Niece of legend Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman, Jayanthi Kumaresh, is a recognised face for her innovative music in the Saraswathi veena. Performing for the 31st time at the Margazhi music festival in the city, this musician, based in Bengaluru, shares a lot about her growing up with music, how veena came to her, performing in concerts and more.
“I was trained by my aunt in gurukulavasam. I stayed with her to learn music and veena, although I also went to a regular school to learn other things. She was a strict teacher and I was under her tutelage for about 20 years! I remember the times when I woke up by 4 am every day to practice the veena. I started performing in concerts with her, while I was learning music. And my uncle took me to many concerts, where I witnessed legends performing. It was truly a magical journey growing up with music,” begins Jayanthi.
Playing the national instrument of India for over three decades now, Jayanthi has performed internationally and nationally with collaborations and also in solo concerts. When asked about the challenge of playing the veena solo, she responds, “The responsibility of the whole concert falls on you. If there are mridangams, ghatams and violins with you, you can have a sawal-jawab session where you can rest, or a solo portion of other instrumental aalaps for you to take a break in. But for solo performances you’ve got all eyes on you and the next couple of hours is in your hands. As much as one can, the vainika must innovate in the dynamics, speed and type so that the audience is glued to the chair — it’s very challenging.”
Talking about the margazhi season, Jayanthi says that she loves the vibrancy of the city and that she likes the women dressed in silk sarees, discussing music and the crowded food stalls. “It’s a celebration for the music fraternity. Enthusiasts from all over the globe come to Chennai and it’s like a giant music hub, where all the sabhas are crowded,” she shares excitedly.
Jayanthi asserts the need for all the performers to become communicators and be technology friendly. Stating that the one who performs the music must also be able to communicate its history and appreciation, she says, “Data is the new democracy. We need to encourage more youngsters and draw them towards classical music. They are indeed interested to know about our tradition but we need newer methods of reaching out, to bring potential audience. Instrumental music is beyond region and religion, and youngsters can enjoy the sonic experience!”
Her web series Cup’O Carnatic with short videos, which won over a million views, deals with basic things about music, like — buying a veena or the process of organising a concert. Another popular project of hers, Mysterious Duality - Just Me, deals with Jayanthi overlapping on her veena tunes seven times. When one hears it, it might seem like an orchestra performing it, but it’s just her! “It was inspired from the human mind and how different our inner personalities are,” she adds.
For this margazhi, Jayanthi, who is also the founder of Indian National Orchestra, will be performing all solo concerts. “The challenge is to make each solo different from the other,” she says as she signs off!...