A journey that begins in Bombay and reaches the cultural folds of Chennai. An era of music that she absorbed from her Guru Lalgudi G Jayaraman, taking her through the myriad corridors of classical Carnatic music. She is the ever endearing, mellifluous musician Bombay Jayashri.
Bombay Jayashri is an epitome of musical finesse and above all a glowing example of how life in its different hues and shades can influence a musician in the long run. The city she grew up in, the rhythm of life there and the various influences that she came across, all moulded the artiste that she is. It’s been years since she left Bombay and the city is now known as Mumbai. Yet the spirit of the city still holds strong for her, it being a part of her soul and her name Bombay Jayashri proves just that.
In this interview with indianexpress.com, Bombay Jayashri reveals how Chennai opened up new vistas for her in music. She also talks about Mumbai, the principles that bind her, her love for old Hindi film music, her beloved Guru and so much more.
“There has been an innate love for hindi music in my life. I grew up listening and loving hindi film songs of the 60s, 70s and 80s. A rich treasure that has added to my life so many gems. Lataji, Ashaji, Rafiji… I feel like they have been my teachers, to tune into the beauty and aesthetics of the music that they poured into our hearts,”says Bombay Jayashri whose childhood was filled with music that was taught to her by mother Sita. Later on, she learnt music under the tutelage of T.R. Balamani. There began her journey with music hand in hand for the next three decades. She explored pure Carnatic music as well as dabbling in new found paths within the music she had imbibed over the years. From countless sabhas in Chennai, from her concerts across the country to the Oscars, her journey in music has been vibrant and invigorating both for herself and her rasikas. Yet even now a slight nudge to her memories is all that is needed for her to be transported back to the city of dreams, Bombay as she knew it, to take her back to those songs that never failed to mesmerise her. It was home to her and she draws energy from those memories time and again.
“I loved the songs of the 60’s and 70’s. Among the amazing array of composers who ruled the roost during that era, S.D Burman, Madan Mohan, Salil Chowdhury were my favourites and then in Tamil M S Vishwanathan and Ilaiyaraaja. In Malayalam, I loved listening to Baburaj and Devarajan Master’s songs.”
But then she ended up in Madras where she evolved as a musician under the able guidance of the legendary Lalgudi G Jayaraman. “I never really wanted to sing in Bollywood. For me, it was all about listening to those songs and feeling genuinely happy from within. When I started singing though, it was during the 80s and 90s. Bollywood then was quite different from the Bollywood of the 60 and 70s. The move to Chennai was the beginning of another beautiful period, a lifelong journey with my Guru.”
“When I moved to Chennai, I did feel very lost. The city and its vibes were very different from my Mumbai. It wasn’t easy for me. But the music was so deep, so accessible. I could hear so many greats. It was exhilarating for me. But most importantly, it was how my Guru and his family adopted me and took me along that made it easier for me. The music took care of me and that is the beauty of it all.”
But Lalgudi was a complete musician whose forte was the violin. Did that ever inspire her, especially having experienced his exemplary performances? “Every moment, every day was a lesson for me. No, I always only thought of singing, hoping to bring out the beauty of his music in the voice.”
Jayashri says she loves many kinds of music and sounds. “I enjoy beauty in any form.” But has there been a challenge in her musical career? “I have never felt anything challenging as such. Whatever I have worked on, whatever I have done in terms of music, I have always loved it all. I have always been at ease and comfort and I believe that such an attitude is very important for an artist. I am in awe of music. I love it so deeply that i just float with the beauty.”
Lalgudi, she says, always told her to to choose from the many paths of music, but always try to take as many as you can do justice to. She believes teaching and passing on is an important aspect of being a musician. “It is because I am someone who constantly learns and unlearns. It is a continuous process. To be able to impart knowledge is to be able to give unto them happiness and joy that comes from learning such an art form. For me each day, each moment I am able to imbibe and experience the joys of learning myself and so it is equally important that I pass on the joy to my students.”
Jayashri says “Kandan sheyyal anro,” composed by her Guru Lalgudi Jayaraman in Nattakurinji raga is the one song that reflects who she is now. There is a line in it that says, “Vanda vazhvum valar pugazhum, sundara rupan sukumaran seyyal, kandan seyyal…” meaning “all that I have is because of your blessing, Kanda, Kumara”.