Bombay Jayashri on the “ bliss “ of helping autistic and special needs children. Even if you are not a rasika of Carnatic music Bombay Jayashri is a name that would not be completely unfamiliar. The vocalist became a global icon for Indian classical music when she became the first Carnatic musician to have been nominated for an Oscar in 2013. Although she lost the award she won over all of India as a cultural ambassador who walked the red carpet tall in her red silk sari. Besides the glow of the nomination what shone thrugh was a spiritual quality that the woman embodies. Not many knew that the time she was applauded for taking India to the Oscars she had embarked on a greater journey—to heal with music.
Sound of magic
“Every award or nomination means a lot to me. Equally important is the audience’s appreciation. But a session with special needs children is truly bliss for me” she says.
It was at the beginning of 2013 that Bombay Jayashri began journey to help special needs children, including those coping with autism and Down’s syndrome. The idea was sparked after she constantly met children with special needs at concerts and even in family settings where they showed they could lose themselves in music more completely than regular people. “ Autistic children are very gifted. They have a special ear for music. Music helps them relax and develop other skills. I enjoy the experience of watching them lose themselves in music” she says.
While music and dance therapy have taken off in the field of psychology over the past few decades music in particular helps autistic children with its repetitive quality. Bombay Jayashri someties supported by other musicians like Shubha Mudgal uses the device in her repertoire to help the children.
Now the vocalist is celebrating another milestone in this project. “ I have started a trust called Hitham, which is a year old now. We are concentrating on two projects. To work with the Ability Foundation which is taking music to autistic children. The second is a project in Manjakudi where my students and I teach music to 300 village children on a regular basis. Both these are very close to my heart” says Jayashri.
In the city for a concert on Friday she says she had always enjoyed performing here to audiences that were ‘ very open and energetic ‘. Her fondest memories of the city dated back to the 1980’s. “ I remember my first few performances were chamber concerts bosted by Sri B.R.C Iyengar. It is used to be a beautiful experience” she adds.
Born in Kolkata and into a family of artistes Bombay Jayashri’s path was charted out for her. She got the prefix Bombay in her name after she moved to Bombay where her second leg of training under masters began.
In talks and interviews Jayashri has always been open about how during her childhood she did wonder if she was missing out on playing hopscotch or reading books that other kids enjoyed.
It was only years later that she embraced the life of a musician “ Around the age of 18 I realized little by little that this would be my life’s journey” . Ever since music has taken Jayashri everywhere. And every single show and experience became of great importance in moulding her.
She speaks of how once she performed for a room full of children in Himachal Pradesh where they don’t necessarily understand Tamil or Kannada or Malayalam or Marathi. But they still enjoyed it. This is the magic of music as she saw it and now believes in
“ Music is a language in itself and it reaches out beyond religion geographical boundaries and age groups. It would be really nice if more and more young people listened” she says. Besides the traditional repertoire Jayashri has written books scored music for films and worked on cross border collaborations. But what keeps her centred and what she comes back to every time are her roots. “ Collaborations in music are always an enriching learning experience when I return to the traditional format” she says.
Courtesy SAMYUKTHA.K DECCAN CHRONICLE