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Groomed to excel

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Jayanthi Kumaresh
Jayanthi Kumaresh

The guru is one who shows you the quality (gunam) and contours (rupam) of the art , one who knows when to present you. Have trust in your guru – that is still the best way to learn sangeetham.

For Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh, “a new melody unfolds itself every day and every musical note presents itself like a fresh flower.” Her doctoral pursuit — “Analytical study of different banis and playing techniques of the Saraswathi Veena” — done under the guidance of Dr. Manjunath, has cleared her mind of certain myths about the veena and has made her comprehend how the veena itself has evolved over the centuries.

The roles of your aunt and Lalgudi in moulding you …

In a family replete with violinists of the highest order, my periamma, Padmavathy was the only one who played the veena. A self- taught artist, she was my role model from childhood. I left my parents’ home in Bangalore to go over to Chennai and stay with my Periamma to pursue veena seriously. She had just returned after her 10-year stint at the Indian Fine Arts Society, at Singapore.

To say that my periamma is a disciplinarian is an under statement. The timetable she laid out would begin at 4 a.m. and end at 10 p.m. It was music all the way. Her dream was to make me one of the finest veena players ever. She is still doing everything possible to see that I make progress in my playing. My day’s schedule included learning from periamma, SB sir’s special classes, Pallavi classes from TRS, guidance from my uncle Lalgudi Jayaraman, visits to Brindamma’s house, her insights and watching greats come home and perform, and occasionally learning from them too.

I’ve had the rare privilege of learning from Lalgudi uncle several times; all of them are special moments. Every time one listens to him, one realises how much more there is to learn. . Thus it has been one long journey, musical and melodious.

S. Balachander…

The memorable day was in 1986. S. Balachander was giving a public concert at Kalakshetra and my periamma was accompanying him. I was there as part of the audience. It was like a flash of lightning as SB signalled to me to get on to the stage to play. The raga was Chithrambari. My periamma’s joy knew no bounds for SB was her manasiga guru. There he announced in his inimitable manner, “from this day Jayanthi, the grand daughter of Pallavi Gopala Iyer, will be his student.”

I had already participated in his RagaYagam, which he conducted every Friday at his place, but this was a godsend. He was affectionate, and I would watch his playing with awe. Every moment I spent under him was a gift given to me by my periamma. I don’t think there can ever be a vainika like him. I really wish he had lived for many more years.

Your style …

Initially I really did not know if I was qualified to create a style at all, though I felt it had to be a blend of the classicism of Padmavathy, the brilliance of SB and the aestheticism of Lalgudi . I don’t want to sound like anyone else. I am trying hard…I hope I succeed someday! Ganesh and Kumaresh are a great influence. Their hard work, perfection of technique and their enthusiasm to think differently have motivated me to try newer things within the territory of classical music.

Guru and guru bhakti …

Taking lessons from a living guru – can there be substitute? A guru is one who preserves your interest, gets involved in your progress and gives valuable feedback on your singing. Where may I ask, is guru bhakti these days? Now it is more of guru-assessment, and the immediate target is the stage-performance.

The guru is one who shows you the quality (gunam) and contours (rupam) of the art , one who knows when to present you. Have trust in your guru – that is still the best way to learn sangeetham.

The task ahead for young performers …

There has been a growth in the number of artists, sabhas and sponsors, but the number of rasikas is shrinking. The rasika base has to be broadened and has to become more inclusive, and that’s the prime responsibility of performing youngsters. They have to attract more young rasikas to their concerts. It is really up to them to strive for a future-perfect age and create a healthy mix of audience.

S. SIVAKUMAR


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