Bombay Jayashri and Pandit Ronu Majumdar will showcase the rich tapestry of Indian classical music at the Friday Review November Fest on November 2, writes Gowri Ramnarayan
Steeped in their own traditions, Pandit Ronu Majumdar and Bombay Jayashri 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 Pandit Ronu Majumdar and Bombay Jayashri Ramnath friends from childhood. Young Ronu was trained in Hindustani music by father Bhanu Majumdar, Pandit Laxmanprasad Jaipurwale and Pandit 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 such as 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. 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 Friday Review Music Festival raises great expectations.