Mother and son, guru and shishya, Bombay Jayashri Ramnath and Amrit, talk personal and professional with us before their joint concert in Mumbai next month
Bombay Jayashri Ramnath and Amrit are mother-son, guru-shishya, and now collaborators readying to perform at the Mumbai concert
There is so much that binds them together—a raging passion for Carnatic music, a soft spot for Mehdi Hassan ghazals, and the lure of cinema which they turn to when winding down for the day—and then there are aspects the two stand apart on, including who’s the better tennis player, Rafa or Federer.
Bombay Jayashri Ramnath and Amrit, 24, are mother-son, guru-shishya, and now, cool collaborators readying to perform on the same stage this January in Mumbai for the annual event, CITI-NCPA Aadi Anant: From Here to Eternity. Perfect fits for the year’s theme, which celebrates mentor and mentee, the musicians say that it’s tough to draw the line, and separate one relationship from the other. “We feed on the same music. Our favourite is Tarun ahe ratra ajuni, a bhava song sung by Asha Bhosle,” Jayashri says, breaking into a line, before Amrit joins in. “Another of our favourites is Innum en manam, a composition by our guru,” she adds about late Carnatic violinist Lalgudi Jayaraman, who she first met in Chennai as a 24-year-old and credits for deepening her interest and research in music.
Born to music teachers in Kolkata, the Padamshree-awardee and Oscar nominee, gets her moniker from the city she grew up in. The home where they lived was redolent with a variety of music from Hindi film tracks broadcast on Vividh Bharti to Marathi music typical of Ghatla, a sub-locality in the Chembur neighbourhood. Carnatic music, of course, omnipresent, with her parents taking turns at riyaaz and classes in one room. Despite their Carnatic music foundation, the snobbery associated with the classical genre escapes the duo, as they rate Madan Mohan and Pakistani legend Hassan as toppers on their list of favourites. “I grew up listening to Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam, Urdu, and a lot of Western music. What I perform today is an amalgamation of all these styles and my roots, Carnatic. You’ll feel it whether you listen to Manase [recent indie Tamil song] or tracks from my previous multilingual album Jaago,” says Amrit, admitting unapologetically that it’s American singer John Mayer who holds him in a grip. “I listen to an entire album by him almost daily.”
They admit that creative differences don’t spare them. But, instead of labouring over a resolution, they “let it be”. “When we come together, whether it is sadhna at home or a performance [on stage], the aesthetics that determine the course [of the performance] come naturally,” says Jayashri. “That I live with the person I collaborate with, who is also the person I bounce off ideas with and, means there is no inhibition. I criticise her too,” he smiles.
While Amrit has joined Jayashri for her solo performances, this, they say is the first time that they will come together as equals. “Some of these would be new compositions and some would be old ones that have been readapted in a format that would be new,” says Amrit, adding that they are also looking forward to performing a few compositions learnt from Jayaraman.
It’s this harmony perhaps that will be most evident in a forthcoming album that will feature six songs reminiscent of a memory they co-share. “When I was little, we’d make an annual trip to Mahabaleshwar. My memories of that peaceful haven are associated with songs. In fact, all my years of growing up are linked to some song or the other,” he says. The team is looking forward to present two tracks from this album at the upcoming concert, as a “soft premiere”.
How she got the name
“In South India, the place you hail from reflects in your name. For instance, my guru Lalgudi Jayaraman hailed from Lalgudi town in Tiruchirapalli. At one of my concerts, a reputed critic who was reviewing my performance asked where I hail from and someone said, Bombay. So, his review referred to me as ‘Bombay Jayashri’. Initially, I thought, ‘What is this!’, but soon, I embraced it.”
They are also film fans
“We both bond over tennis. And we enjoy watching films. We are always recommending titles to each other. Recently, we watched Fahadh Faasil’s Malayalam film Malik. I had watched it earlier, but he decided to catch it last night and I watched it again with him,” says Jayashri. “I am a huge fan of Ranveer Singh; he is a phenomenal, versatile actor. I watched Gully Boy multiple times, probably because as a musician, I connect with the character’s sentiment,”