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‘Playing the flute is an art of perfecting an imperfect instrument'

An artiste, collaborator, teacher and composer performing across the globe, he has popularised the art of flute playing, which he calls “an art of perfecting an imperfect instrument”.

‘Playing the flute is an art of perfecting an imperfect instrument

Jayant at his first concert in Chennai with his guru TS Sankaran

CHENNAI: For JA Jayant, a young Carnatic flute exponent, his first encounter with the musical instrument was when he was just ten months old. From holding a flute in his tender little hands, with a bright smile, the flautist has come a long way.

“I was born in a musical family and was naturally drawn into early training on bamboo flute in the Indian classical music tradition of guru-shishya parampara, from age four. It was from my grandfather and guru, late flautist TS Sankaran, a Sangeet Natak Academy awardee himself, that I learned the art of playing the instrument,” says the musician.

Jayant, who is 30 years old now, is the torch bearer of Flute Mali style of Carnatic flute playing. An artiste, collaborator, teacher and composer performing across the globe, he has popularised the art of flute playing, which he calls “an art of perfecting an imperfect instrument”.

JA Jayant

“Flute is a very difficult instrument to master. No flute is perfectly calibrated in terms of precision with which it has been tuned to the pitch. One needs to adhere to 440 hertz. It is up to a flautist, his skills and abilities to adjust and make it sound beautiful, which is challenging,” explains the artiste.

From his very first concert at the age of seven, the flautist has enthralled audiences in over 1,800 solo and jugalbandi concerts in India and all over the world.

“I wouldn’t say I am god-gifted, but certainly blessed. With my deep passion, training and my ability to play Raagam Thanam Pallavi (RTP) in three speeds (Trikaalam) in my first concert, I have certainly surprised many senior musicians, co-artistes and audiences,” Jayant says.

‘Bhakti’ is how the musician likes to describe his love for the art of playing the woodwind, stating, “I devote three to four hours of my day to practicing the instrument, which is a must.”

Jayant has a unique, virtuoso fingering and flute-blowing technique to present his music beautifully even in the very difficult lower octaves on the bass and double-bass, thick-walled bamboo flutes, while maintaining the perfect pitch and supreme tonal quality.

“I have been invited to perform regularly at the pre-eminent sabhas and venues such as the Madras Music Academy and Swathi Sangeethotsavam to name a few. I also have recorded for music director Harris Jayaraj for the film Spyder,” the artiste says.

Reminiscing about one of his most memorable performances for Maestro Ilaiyaraaja at his residence in 2015, Jayant recalls, “It was a concert at his place for Navratri, where he was present the entire time. Being a huge admirer of his work, I had so many questions to ask him. But the very sight of him made me numb, and all I did was to focus on performing my best that day. I will cherish the moment he walked up to my mother, and complimented my music.”

Jayant with Ilaiyaraaja at his residence

The flautist has taken his craft of Carnatic flute playing across the globe, binding countries to the beauty of Indian music. Jayant has performed at major centres and festivals across the US, France, Germany, Sweden, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Reunion Islands and many more. Jayant is also the first Carnatic musician to perform in about 24 different cities in France.

Describing the sheer love he gets from music lovers abroad, and some of his jugalbandis with several international musicians, the musician explains, “I had the opportunity to collaborate with Cristal Baschet artist Loup Barrow, and guitar virtuoso John Sund. Audiences abroad, especially in the West, have always welcomed me and my craft with a lot of respect and curiosity. People are very keen to understand the format behind the performing aspect of Carnatic music.”

The flute exponent is looking forward to his upcoming world tour this year, which starts next month. “I will be performing at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music in Morocco on September 20, which is one of the largest World Sacred Spirit Festivals in the world. I will also be exploring the city of Paris again, at the Théâtre de la Ville, a prestigious theatre in the city, on November 13,” states Jayant who also has his concerts in Sri Lanka, Dubai and other places, calling it a beautiful journey every time he sets sail on his tour bus.

Ankita Nair
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