Bombay Jayashri is a highly acclaimed Indian classical musician and vocalist, known for her exceptional talent and soulful renditions. With years of rigorous training in Carnatic music, she has established herself as a prominent figure in the field of Indian classical music, performing across the globe and collaborating with musicians from different genres. Her music is characterized by its intricate melodies, evocative lyrics, and emotive delivery, which have won her a legion of fans and numerous accolades. As a composer, she has also left an indelible mark on the film industry, having composed music for some of the most celebrated films in recent times. Bombay Jayashri’s contribution to music and culture has been widely recognized, and she continues to inspire and delight audiences with her artistry.
In this interview, she shares her insights into her approach to music, the influence of yoga on her performances, and her philanthropic work with underprivileged children. She also discusses the challenges and rewards of blending Carnatic music with other genres and the growing interest in Indian classical music outside of India. Finally, she gives a glimpse of what audiences can expect from her upcoming performances in the UK.
Serenade Team: Your music is known for its soulfulness and ability to connect with the audience. How do you achieve that emotional connection in your performances, and what role do you think music plays in bringing people together?
Bombay Jayashri: The ability to connect to audiences comes from humbling yourself to the artform, in my opinion, which has been graciously taught to me by several of my Gurus. It’s a deep, wide beautiful world of music, and everyday when I attempt to go closer to every note, I’m in awe of the note, the nuances and the interpretations I have acquired by the gracious sharing from my Guru’s and several teachers in my path that I have acquired as a student, and that’s what I believe I transfer to the audiences when I share my music with them in my concerts.
ST: You’ve composed music for several films, including “Life of Pi” which earned you an Academy Award nomination. How does your approach to film music differ from your approach to traditional Carnatic music, and what are some of the unique challenges you face when composing for film?
BJ: I’ve grown up in a household that appreciated and respected all forms of music equally well. The intent to learn music came from my mother, and the attempt to learn as many forms of music that were provided to us in growing up in Bombay, has led me to be able to keep my eyes and ears open to all forms of music and revere it, with equal ease and intent. That’s why I don’t think there are any challenges when composing. I’m able to look at that world equally as well as classical music.
ST: As a student of yoga, how has its practice influenced your music, and how do you incorporate those principles into your performances?
BJ: Yoga brings together the mind, soul and intellect, whatever that may mean. I think it brings a sense of happiness, calm and joy, and, that sense of joy and calm manifests in whatever one attempts to do.
ST: You’re involved in various philanthropic activities, including a music school for underprivileged children. Can you tell us more about your involvement in these initiatives and why you believe music education is important for all children?
BJ: I’ve been involved in sharing music with children from rural India, with the help of my students, primarily in a village called Manjakkudi which is in the south of Tamil Nadu. There are children who have such a deep sense of value for art. A deep sense of appreciation and an eagerness and keen-ness to learn this. They are like sponges – they just absorb what is taught to them day after day. That is why we feel so happy going to Manjakkudi week after week where we engage the children and share Carnatic classical music with them.
ST: With the increasing popularity of fusion music, what are your thoughts on blending Carnatic music with other genres, and what are some of the challenges of maintaining the integrity of Carnatic music while also experimenting with new sounds?
BJ: Fusion is something that I have been exploring for a long time with Hindustani music, with dance forms, with Western classical music as well. I learn a lot, because I’m able to view, experience, listen and sing myself and the sharing involved gives you an opportunity to experience music from another lens, another lens of appreciation, which brings together their training , my training, their experience with my experience, their love for aesthetics and mine. The shared experience always catapults a student of music to another level, which then makes a better musician and better student of music.
ST: Your music is often deeply rooted in spirituality and philosophy. How has your own personal philosophy influenced your music and what role do you believe music plays in spiritual practice?
BJ: I think the more you practice music, it takes you to a plane which makes you want more of that space and peace and happiness. That’s my definition of that ‘space’ – whether one calls it philosophy or spirituality, I’m not sure, but it does take you to a higher plane. That’s the whole idea of music and life in general.
ST: In recent years, there has been a growing interest in Indian classical music outside of India. What do you think is driving this interest, and how can musicians and organizations support the global spread of Indian classical music while also preserving its traditional roots?
BJ: There is a growing interest of music outside of India and that’s because our roots our so strong, deep and wide. Sprouts of Indian classical music will keep sprouting, not only in India but throughout the world.
ST: This month, you will be returning to the UK after a decade to perform two very special performances under the aegis of Milap. What can audiences look forward to from these performances in London and Liverpool?
BJ: I look forward so much to performing for Milap in London and Liverpool, and I look forward to interacting with the wonderful audiences who I have had the privilege to interact with a couple of times under the aegis of Milap. I think we have an eclectic and very absorbing audience, and one that helps all of us to perform in a vibrant and dynamic way. So I’m really eager and thankful for this wonderful opportunity provided by Milap – see you all there!
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