Childhood friends come together
Steeped in their own traditions, Pt. Ronu Majumdar and Bombay Jayashri Ramnath are also well-acquainted with each other's genres.
``Want to learn this lori (lullaby) sung by mothers and grandmothers in my family,'' the boy asks. The girl learns it eagerly. Then she launches into a kriti in Kapinarayani. ``This is Jhinjoti!'' the boy exclaims and responds on his flute. Their common interest made Pt. Ronu Majumdar and Bombay Jayashri Ramnath friends from childhood.
Young Ronu was trained in Hindustani music by father Dr. Bhanu Majumdar, Pt. Laxmanprasad Jaipurwale and Pt. Vijayraghav Rao.
Jayashri's parents Sita and Subrahmaniam sang Carnatic music and nurtured it in their offspring. Jayashri was to hone the skills acquired from Guru T. R. Balamani in Mumbai with Guru Lalgudi Jayaraman in Chennai. Her induction into Hindustani music began at an inter-collegiate music competition, asked the winner if she would learn geet and bhajan from him.
In Guru Jaipurwale's class she met young flautist Ronu, equally committed to music. Recalls Majumdar, ``Jayashri cut her first album of ghazals with the music I composed.'' Jayashri's shifting to Chennai did not end their friendship. She met Majumdar on her trips to Mumbai, sometimes between his recordings for films, mostly with R. D. Burman. He was also into Indi pop and fusion, whether with Remo Fernandes, with international celebrities from Ry Cooder to Jon Hassell, or touring with Ravi Shankar, a maestro of Majumdar's own Maihar gharana. He composed music for films and albums even as he continued his voyage with the classical bansuri. Exposure to fields beyond was an enrichment. His albums like ``Heart to Heart," ``Water Lily Acoustics," ``Etheral Rhythms'' and ``Mysticism on Woodwind'' were widely acclaimed.
Meanwhile Jayashri grew into a frontline classical vocalist, with forays into other ventures, from film song to composing music for the ballet `Silappadikaram.'
She developed a style which accented raga bhava, increased her repertoire, fine-tuned her voice. Her purity of sruti is accented by the two tamburas flanking her on the stage. Jayashri also became known for her post-pallavi pieces. Her handling of the Hindustani ragas came in for special appreciation.
Why did the singer give up Bharatanatyam, trained as she had been by doyen Mahalingam Pillai? ``One day my guru asked me to sit down beside him and sing for the other students who were dancing. He must have liked my singing, but I thought that he didn't want me to dance.''
She refused to go back to his class. But that dance training gave her a feel for bhava and rasa in her music.
Steeped in their own traditions, Pandit Ronu Majumdar and Bombay Jayashri Ramnath are also familiar with each other's genres, and individual styles. More, with their maturity and mutual rapport, their voice-wind blend at the inaugural concert of the Friday Music Festival (November 19, Music Academy, 7.15 p.m.) raises great expectations.
(See tomorrow's MetroPlus for preview of Mandolin Srinivas and Sultan Khan concert.)
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`I feel honoured' -- BOMBAY JAYASHRI
SOUTH BLENDS WITH NORTH: Bombay Jayashri Ramnath teams up with Ronu Majumdar to open the Friday Review Music Festival on November 19.
How interactive were your long ago musical exchanges with Ronu Majumdar in Mumbai?
He'd play when I sang the kritis, exploring Khamas, Andolika or Mohanakalyani. He loved Sahana, and urge me to sing ``E Vasudha." You could listen to his Abhogi forever. My mother provided endless cups of tea to sustain us as we got lost in music!
Isn't it rare to find a Hindustani artiste responding so much to Carnatic music?
I've many friends who can't understand Carnatic music. But Ronu is comfortable with our gamakas, values those graces.
Why didn't you do a jugalbandi until now?
I was sceptical. Jamming at home is not jugalbandi! When the Friday Review Festival asked if I'd do something different, I thought it was time to try it out.
With a hit like ``Vasikara," why didn't you do more playback singing?
I've learnt a lot by singing for films - mike control, the importance of pronunciation, emotional effect, learning and recording there and then. This requires a different mindset. I'd hate to do a lot of it.
What do you think of this festival?
I feel honoured to be singing for a festival organised by The Hindu, which has done so much for our music.
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`It's mutual affection' -- PT. RONU MAJUMDAR
Do you enjoy Carnatic music?
Yes. My guru Pandit Vijayraghav Rao was from the south. He taught me the melakartas, the difference in approach to Hindustani and Carnatic ragas. I've learnt a lot from Kadri Gopalnath.
It was a privilege to play with Dr. Balamuralikrishna.
Indian music rates the instrument below the human voice. How confident are you when matched with a vocalist?
For that crucial chemistry between the artistes you need understanding, care and mutual affection, not competitiveness and virtuosity.
Used as they are to instrumental support, vocalists tend to treat the instrument as an accompaniment, even in a jugalbandi.
That's what happened between Hariji (Chaurasia) and Kishoriji (Amonkar). I explain to my vocal partners that this is a dialogue between two minds.
Is the balance more difficult with the delicate flute than with sitar or sarangi?
Violin and sarangi have continuity like the voice. But the flute matches the voice most closely in sound. It can touch hearts just as much.
How do you feel about the festival?
I'm happy to participate in this festival conducted by a newspaper which has covered the real art and culture of India so consistently.
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