Bombay Jayashri Ramnath

Bombay Jayashri has charted her own path in music since she moved to Chennai in 1989 from Mumbai, something very few musicians manage to do. The rigid structure of classical music, the restrictions imposed, usually are so deeply absorbed by an earnest practitioner, that seeing music beyond the mould, so to speak, is rare. Bombay Jayashri, initiated into Carnatic music in her early childhood due to her parents’ involvement as music teachers, embarked on her full-fledged performing career at the age of 28. Growing up in cosmopolitan Bombay, she immersed herself in various musical genres, including bhajans, film music, Hindustani classical, and light music.

Despite her diverse musical background, Jayashri’s heart remained tied to Carnatic music. Sticking to the traditional music of her gurus – her parents, T.R. Balamani and Lalgudi G. Jayaraman. Her family, particularly her mother Seetha, played a crucial role in Jayashri’s musical journey. During childhood and college, Jayashri kept her Carnatic training a secret while also singing jingles and exploring other musical avenues. Her voice, attributed to Hindustani training, and her soulful articulation, stemming from her eclectic musical upbringing, set her apart. This diversity influenced her theme-based albums, such as Vaatsalyam featuring lullabies and Agni showcasing Subramania Bharati’s fiery lyrics. Jayashri has additionally experimented with other genres, collaborated with vocalist Shubha Mudgal, flautist Ronu Mazumdar, and Egyptian Hisham Abbas. Daringly for a Carnatic classical singer not then established, she sung for films – Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu. Several were hugely successful, for which she has been awarded Best Female Playback Singer in Tamil Nadu.

Her music is marked by sruti suddham and a contemplative quality. Initially accused of delivering sweet rather than deep music, Jayashri’s singing style has evolved into a serene and sonorous presence. Her stage demeanour reflects dignity, devoid of unnecessary gestures, reflecting her deep connection with the beauty of raga music. As a composer too, she has won laurels with her collaborations with Chitra Visweswaran (Meera, the soul divine) and Shijith and Parvathy (Meghadootam). But the most exceptional facet of her musical career is her overwhelming popularity; across regions, worldwide. She is truly an internationally loved star, forging an uncanny link with diverse audiences, with her compellingly hypnotic voice. She is invariably warm and kind with post concert interactions; leaving memories of not only great music, but that of a humble, genuinely nice person.