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Music > Face-To-Face
Rising Star J.A. Jayanth - by Lakshmi Venkatraman
22 October, 2012

Jayanth is a student of B.E. final year in Electronics& Instrumentation and a highly talented and passionate flautist in Carnatic music. Why did he choose this subject? “I hoped to be able to use instrumentation technology in my field of music; but I’m rather disappointed; what we are taught in engineering colleges, whatever might be the stream, is quite outdated and is of no use in the current technology driven scenario; when corporates come for campus selection, they only look for youngsters who are intelligent and have the grasping power for what they might have to learn on the job and not what they have learnt in the college”.

20 years old Jayanth is quite certain that he wants to pursue music full time. His grandfather T.S. Sankaran is also a flute Vidwan and was a disciple of the legendary T.R.Mahalingam aka flute Mali and was with his Guru till the latter’s end. Jayanth has grown up listening to Sankaran’s music as well as recordings of Mali. As a child of 3 he used to keep carrying the flute and would not leave it even while going out with his mother. From the age of four he learnt to sing from his grandmother V.S. Sundari, but his heart was more in flute than vocal music. When TSS was not around Sundari would sing and Jayanth would play the same on flute. Music seemed to come to him naturally perhaps because his mother used to listen to music when she was carrying him. Though Sundari began with Sarali, Janta Varisai etc. even when he was 6 he knew to play about 16 Varnams, which he had learnt to play on his own from listening to his grandmother..

TSS’s father Thirivavaduthurai Sambasiva Iyer was a disciple of Thirumarugal Natesa Pillai, uncle and Guru of the legendary Nadaswara Vidwan T.N. Rajarathnam Pillai. Janyanth’s father Jayaraman plays the Mridangam and had learnt under Kutralam Viswanatha Iyer. His mother too sings.

TSS was initially not keen on teaching him, but it was his grandmother who was insistent. Jayanth was so fascinated by the way Mali used to play the Navarasakannada Kriti ‘Ninnuvina’ of Thyagaraja that he used to practise plying it after school, when they were in Kolkata. He was only 6 years old then in 1996-97. The song is very difficult to play, both for blowing and fingering. TSS was quite impressed when he heard him that he then decided to teach him seriously and began with ‘Vatapiganapathim’ in Hamsadhwani. It was only then that the senior Vidwan began taking the initiative and interest.

To understand the intricacies and nuances of Ragas and other things musical grandfather’s playing became like a cult for the youngster. Naturally at that age he wanted to imitate his Guru/grandfather but over a period of time he realized that it was better to emulate and not imitate. Maintaining Sruti and Tala and even the complicated Tala manipulations seemed to come to him naturally and easily. Though his Guru wonders about this ability of his, he constantly warns his grandson not to be complacent about it. In fact he is quite interested in the Tala Kanakku. “As a musician I want to highlight the special aspects of our music”, declares Jayanth.

In the last 6 to7 years he has been trying to be innovative and creative. The flute he uses has a wide diameter and hence the sound is more robust.. Fingering and blowing are very important in playing the flute; even a slightly harder blowing could affect the Sruthi. Flute makers have also improved quality and are ready to experiment, so that it is possible to produce better quality sound. But he feels that modern technology in amplification can adjust the sound, so that often every flute sounds similar.

Jayanth’s first concert was when he was 7; a half hour programme in Thyagaraja Uthsavam in Kolkata. After listening to this concert, in July he was presented in a special concert as a child prodigy. The same year saw him accompanying his Guru in a concert in Chennai at the Dwaram Venkataswami Naidu Memorial Day. Chief Guest Vidwan T.K. Govinda Rao was particularly pleased with his ‘Baro Krishnaiah’, a Purandaradasa composition set to tune by him. Jayanth’s first solo performance in Chennai was in 2001 under the auspices of Sarvani Sangeetha Sabha.

Playing Vilamba Kala (slow tempo) in flute is difficult. For training in this aspect, his grandfather would sing and Jayanth would play along. His favourite Ragas are Kamboji, Bhairavi, Todi, Karaharapriya, Aahirbhairavi, Jog, Naasikabhushani and Vagadeeswari.
His favourite musicians other than Mali and TSS, are Semmangudi and GNB. He did try playing in the orchestra for a couple of short films, but realized he was not cutout for it and gave up.

He was the winner in the ‘Spirit of Youth’ competition in 2009. He was also the ‘Carnatic Idol’ in 2007, when instruments were also included in the competition. In early 2012 the title ‘Yuvakala Bharahti’ was conferred on him by Bharath Kalachar. He got selected directly to B-High AIR a couple of years ago. He practises regularly, particularly in the weekends; sometimes people from the neighbouring apartments even complain when he goes on late into the night.

Jayanth feels blessed to have a grandfather and Guru like T.S. Sankaran and also blessed to have senior Vidwans like Umayalpuram Sivaraman, Thiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam, (late) VelloreRamabhadran, Sikkil Bhaskaran and (late) V.Thiagarajan, who would willingly accompany him in concerts and encourage him. He hopes to carry on the legacy of quality flute playing, which has almost been offered to him on a platter.

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