is the uniqueness of Smt. Jayashree’s music."

The second part of her concerts, which she devoted for RTP (ragam, tanam and pallavi), mostly in Hindustani raga, was a much-awaited segment of her concerts by the rasikas. She invoked almost all Gods of Hindu Pantheon. While three of them were composed in Tamil, she preferred chaste Sanskrit lines of Pallavi for the remaining concerts. Invoking Lord Siva as ‘Hey Chandracuda in one, she turned on to His Consort in another as ‘Saranganayane Sadasivadayite’ in Suddhasarang. Fondling Lord Krishna in the pallavi ‘Chinnanchirupadam konjum’ in the Kapi raga and seeking the blessings of Subrahmanya in ‘Thogai mayil meedhu’ in Abheri, she mesmerised the audience. Here again she splits the raga into two segments, and presents its beauty. The transition from one raga to the other in the pallavi svaras and the reversal of the svaras were handled by her elegantly and with a professional perfection. As if approving the Rgvedic passage ‘Ekam sad vipraa bahudaa vadanti’ (which means that One and the same Reality appears as manifold), she invoked all Gods and Godesses in her Pallavis. Yet, one entertains a doubt as to who is her Ishtadevataa? May be Lord Krishna! The bhajans of Kabir, Tulsidas and Meera, which followed the Pallavis, were all enchanting. She forgets herself while rendering them .What an ecstatic feeling! She rounded off the concerts with the thillanas of her Guru Lalgudi.

Like Sabari
Having enjoyed this kind of musical feast, the President of a Sabha observed in appreciation of her performance thus:``She (Jayashri) does a lot of home-work. She tastes each and every raga in its entirety before offering to the responsive audience ... just like the Sabari of Ramayana fame who offered the bitten fruits to Sri Rama.’’ Maybe this is the philosophy of Smt. Jayashri. Not surprisingly, she ensures the quality of every raga or kriti she presents. One need not suffer monotony also in her raga delineation. Every time she sings a raga - Mohana or Kalyani in every season or any other raga - her manodharma expands to a new horizon. One has to experience it to say so. Yes! It is “anubhavaikavedya”. At the same time, the pleasure one derives from that is inexplicable. In the language of Advaita, it is “anirvacaniya”. It may be well said that it is in her music that the neglected and unnoticed needs of internal life receive their due.

A focussed approach
Another unique feature in the philosophy of her music is that she avoids distracting sight-impressions from the outer world. Hardly ever she smiles while singing in a concert. How could she do so? Once she is in a concert, she is totally oblivious of her surrounding and remains a guest in her own self. This complete identity of herself enables her create a universe for herself wherein she enjoys the union with the divine. No wonder the result, viz., her music turns out to be totally divine and captivating. Sometimes one is led to believe that she does not applaud or appreciate her accompanying artistes. Yet, those of us who are shrewd among the audience would not fail to notice her significant exchange of glances with the percussionists or the violinist, which indicate her whole-hearted admiration of their performance. Perhaps she feels that words fail to express what gestures could signify. Her divine music gets all the more enriched by the equally talented and committed accompanying artistes, H.N.Bhaskar or Embar Kannan on the Violin or Patri Sathish or Manoj Siva on the Mrdangam. She is keen to offer variety by selecting dual Tambura artistes for her concerts from among her dedicated band of disciples. Yes, they keep changing in every concert. A brief interaction of this writer with the disciples of Smt. Jayashri also reveals the supreme kind of vatsalya she entertains for her disciples. Clad in elegant attire, she seems to convey her philosophy that she should be appreciated and admired more for her divine music than any other extraneous factors.

Stickler to time
Yet another uniqueness of her concert is her meticulous preparation and selection of krtis. There is no repetition at all. Being a rigid perfectionist, she hardly takes time between two songs. It is, therefore, she is able to be in strict resonance with the time frame allotted to her. When she concludes, the clock would ring 9 p.m. One is really amazed at this kind of adherence to time factor by Smt. Jayashri. One has to attend her concerts to find all these facts true. All music rasikas would agree that whatever has been mentioned here is neither unfounded nor exaggerated. There is very little doubt that she has already made an indelible mark in the minds of her rasikas, who want to see her climb up the ladder of success and reach the highest pinnacle — Yes, Sangita Kalanidhi is just a few steps ahead of her. I think that with this unique philosophy which she has set for her own, Smt. Bombay Jayashri Ramnath,- the melody queen who combines in herself the tapas of divine music, dedication, self-restraint, devotion, humility, simplicity, and compassion, all rolled into one, is well poised to make a mark of her own in the field of Carnatic music. We only have to remind ourselves whether we are in another era of the legend -- Bharat Ratna M.S. Subbulakshmi. I leave it to your decision!