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'Music cannot be alienated from my life'

Abhay Kumar, Dec 8, 2012 :
Vandana Jyotirmayee.

In the last two decades, she had to wear many hats. She worked for Unicef in the field of health, education and community development.

Later, she worked for All India Radio, Doordarshan and private channels as anchor and script-writer for children’s programmes. Presently, she teaches mass communication in far off Oman. But music always remained first love for Vandana Jyotirmayee.

The 43-year-old crooner sings Sufi songs, ghazals and devotional songs with equal aplomb. No wonder, she left the audience of Delhi spell-bound during her recent performance at India Habitat Centre which also marked the release of her devotional album “Ardaas”.

“Ardaas is a collection of eight soulful devotional songs (Shirdi Sai bhajans) and each song has a different essence and mood,” Vandana told Deccan Herald in a telephonic interview from Oman. Vandana, who visited India in November for a live concert - Surmai-Shaam - in Delhi, was awarded Saraswati Samman for her “exceptional talent in the field of music and performed art.” The award was handed over to her by Ustad Alauddin Khan, eminent esraj player.

“I am happy to see that singers like Vandana are maintaining the right chord of classical Indian music despite being far away from India,” said Ustad Alauddin while releasing the album

Ardaas at a glittering function.

“Out of the eight bhajans in Ardaas, five have been written and composed by me,” Vandana shed more light on her new venture. But how come someone who has done M Phil in media management and is a lecturer at Sultanate of Oman’s College of Applied Sciences find out time for music?

“I can never imagine my life without music. By the grace of God, after marriage I came to a family which understands my inclination and my moods. Listening to music is my passion and I can’t survive without it. In fact, music is in my blood. It all started at the age of three, when I would just sing anything that caught my ears.

I come from a family with a musical background from my maternal side, where my mother, grandfather and uncle all were very much into music. I started my training at a very early age with Shree Kameshwar Pathak, a noted thumri singer and AIR performer from Gaya Gharana. When I was around 10 years old, I became the disciple of Pt Shambhu Upadhyaya from Kirana Gharana,” Vandana averred.

Does she have any fond memories of Gaya, her birth place in Bihar?

“I owe a lot to Gaya as all the memories of my childhood are simply golden. I was brought up in a completely musical and poetical atmosphere. Poets like Janaki Wallabh Shastri and Mahadevi Verma would come and stay there with us.

The jasmine and raatraani flower beds and their fragrance in the summer nights, the early morning Aazaan from the nearby masjid, the Hanuman Mandir on the chowk, my grandfather’s chat with his students on various topics from ‘bhakti tatv in Nirala’s poetry to the explanations of Tulsidas’s Vinay Patrika, ghazals of Begum Akhtar and Jagjit Singh make me very nostalgic,” she reminisced.

But how come she manages to pursue Hindustani classical singing despite being thousands of miles away from India? “As I said music flows into me naturally. Today, no matter how busy

I am and far off from my country, I find out time for regular riyaaz (practice),” she added.
When asked to throw some light on the greatness of Indian classical music system, the Bihar-born singer said: “The greatness of Indian classical music is that it offers different rasas or shades of human emotions and feelings.

A raga can create a mood of romance to pain to spirituality... It has the vastness of the ocean... and above all what I feel is that any type of music is simply beautiful. Music knows no boundaries. Still I am proud to belong to the tradition of
Indian classical music.”

Any favourite among singers?

“I admire Abida Parween for her  sufiyaana  style, Farida Khaanam and Asha Bhosle for their adaaygi of ghazals which is simply amazing. I like listening to qawwalis and Sufi songs because these songs transfer you to a totally different world of sama”, Vandana hastened to add.

After successful concert Surmai-Shaam and launch of album Ardaas, what next?

“What can we human beings plan? My concert, my album everything was quite unexpected. I personally feel all this was precisely because of blessings from my Sai who is my spiritual guru. I simply believe in what my Sai plans for me. After the concert of Surmai Shaam, I have been asked to come for other concerts in  Delhi as well.

I would love to go ahead because nothing can be more enriching and satisfying than singing,” she concluded but before winding up added, “I am also writing a coffee table book on the picturesque locations of Salalah in Oman.”


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