Jayashri explored the concept of melody within the strict grammar of Carnatic music at the opening session of 'The Universe of Sound 2010', a three-day festival co-hosted by Brhaddhvani and MusicUniv with support of Mahindra Lifespaces at Sivagami Petachi auditorium.

As vocalist Bombay Jayashri launched into a Thyagaraja kriti in Kalyanavasantham raga, the shruthi was set not just for an insightful lec-dem that followed but for a noble cause as well – taking classical art to every child.

Ms. Jayashri explored the concept of melody within the strict grammar of Carnatic music at the opening session of ‘The Universe of Sound 2010', a three-day festival co-hosted by Brhaddhvani and MusicUniv with support of Mahindra Lifespaces at Sivagami Petachi auditorium.

“Melody can be a tune, a part of a tune that we keep humming almost involuntarily or a group of notes that touch us,” Ms. Jayashri said. Defining melody is impossible as it is something that can only be experienced, she said.

Pointing out that in the Carnatic construct, there was melody in the notes, lyrics and the rhythm, Ms. Jayashri said the search for the melodic elements was an eternal one for all artists. “Melody is the soul and life of Carnatic, or any other form of music,” she said.

Launching into an exposition of the Thodi raga, she pointed out that there was melody in the space between notes and the nuances. Thodi is several hundred years old but the same phrases rendered by different singers evoke variegated forms of melody, she said.

She then dropped a few notes – the “ni” in the ascent – to illustrate how the flavour of the Thodi raga changed while the excision of the “ma” nudged the music into the territory of Bhoopalam raga, which was “another child of Thodi.” “Removing the two important notes of the spectrum makes the other notes that are kept farther away want to jump the spaces leading to a different melodic expression”.

Ms. Jayashri then turned to sangathis or the little embellishments that one added to the soundscape “like putting petals on a floral pattern”. In the words of her guru Lalgudi Jayaraman, this was akin to building a gopuram of melody brick by brick.

Pointing out that the compositional base was the fulcrum of Carnatic music, Ms. Jayashri said the sahithya by itself was melody. “Adding music only makes it even more beautiful,” she said and left everyone convinced with a delightful exposition of verse by Arunagirinathar.

Ms. Jayashri proceeded to showcase the dazzling allure of the Charukesi raga, “which is so beautiful that one only needs to sing it in pitch” with a rendition of the “Ada Modi Galade Ramayya” composition. She pointed out how her guru would introduce the briefest of pauses mid-verse to magnify the impact of melody. “A brief pause quietens the mind and readies it to absorb the beauty of what is to follow,” she said.

Indicative of the breadth of vision in Carnatic music was its assimilation of foreign notes into a raga to create a separate classification for the conjoined creation, Ms. Jayashri said. She rendered a mellifluous composition that did not adhere to any specific raga likening it to “garland of different flowers”.

Dancer and Kalakshetra Director Leela Samson and dancer-choreographer Anita Ratnam stressed the importance of involving the child in perpetuating cultural heritage.

Anil Srinivasan, Managing Director, MusicUniv, outlined the company's vision of reaching the arts to children. Alok Nayak, U.K.-based impresario also spoke. Earlier, the event was launched with Andrew T. Simkin, U.S. Consul General and Mike Nithavrianakis, British Deputy High Commissioner joining in the lighting of the ceremonial lamp.

A veena recital by Karaikudi S. Subramanian prefaced Bombay Jayashri's lec-dem.