It was getting a bit difficult for me to concentrate as I drove through the Pune traffic that evening. No, I was not using my cellphone. One of the foremost exponents of Hindustani classical music, one who had received taleem from greats like Pandit Gajanan buwa Joshi and also Ratnakar Pai and Nivrutti buwa Sarnaik, one whose singing had been warmly praised by Mogubai Kurdikar herself,
Jayashree Patnekar was singing sitting next to me in my car! I was dropping Jayashree Tai back to her home in Dhayari from the recording studio at Wagholi on the outskirts of Pune. By the time my wife Dakshayani had arrived for the recording (negotiating the busy Pune traffic) it was all already over.
Jayashree Tai, realizing Dakshayani’s intense disappointment, gave her a glimpse of Chhayanat right there in the car without any Tanpura or Tabla. By the way, she did not know us for a long time; in fact, we were introduced to each other that very morning. I was awestruck by her simplicity and also by her Sadhana – her notes were steady and still even as the car was going through the potholes on the drive back. Though I was in some way or the other connected with the music field for past many years, I came to know about Jayashree Tai very recently, just two weeks ago. I accidentally stumbled upon a video of hers, filmed in the early 90s which was quietly sitting in a hard drive shared by a friend. The Nayaki Kanada sung by her in the video was truly haunting. She grabbed the audience right from her first phrase. Her voice reflected years of Sadhana and devotion. She was so confident and yet so simple!
Two weeks after this incident, the First Edition Arts team came down to Pune to shoot a couple of video promos of Jayashree Patnekar for their upcoming Secret Masters Sessions concert with her, and I had the opportunity to attend that session. For me, the personality of the artist percolates through and determines the level of his or her art. Hence, I was more eager to see her than to listen to her. On the day of the recording, I was able to closely observe her. She looked much older but quite confident and agile. I liked her the moment I saw her. Her simplicity and loving nature was evident from the way she walked and talked. Soon, Tanpuras were tuned and she began to sing.
In a fraction of a moment, the gap of over two decades from when that Nayaki Kanada video was made, simply vanished. Jayashree Tai was singing with so much ease, energy and grace! She could fill the entire studio with the Maahol of the Raga in a minute!
Pt Kumar Gandharva often said that a Raga is like a soul and Bandish (composition) is the body through which it manifests itself. A Bandish is what gives the Raga a face and a physical identity. Jayashree Patnekar has an enviable stock of admirable compositions which depict unimaginable shades and dimensions of the same Raga.
Any art is a form of story telling. The stories may vary but a successful storyteller has to have a compelling story to tell as well as the skills to tell the story. With changing times, we do have many artists around us who are highly skilled in their art. Sadly, there are very few artists whose art is not only enriched by skills, but is also overflowing with Bhava, the shades and textures of a story. Jayashree Patnekar is the ace storyteller in today’s landscape of Indian classical music – highly skilled
and with many compelling stories to tell in her own inimitable style.