“Orchestration is what I enjoy most about being a musician,” says Jayashree Rajeev. The Carnatic vocalist has succeeded in taking Carnatic kritis to the layman through her audio albums on fusion music. The singer points out that she takes pleasure in “giving a new colour to Carnatic kritis”. The 35-year-old is now working with Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Central Plantation and Crop Research Institute, Kasaragod, as subject matter specialist. A first rank holder in M.A. Music from Kannur University and a B-High Grade artiste (Carnatic vocal) of with the All India Radio, Jayashree, a native of Kannur, is a trained violinist and dancer as well. Excerpts from an interview with the artiste…
Initiation into music
There are no professional musicians in my family. Although, most of them are fans of music, they are into academics. My maternal grandmother’s sister Valsala identified my talent and encouraged me to take up music. I started learning dance from P. Shrinivasan, who, incidentally, had taught my mother, M.P. Geetha, dance. When I was eight years old, I started learning music from Bhargavi Amma.
Learning from stalwarts
Nagaswaram exponent Pathur Sreenivasan has been my guru for long. I continue to learn from him. He is a treasure house of knowledge when it comes to music. It was he who insisted that I further train in music from another guru. So I became a disciple of Nedumangad Sasidharan Nair, who was working with All India Radio, Kozhikode. Later on, I started taking lessons from Thamarakkad Govindan Namboodiri too. In between, I learnt the violin from T.S. Babu. At present, I am a disciple of R. Swaminathan.
It was not a conscious decision at all! I just happened to mark agriculture as my third choice during the entrance examination. When the results came, with the rank I got, I had to go for agriculture stream. However, there are no regrets. In fact, Kerala Agriculture University, Mannuthy, Thrissur, where I studied, has played a significant role in my development as a musician. The verdant campus instilled in me a lot of confidence. Also, while working with Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Kannur, the centre brought out ‘Vayalkkili’, a two-volume CD with 20 songs, all of them related to various agrarian activities such as sowing, transplanting, reaping and so on. The lyrics were there and I composed the music for the songs, my first attempt at composing. It revived interest in such songs that were an inherent part of our agrarian past.
Focus on classical music
I’ve been giving concerts since I was 15. As the years progressed, I was juggling programmes, studies and then my job. It was only after my marriage that my music career got a new direction. My husband, M.A. Rajeev Kumar, a trained classical singer himself, was instrumental in streamlining my musical career. We often perform together.
Before venturing into fusion music and albums, I’d worked with V. Dakshinamoorthy, K. Raghavan and Vidyadharan master on many devotional albums. The thought behind my fusion music projects is to take classical kritis to the common man because the reach of pure classical compositions is always restricted to a niche audience. The layman often chooses to stay away from classical music in the misconception that it is beyond their grasp. We present the kriti as such, but improvise on the parts between pallavi and anupallavi. Our musicians incorporate different beats, for example, Western beats, and thus give a new flavour to the song. We’ve brought out 10 such albums, starting with ‘Siddi Vinayakam’ (2005). There has been much appreciation for our music. We might start work on a new album in March. All thanks to the artistes who work with me.
I have sung in movies such as Panchapandavar, Thattakam and Ozhimuri. Opportunities are few for classical singers in the film industry because songs that suit the texture of our voice are rarely being composed.
A guru as well
I’ve a music school, Varavarnini Sangeetha Sadas, and a few of my students have started giving kutcheris as well. Some of them have won prizes at the youth festivals. I’m a proud guru now!