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Interviews
Bombay Jayashri Ramnath
Carnatic Singer
"Music should be taught in every school"
 
Bombay Jayashri RamnathOne of the younger and rising stars of the Carnatic music world, Bombay Jayashri has instant name recall among the kutcheri crowd and even out of it.

Busy with her travelling and preparations for the forthcoming season - "I am working on presenting a couple of rarer ragas," - Jayashri also found time to sing for the disabled and to introduce children at a Madras children's bookstore to Carnatic music.

KutcheriBuzz caught up with her for a chat on what she thinks of music and the world!

What interesting things have you been doing lately?
I sang at the anniversary of Banyan, the home for mentally retarded women in Madras. The audience was so eager and listened so raptly, and all dressed up for the occasion, that I was moved.

I sang again at the end of their celebrations, and must say that it was worth remembering.

Tell us about how you started learning music, and the early days?
I was born and brought up in Bombay. My parents were both music teachers and I was naturally expected to sing! I then learnt from Balamani Ammal for 12 years.

It was after I finished college in 1989 that we shifted to Madras as it was apparent that one had to be here to pursue Carnatic music seriously.

I started performing in 1992 and television was a big thing. The Spirit of Unity concerts was a take off point.

It was also the boom period for commercial cassettes. I can say that this did not help any other generation of musicians as it did my batch.

Our lives and careers took off because of this. The cassettes would reach every nook and corner and many, many out of town and small town music organisers would listen to them before deciding whom to invite. It was like our biodata reached them ahead of us.

That is how we were all able to travel widely.

Did you pursue training in any other field, as an insurance against the 'uncertainties' of taking up music as a career?
No. I just did a B.Com. from Poddar College. And that was because my mother felt that at the end of the day I needed to have a degree. I was hardly interested in classes and was more interested in the culturals and in taking part in other activities. In fact anything to run away from college!

Was college that bad?
No, I was bad! And I was more interested in music. I did a Diploma in Music from the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya through distance learning. And that was it.

What trends have you been seeing in the last few years, during the travels that you mentioned. Among audiences, among the younger generation...
There is a lot of talent in all parts of the country. Children want to take up music full time. But parents are a bit reluctant. They want them to have an engineering or some degree in hand.

The reason is that there is opportunity to make music a profession, but there is no code of discipline or guarantee that will encourage people to take it up as a full time profession.

Not everyone can make it as performers perhaps, but there should be at least a good chance that they can get jobs as teachers or something. The system does not offer that.

How could such interest be fostered and how could the system evolve to encourage this?
How many schools have music as part of the curriculum? Every school should have at least one hour of music. It's like their History and Geography classes, music too should be taught to children as part of their school routine.

Today there is a full schedule in school and then tuitions, then there is homework from school and homework from the tuition teacher, and sports and karate and computer classes. Unless music is made part of the schoolwork, as part of curriculum, where is the time for learning it?

Why is this important for children to learn music?
Because if it is not, then we are losing something that's very integral to our culture.

Do you research on music...?
Only when I have to use it for my performances. If I need to check back on a raga rendering, or if anyone raises a doubt, I will pull out my books and read up.

For instance...?
Okay, I recently came across a Dikshitar Krithi in raga Veeravasantham. it sounded totally different from a Tyagaraja krithi in the same raga.

So, I went to my books, and found that each composer had used the same name coincidentally and they were two entirely different ragas!

I have done a few workshops for YACM (Youth Association for Classical Music), but they were very basic ones.

What do you do other than singing?
I get to stay at home so rarely, that I really like to stay at home! I read a lot - anything I come across. I get to read a lot when I travel for performances.

Bombay Jayashri Ramnath can be contacted at Block 2, IA Tharangini Apartments, 3rd Seaward Road, Valmiki Nagar, Chennai - 600 041, India. Phone: 0091-44- 442 4729. e-mail: ramnathpv@vsnl.com.

- By K. Nitya Kalyani

 

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