21 strings and more

Jaywant Naidu, who plays the Hawaiian guitar says that music is a joy that must be shared with everyone

Published - January 24, 2013 10:36 pm IST

Jaywant Naidu with Baul musicians in Shanti Niketan

Jaywant Naidu with Baul musicians in Shanti Niketan

If eight-year-old Jaywant Naidu’s experiments with vocal training, tabla and other traditional instruments had taken off, he would never have discovered his penchant for the Hawaiian guitar. “I tried the sitar too but I was too short for the instrument back then. I heard one of the students play the Hawaiian guitar and wanted to try it. My hands were too small for that too, so instead of holding the big rod, I played it with a small part of a table fan one of my classmates handed to me..So my journey as a Hawaiian guitarist started with a small make-shift steel roller from a table fan,” laughs Jaywant Naidu. Over the years, Jaywant has created a significant space for himself, playing Indian classical music on a western instrument.

Jaywant’s introduction to music was rather mechanical, “It was as good as going to school — a routine where I went to school, learnt music, came back home and practised. As the years passed, I began to truly enjoy the instrument,” he says. Born into a South Indian family, Jaywant grew up in Hyderabad and Nagpur; he also lived and trained in Mumbai under Dinesh Kumar Sampath for a couple of years before he finally settled down in Hyderabad. Even though Jaywant doesn’t come from a family of musicians, his decision to follow that path was never questioned. It was in Hyderabad that Jaywant decided to perform; he studied under Kishtaiah, a sitar player, and K. Jangaiah. “I became aware of the concert aspect of learning music. You have to understand the beauty of the raga and you have to understand each swara and each note. Take Sa Re Ga, the note is the same, but in every raga it changes and if it doesn’t then it isn’t a new raga. These intricate elements of music became clearer to me and I was ready to explore further,” says Jaywant.

In 1996, Jaywant gave his first performance at the Vadya Madhuri in Music Academy in Chennai and he felt that music was the medium through which he would like to send out to people a message of peace and harmony. “After my first concert, my link with music wasn’t merely mechanical anymore,” he says.

Jaywant often receives requests for film songs during concerts. Unable to disappoint the audience, he plays Mukesh’s ‘Jaane Kahaan Gaye Woh Din’ and explains that all film songs emerge from ragas.

He hates the label ‘fusion’, but loves what it means. He has performed with an array of artists including the American composer-trumpeter Charlie Porter, flautist Laure Menegoz, and jazz musicians Thibault Hien and Sebastian Wacheux. Closer to home, he has collaborated with the Manganiar folk musicians from Rajasthan's Barmer village. At a concert in Shantiniketan, Jaywant Naidu indulged in impromptu collaboration with local baul musicians. “We call it fusion because you cannot give it a right name. It is literally a collaboration of music where you explore different genres of music together. It is like exchanging views musically. To me there is nothing greater than performing with myriad instruments. Take 15 baul musicians, my Hawaiian guitar, the Iktara and the Khanakh and it is melody in the making,” he says excitedly.

He laments the fact that skill is being lost on instruments such as the Bobbili Veena and Rudra Veena and the Rajasthani folk instrument Kamaicha. This 400-year-old musical legacy is made from a single piece of wood and comprises a spherical bowl extended into the neck. The instrument is played using a bow. “I believe that our country has a lot of talent but we need focus on protecting our rich musical heritage before it wanders off into oblivion,” he adds. He would also like to see the revival of ‘baithak’ concerts, where small audiences were richly linked to the artistes. “Music is a joy that must be shared,” smiles Jaywant.

Patent Power: The ‘Jaywant Guitar’

Jaywant Naidu and Mohammed Arif from Gibtone Guitar Corporation in Kolkatta have modified the Hawaiian guitar. When he embarked on this innovation, Jaywant was inspired by the layers of sound in a Western symphony. “This symphonic sound of a group of violins, flutes or cellos has always fascinated me and the urge to get the sound of more than one guitar while playing a single instrument was always there,” he says.

The Jaywant Guitar has 21 strings with three pairs of main melody strings and three ‘chikari’ strings. The main objective of the instrument is to be able to produce the sound of an ensemble of Hawaiian slide guitars.

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