Carnatic music concerts, Hindustani music learnt from eminent Gurus, playback singing for films from the south and Bollywood, music collaborations with Indian and international artistes – and so on. Bombay Jayashri’s musical journey is dotted with many highs, and experiments, which she says happened according to a plan that the universe devised for her.
“Universe is always thinking of what I should do. When I sang my first song, or when I sang for a Hollywood film, or collaborated with Finnish musicians and go, year after year to Finland – God has set these things for me and I just embrace whatever comes my way. I do not have a bucket list. I am a small human being and I do not aspire for anything; I know there is something that will come my way,” she shares during an interview post the SICA concert in Hyderabad.
A gifted musician and a supremely spiritual person, says, she enjoys her journey more than the destination, which she considers is a manifestation of the journey itself; an approach that reflects in her concerts as well. “I enjoy everything, Carnatic concerts, recording a film song, singing with Oklahoma City Philharmonic; within that what I enjoy the most is the preparation for the concert. When I came to Hyderabad, I was thinking about the Ragams that I must pick since it was the last day of the festival. Maybe, it should not be what has already been sung. Then there was the song selection based on the city, what can work with the audiences from my past experiences, my accompanying musicians. Working out the sets and songs gives me the utmost pleasure, and the outcome of a concert is based on this planning,” she relates, and uses this opportunity to laud the Hyderabad audience, ‘A SICA concert and Ravindra Bharati is a combination, I always look forward to.”
Bombay Jayashri is as much influenced by classical music as she is by film music. While her Gurus and stalwarts of traditional music are majorly influential in moulding the musician she is – both Carnatic and Hindustani, she is equally impressed with film music legends like Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Madan Mohan, SD Burman. “In my home, every music was heard, and we were like sponges that absorbed everything that was beautiful,” she shares. She feels listening to music, learning and emulating is extremely important for musicians. “There are different types of listeners within me. On the top is student Jayashri who listens to great people like my Gurus, or the likes of Mehdi Hassan, and wonders if she will ever be able to sing like that. Sometimes I also learn from a young singer who may only be singing at a Navratri Golu. Then there is this person who listens to good music to relax and enjoy, which varies with time and mood. There is also this person who says she does not want to listen to any music at all. Sometimes one wants to listen to music in solitude and does not share the moment with anyone. The kind of music one is drawn to also depends on our upbringing and the music we are exposed to. I sometimes listen to different kind of music that my son plays for me.”
Her concerts reflect her many influences. She also tries to include a few Hindustani items, some that she has learnt from her Guru Mahaveer Jaipurwale. During the SICA’s annual festival, she chose to sing a composition by Guru Mahadev (her Guru’s teacher) who was a great composer but not a performer; hence his compositions are rare that she learnt as a child.
Her film songs run into thousands and she says she is lucky to have worked with some great musicians like MS Viswanathan, Ilayaraja, AR Rehman, Harris Jayraj, Shankar Ehsan Loy and Malayalam composers like C Venkatesh, Johnson, Govind Vasanta; and each song she says is like a star. “I sometimes wonder if the music directors kept their best songs for me. I feel truly grateful,” she adds.
About the upcoming music season – Marghazi, she shares, “This will be my 34th year of participation in the Chennai festival. Many things have changed and have become different; what has not changed is that I still have butterflies in my stomach before a concert during the music season. I still feel there is so much I have to say and do. It is a special feeling to be surrounded by a city full of concerts with everybody wanting to do the best. It is a beautiful time and I always look forward to it.”