Under Bombay Jayashri’s expert guidance, the Children’s Carnatic Choir presented a programme that was unique and unifying

For Bombay Jayashri, becoming part of a fund raiser was yet another new challenge. Something she was ready to take on. So when the Bengaluru-based NGO, Bhoomija, approached her for a find-raiser, she graciously accepted. But she had one stipulation… she would not sing. Instead, she would love to mould fresh voices, while she donned the hat of a director.

Gayathri Krishna of Bhoomija was ready to try a new concept which, in her words, would be “a programme of the children, by the children and for the children.”

And that’s how was born the Children’s Carnatic Choir directed by Bombay Jayashri.

Jayashri began her periodic visits sometimes lasting five to six months to Bengaluru to train the young ones, who came different backgrounds and different schools, and had training in Carnatic music. Jayashri’s students continued the training in Bangalore. There was no elimination process involved in the selection of these children: it was purely on the basis of first come, first served.

This team of 12 girls and six boys, all under the age of 16, was soon ready to perform and after two successful programmes in Bengaluru, the team was more than willing to taste success in Chennai too!

The Children’s Carnatic Choir presented by Bhoomija (an year-old organisation that supports the promotion of the Classical Arts) was a fundraiser in aid of Dhrishti (vision for life towards eye care for the under privileged ).

From the aisles, groups of children trooped along singing ‘Omkara’ and then walked on to the beautiful stage which had Warli art cut-outs as mobiles. Settling in three rows, they started with a medley of Tyagaraja’s kritis to celebrate music, an elevating experience.

The programme was woven around a narrative... of a guru losing her voice, even as she is training the children and how the children on their part, try to sing various songs to help her win her voice back! Words such as “Yaga, Yoga, Thyaga’ seemed playful, only to break out into ‘Ragasudharasa, Sangeetha Gnanamu’ and so on. The influence of the Western choir was seen throughout, with layering of music and paying attention to harmony. The saptaswaras sung in three kalams, where each group tried out a different kalam, was a revelation for what was to follow later.

The children moved from ‘Vandanamu’ in Sahana to ‘Sobillu’ in Jaganmohini and ‘O Jagamdamba’ in Anandabhairavi with effortless ease. ‘Najeeva dhara’ in Bilahari was an eye opener - for someone to handle Bilahari with competence and ease requires commitment and effort from both the guru and the sishyas! The gamut of sangathis was sung with élan by the choir.

Jayashri’s success lies in the fact that she managed to get what she had set out to achieve – make music not only elevating but also enjoyable in the process! Her desire to mould children comes as no surprise, being the granddaughter of a great teacher, Vicha Bhagavathar, and daughter of wonderful gurus, Seetha and N.N. Subramaniam, as also a disciple of the legendary Lalgudi Jayaraman, a great teacher himself.

Says Jayashri, “I have always seen children bonding over a game of football or going for movies . So I planned to create such a bonding through a classical art form.” True enough, a strong bond of friendship developed between the children. One of them said, “I did not have too many friends as they did not like music. But now, I not only have friends but also my music which I like very much.”

The songs which followed such as ‘Theerada Vilayatu Pillai’ and ‘Krishna Nee Begane Baro’, were ideally suited for the group, full of fun and mischief. As a tribute to her guru Lalgudi Jayaraman, they sang the Desh, so fitting and with a prayer for universal peace. The children concluded with ‘Maitrim Bhajata.

However, the showstopper of the evening was ‘Anandaamritavarshini’ the inimitable song in Amrithavarshini. It was a treat so beautifully choreographed. In a theatrical move, the children clapped their thighs, stamped their feet, clicked the tongues and snapped their fingers to bring in the drama of the rain. It was no surprise to hear the thunderous applause that followed.

Says Bombay Jayashri, “It’s easier to play a fond aunt or a grandparent, where you can just enjoy the time with the child, pamper him/her and just “let them be.” But when you play the role of a parent, the responsibility and restrictions increase. So this time, I wanted to be just a ‘fond aunt’.” She just “let the kids be.” In doing so, she was directing them to be like “water” and flow freely and effortlessly. One could sense the vibrant energy – for these children were drawing “energy” from Jayashri , and filling their vessels with it. The result was a phenomenal outpouring of music. what stands out as unique is the fact that she has played a crucial role in making them understand the music within themselves and bring it out in harmony.

The theatrical director and set director was Pushan Kriplani and the costumes were by Sonali. K.J. Dileep and Meera Sundar on the violin, Sumesh Narayan on the mridangam, S. Krishnan on the ghatam, and Rajeev Nagarajan on the udukka were part of the ensemble. Chitra Poornima was the guiding light for the choir group on stage.