Versatile and inspiring: Musicians remember Vani Jairam, her artistry and craft

Carnatic musician Sikkil Gurucharan remembered the veteran singer as a dignified and versatile musician

February 05, 2023 12:58 am | Updated 12:14 pm IST

Playback singer Vani Jairam. File.

Playback singer Vani Jairam. File. | Photo Credit: S.S. Kumar

With thousands of songs spanning several languages, veteran singer Vani Jairam’s career, craft and artistry have been much admired among musicians across ages. Be it her dedication, her soft-spoken nature, or how her voice, comfortable at any octave or pitch, has continued to mesmerise many over the last five decades, many from the industry had fond memories, favourite songs and more to share and remember her by.

Singer Srinivas said ‘Runanubandhachya’, the marathi song Vani Jairam sang with Kumar Gandharva ranks high among his favourites. “This song came early in her career and she matches Kumar Gandharva note for note, something which would have been challenging. Her journey as a singer has been incredible,” he said.

Mr. Srinivas said the hallmark of Vani Jairam’s singing was that she continued to sing all the songs in the same pitch that she had recorded them in. “As the years pass, many singers tend to lower their pitches, but she never did. This is a testament to her practice techniques — she never stopped singing at home and this is a great quality that every singer should imbibe,” he added. He said the world would continue to celebrate her, and her extensive legacy of music.

After the death of singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, Vani Jairam’s passing away was another terrible loss to the music world, rued composer Deva. “She is someone who could effortlessly sing in a variety of genres. Her songs, ‘Ezhu Swarangal’ and ‘Megame Megame’ are among my favourites of hers and she has sung so many different songs through her career,” he said.

Mr. Deva recalled collaborating with the veteran singer in the 1970s on several devotional albums, before both of them became busy with film music.

“SPB and Vani Jairam both had a unique quality. Most singers will take at least an hour to practise a song that they are taught by the composer. She, however, would be ready in less than 15 minutes to record and would pick up the intricacies and nuances in compositions quickly. She was an extremely humble and soft-spoken artiste,” he added. 

Carnatic musician Sikkil Gurucharan remembered the veteran singer as a dignified and versatile musician. “I vividly remember my grandmother Kunjumani relishing the song ‘Meghame Meghame’ on TV one afternoon with her typical “Aaha and Besh”. It was then that I came to know of this great singer. Her music was austere just like the way she carried herself as a person and her diction in any language was awe-inspiring,” he said.

Gurucharan listed his five favourite songs rendered by singer Vani Jairam, for The Hindu

1. Orey Naal, Ilamai Oonjal Aadugirathu (1978, with S.P.Balasubramanian)

2. Meghame, Meghame, Palaivana Solai (1981, solo)

3. Malligai en Mannan, Dheerga Sumangali (1974, solo)

4. Ennullil Yengo, Rosapoo Ravikkaikari (1979, solo)

5. Indraikku yen indha aanandhame, Vaidehi Kaathirunthal (1984, with P. Jayachandran)

‘Her songs are immortal and unique’

Suhasini Mani Ratnam, who featured in the hit-song ‘Megame Megame’, said she considered herself extremely lucky to be in such a beautiful song. “I admired her even before I started acting in films. She was a great asset and a classical music background was very rare to have for a film music singer,” she said, remembering Vani Jairam’s crystal clear voice and her being a polyglot. 

Carnatic vocalist Nithyashree Mahadevan remembered her interactions with Vani Jairam, and said she had the opportunity to interact with her many times when she would come home to meet her grandmother D.K. Pattammal. “Vani amma once told me she has had to record even 20 songs in a day, going from one studio to another and even travelling to Bengaluru and returning the same day,” she recalled.

Calling her songs immortal and unique, Ms. Nithyashree said her voice had a mesmerising quality that wouldn’t show any strain in any of the higher octaves. 

Apart from her playback singing, Vani Jairam had recorded several devotional albums and musician Abaswaram Ramjhi said she was probably the only singer who had sung devotional songs in so many Indian languages.

“I was the anchor for Indian Movie New Magazine’s Singapore show where they conferred the lifetime achievement award on her. I vividly recall witnessing the humorous side of Vaniji for the first time on stage,” he recalled.

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