Carnatic musician knows basics of all instruments

Chennai: Carnatic music has had a major influence on the culture of Tamilnadu. Traditions were passed down from person to person, along with stories and theory. One such successor of art is 61-year-old Jayalakshmi Sekhar, a resident of Adyar in the city who knows the basics of almost all the classical instruments.

“My father is a research scientist who played flute as a hobby. He believed that science enables a baby to learn music right from when it is in the mother’s womb. So, he used to play music to my mom when she was carrying,’” says Jayalakshmi.

One of the first instruments she learnt was violin at the age of six in Malaysia. Noticing her budding interest in the field of Carnatic music, her father decided to relocate to Chennai, the city she calls the ‘seat of music’. With the help of her first guru, Pudukkotai Jayarama Iyer, she gave her first concert in Madras in 1996.

“‘Initially, I did not write notes. My guru used to teach me one line everyday which I used to practice on all the instruments I have at home. My inspiration for learning violin is Lalgudi Jayaraman,’” she says.

She soon developed an extensive interest in Veena and went on to take that as a profession. Now, she teaches it to lot of music enthusisats living in the locality.

Jayalakshmi is also a vocalist. When asked about its importance, she replies, ‘”Before playing the song on the instrument, I had to learn and sing it. In western music, it is okay if you do not know to sing as the composers write music for each and every instrument. In the case of Carnatic music, it is the same song for everyone.’”

She also says that people started bringing in western instruments to play Carnatic music and it is working well. ‘Lately, instrument mandolin has gained a lot of popularity in classical music. At times, they use guitar too.’

Jayalakshmi has recorded many CDs which are mostly thematic. Speaking about it, she said that she has recorded a raga series for YouTube where several ragas are explained and played on the veena.

“When asked about a shift of young audience from classical to western music, she explains,’ When I was walking on the shore of Elliots beach, I saw a bunch of youngsters humming ‘Alaipayudhey Kanna’ and other contemporary songs that are based on famous ragas of Carnatic music. That was when I realised that classical music has an innate attraction. So, there can never be a complete shift.’”

Apart from music, she is also involved in philanthropic activities. She gave some space in her home for therapy of differently-abled children which is being done by Freedom Trust.

For her music performances, she won various awards from organisations in Chennai, Tirupathi, Malaysia, Australia and Chicago.

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