Bombay Jayashri

Bombay Jayashri

This popular Carnatic vocalist ranks Nidle, a small village in Karnataka, as her most favourite destination

October 10 , 2014
02 Min Read

I have been incredibly fortunate to perform in so many lovely destinations — some of them scenic, some of them full of culture, some of them exotic… I once had the chance to sing at the Santiago de Compostela, a thousand-year-old cathedral in Galicia at the tip of northwest Spain, where I was asked to perform a very traditional repertoire so I sang only Thyagaraja’s kritis — the organizer was a Tunisian Muslim, and it was Good Friday. I was deeply moved and I feel convinced that music has no language. But if you ask me what’s closest to my heart, I would have to say Nidle, a tiny village nestled in the mountains of the South Kanara district near Mangalore. I have a very close musician friend, Vitthal Ramamurthy — we both learnt together from our guru Sri Lalgudi — and Nidle is his native village. He grew up there, and his mother would send him over flooded bridges in the monsoon to learn whatever music he could — it rains for four months in coastal Karnataka and those were days of no phones. It’s still a very small village. So that other children would have better access to music than he did, Vitthal organized a summer camp called Shibira at his home. I travelled there two years ago with fifteen of my students, the youngest of whom was six years old, and we stayed along with children from the village in Vitthal’s old home, which had seven or eight rooms, some of them with no roofs. All the children would wake up at 3-3.30 in the morning, have open-air baths in water drawn from wells. There was pranayam at 6.30am and breakfast at 8.30, and singing and note-taking all day long. Some of the children knew other forms of arts — Kannada poetry, dance, the multi-disciplinary Yakshagana — and there were concerts every evening.

It’s a beautiful place — this village surrounded by mountains, where leeches slipped into our clothes, and the streams of the Netravati spread themselves silently, and areca nut and coconut trees whispered all day long (the village children showed us how to climb areca nut trees!). You would not believe how much they practised, late into the night, barely catching a couple of hours of sleep before they were up again, full of enthusiasm. I am going back again next year. I have held quite a few workshops in so many amazing places — I just returned from teaching university students in China — but if you ask me about my favourite, it would have to be Nidle.

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