Led by Bombay Jayashri, Listening to Life was an interesting and significant experiment. Like ragas do each time they are sung, the concert will add on twists, turns and more colour, in time to come
Profound truths always come to you in whispers; mellow and understated. But beyond that, there was a greater surprise element to it – that for two composers (our own remarkable Mysore Ananthaswamy and Bombay Jayashri), far removed from each other’s contexts, Kuvempu’s deeply philosophical poem “Aniketana” manifested in a way that was strikingly similar; stoic and quiet. It certainly is more than serendipity. The poem, which speaks of the ideal nature of seeking – boundless and free — was a befitting opening to Carnatic maestro Bombay Jayashri’s concert, Listening to Life.
For a true seeker, there are hardly visible margins – the quest of music moves from one genre to the other, encapsulating great moments of inspiration into one’s own idiom. As Jayashri set out to speak of all the forms and ideas of music that had shaped her own musical imagination, she chose to trace the journey of the seven notes with the raga Nata Bhairavi. In moments, Jayashri had completely changed the mood from the “Aniketana” song to the devotional Nata Bhairavi kriti, “Sri Vallideva”.
Nata Bhairavi’s course is complex and interesting – it drops a few notes, takes on some other colours and makes interesting flights. It becomes Darbari Kanada, Adana, Shuddha Dhanyasi, Hindola, Durga and many others.
The remarkably talented team went from film music to devotional to ghazal, and chasing the different contours of these notes, they put on the canvas the remarkable ways in which human imagination worked, given the same set of notes. From the classic “Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje” to the lovely Ilaiyaraja Kannada film song “Nanna Jeeva Neenu”, followed by the extraordinary Tamil number from the film Dalapathi, “Sundari Kannal” to the mellifluous “Aap Ki Nazaron” – they traced the amazing turns the raga has taken.
The most exceptional moments of the concert came during the Carnatic and Western collaborations. The phenomenally talented Embar Kannan (violin) and Navneeth Sundar (piano) gave a Western interpretation to both “Samaja Varagamana” (Hindola) and “Moksha Mugalada” (Saramathi). Jayashri’s students brilliantly rendered the two Carnatic kritis in chorus and evoked sublime moments. Their rendition of “Katyayini”, without over stepping the restraint that Jayashri brings into the song, was contemplative. The talented singer M.D. Pallavi who was part of the concert was convincing in her abhang rendition, but “Deepavu Ninnade” was certainly not her best.
The concert left one with mixed feelings – it was a great idea. It was very significant coming from one of the top notch artistes of the Carnatic music scene. Each artiste on stage was very competent and played their roles to near perfection and equal passion -- but the experience remained fragmented. Did it demand more spontaneity, some abandon, and a stronger script? Perhaps.
That will perhaps come with more concerts, but at the moment we have to doff our hats to Jayashri’s deep commitment to music: the fact that she wanted to acknowledge these gamut of musical experiences in the making of her own idiom.