Madhurya Memoirs – 3 – Jayanthi Kumaresh
Into the league of encouraging handmade crafts
Popular veena player Jayanthi Kumaresh has not just been a musician offering varied melodic works, but her messages for people on handloom or sustainability have been apparent with her choices… Don’t miss her video for Madhurya Creations that shares the spot light on the significance of hand loom weaving.
With more than 3 million views cumulatively on social media, Jayanthi Kumaresh’s highly popular web series ‘Cup O Carnatic’ has seen diverse segments come through attracting a tremendous reach amongst all age groups. The series was also aimed at drawing young minds into melody, even as the endeavor introduced classical music in an unusual, gracious storytelling format to make melody an ‘easy takeaway.’
Jayanthi amongst the higher-ranking musicians has provided umpteen digital packages to bring about this affable melodic acquaintance and set about a conversation so that classical Carnatic genre is passed on to the next generation with “no rules attached.”
Explaining her popular Cup O’ Carnatic series that entwined a story-and-raga combo, she says, “For the last few years Carnatic Music and Carnatic Musicians were in the phase of enjoying the new-found Social Media. We also thought we should reach out to an entirely new spectrum of audience in their homes waiting to click! We as musicians keep speaking about cultivating the next generation of audience for Carnatic Music, and now we see the next generation fully geared and receptive to receiving arts in varied forms. We felt it necessary to break it into not-so-overwhelming short modules that people can easily absorb and assimilate. Thus was born Cup O’ Carnatic Season 1 way back in 2017, followed by ‘kids series’ and the ‘fun series.’
That’s not all. Jayanthi and Kumaresh together created the Workout-with-music album ‘Run with SA.’ Adventurous and inventive, it offers five tracks of rhythmic melodies for workouts on digital streaming platforms. Its tuneful cadence and intonation have the violin and veena in a dialogue of classic rhythm.
Jayanthi Kumaresh Academy for Veena (JKAV) has also been her life’s mission, as it was her dream to create an academy of excellence for Veena like an IIT for Veena. “There are three different levels in the journey of a veena player,” she elaborates. The first proficient level includes the playing of kritis (songs); the jump to the manodharma (improvisations) requires specialized training as it involves the use of the gamaka technique and expression (embellishments) on the instrument. “And going up from this level to accomplishing excellence is a quantum leap. So, during lockdown we decided that our online academy of excellence would help Vainikas worldwide to enrich themselves. www.youtube.com/jayanthikumareshveena
Diverse melodic experiences…
Jayanthi is the youngest veena player to have received ‘A Top’ from All India Radio. The amount of training she received from her aunt and guru Padmavathi Ananthagopalan, one of the most meticulous professors of music, and the veena virtuoso Dr. S. Balachander were different and diverse life- experiences stamped with remarkable intellectual value.
As she grew up, she even had the influence of her uncle, maestro violinist Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, and other senior musicians for her scholarship study. “As part of my doctorate, I had the opportunity to research in several different schools of veena playing. All this made its way into the fabric of my own veena styling and persona,” says Jayanthi, daughter of violinist Lalgudi Rajalakshmi, who is married to violinist Kumaresh Rajagopalan, of the famous Ganesh-Kumaresh violinist duo.
Amongst some of her prestigious awards Jayanthi is the recipient of Bhavan’s Sangeet Shikhar Samman, a prestigious recognition from the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Delhi Kendra for her musical contributions. The Bengaluru-based musician thereafter dedicated the Award to the Saraswathi Veena that needs to be patronized at a time when “we need more veena makers (craftsmen), veena artists and concerts to grow.”
Passion for everything hand made
With respect to her passion for handloom silks that people haven’t missed noticing, she says “it is most rewarding,” as it helps her extend a hand towards handloom weavers across India. “My parents and the larger family I grew up with as my gurus have certainly led me into appreciating and innately believing in most things handmade. I use Saraswati veena, a handmade one! We would use grass mats on the floor hand woven by the community using river grass. We had natural trays, cups and plates made from Arecanut, jackfruit and lotus leaves. And when it came to textiles, it was a norm to use handloom saris and dresses,” says Jayanthi who has even released a special video for Madhurya Creations on the value of handlooms, and her fascination for choosing them for a cause.
Jayanthi Kumaresh, in an exclusive for Madhurya Memoirs, shares her exciting experiences and her love for hand loom and handicrafts.
* Can you reflect on your musical background & upbringing?
I grew up in an atmosphere over-pouring with music as I come from a family of six generations of musicians before me. My parents lived in Bangalore, and my mother Rajalakshmi was a renowned violinist of the Lalgudi family. She used to teach and perform, and my uncle Lalgudi G Jayaraman rose to become the legendary violinist of the Century; my elder sister too played the violin, so I was surrounded by music, culture and art all around.
*How far do you look for adding on arts and crafts in your programming...
Arts, crafts and culture form some kind of a thermometer with which we measure a civilization. If they are developed, then we know the civilization did more than waging wars, or had economy that equaled aesthetics. If art was given prominence, it meant they had money and history too! So coming from a background rich in culture and associated with playing on the national instrument of India, I believe that arts and culture makes life aesthetic, and aids us in living, beyond just existing.
* Jayanthi’s love for encouraging crafts including classic handmade furniture, handloom, paintings and playing on her handmade Saraswati veena…
Arts and crafts are very important to me. When I travel and represent the Saraswati Veena, I want to be seen as someone who is artistic in every way. A person’s taste reflects beautifully in her music, just as it reflects in the things we use, in the furniture we have, the bag we carry, the saris we wear, or the decor showcased… all this makes a statement about oneself. Something handmade traces a story, more than something which is machine made; imperfection is the beauty of handmade art and that’s why I am a propagator of arts and crafts.
* What is the importance you see in people connecting towards arts and culture, how much of a refinement in personality do you see here.
When I was in school, in Chinmaya Vidyalaya and Kendriya Vidyalaya, we had a crafts period where we had to stitch, draw, tailor or make models with our hands. This was considered a must to broaden our thinking and understand the art involved in products hand-made. Using hands to make a clay pot, stringing beads, or drawing, painting and making a rangoli increases the cognizant knowledge in children. Arts and crafts engage every part of the brain – creativity and mortar skills – which helps in better concentration. Any kind of leaning towards arts and culture is a bonus to fine-tune your persona.
*Jayanthi’s appreciation for hand woven cottons and silks…
When I shop for fabrics, dupattas or saris, I prefer hand loom. It encourages the person for continuing a profession. If all of us stop buying, then how will the art of hand weaving, dyes and embroideries survive? If the art is mechanized, the scores of hand loom designs and handmade skills become history! What are we trying to achieve? Traditional legacies in weaving and dying have to be encouraged to survive as it feeds millions in the industry. Take the norm of losing out on live orchestration in film music today where the keyboard clones the sound of every instrument. Similarly, handloom weaving, embroidery and fabric dyeing are keeping the arts alive and it is in encouraging that they will continue to live.
* Comment on the sari-appreciation and story showcase you did for a cause for Madhurya Creations wearing handwoven Kanjivaram silk?
Each of the two saris I wore for Madhurya Creations was exquisite. The pink Kanjivaram had a superb drape, gathering elegance in its thick makeover. The other one was a double-shaded unique toned bluish-green and I enjoyed wearing both, as I told the youth why wearing hand loom makes a difference.
* Why would you recommend youngsters to the revival boutique Madhurya?
Madhurya is helping more than 1080 weaver-artisans connected with the weaving industry. Arts and crafts are beautiful on their own. And with Madhurya trying to support these weaver-communities and their families, it is something fantastic. So we all need to support this endeavour and buy hand loom from them too.