Setting the pitch, the Shruti way
Almost twenty years ago, when Hindustani vocalist and music historian Shruti Jauhari migrated to Chennai from Jabalpur, she wasn’t sure about her prospects. How many opportunities can thumri fetch in the seat of carnatic music? “I was already an AIR and Doordarshan artiste and the only person I was aware of was Yesudas Ji,” she reminisces.
Now, Shruti has had a stint as visiting faculty in the University of Madras, has run a music school and is also a teacher at A R Rahman’s KM Conservatory of Music. Gratifyingly enough, she began carnatic lessons from none other than K J Yesudas himself, who agreed to train her. What followed were hours of practice of the sargam. “I studied for close to five years under him and it was just the sa ri ga ma... that I practised. I value those voice lessons even today,” she says.
She was encouraged to learn music at a very young age by her father, who was a self-taught musician. Training under Pandit G R Kulkarni and later by Pandit Sharada Prasad Bhatt, she eventually pursued a masters and PhD in Music.
Having performed across the country and abroad, conducted workshops and lectures and penned papers and a book on Hindustani music ‘Elements of Hindustani Classical Music’, Shruti, however, rues the absence of opportunities for local exponents of art forms, “But then, it is the same for carnatic music in Jabalpur,” she says.
On a serious note, she believes that the debate about which system of music is greater should end. “We should be proud that one country we have two giant systems of music,” she adds.
The real need of the hour is quality control, she admits, “Artistes had a very responsible role, earlier. But now everyone is on a quest to do something different. There is no way you can ascertain the success or failure of the experiment. We don’t just need Tansen, we also need kan-sens.”
As she pens her second book on the technical aspects of Hindustani music, she says that a peek into history can help understand how evolved the music scene in was. A known face in the retro music circle,too, Shruti says she is a constant learner. “I most importantly learnt to keep learning. That was the biggest lesson.”