“Meera of Modern India”: A velvet voice became silent forever: Dr. Shailesh
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“Meera of Modern India”: A velvet voice became silent forever: Dr. Shailesh

Vani Jairam’s voice would take on a distinct tenor with every genre she sang

“Meera of Modern India”: A velvet voice became silent forever: Dr. Shailesh

New Delhi: Known for her humility and for remaining rooted as a classical singer, “Meera of Modern India” Vani Jairam passed away at her Chennai residence. She lent her velvet voice to over 10 thousand songs in 19 languages. Her voice would take on a distinct tenor with every genre she sang. Known as the ‘Lata’ of the South, her voice will live in our memory forever.

Prime Minister Modi has expressed deep grief over the demise of veteran singer, Vani Jairam. He paid his tribute through a tweeted, “The talented Vani Jairam Ji will be remembered for her melodious voice and rich works, which covered diverse languages and reflected different emotions. Her passing away is a major loss for the creative world. Condolences to her family and admirers. Om Shanti.”

CitySpidey caught up with Dr. Shailesh Shrivastava, a renowned folk singer and Ex-IBPS Officer, Doordarshan, to pay a heartfelt condolence and share her fond memories with the legendary singer.

“I first met Vaniji in 1997 as a producer of Doordarshan during the recording of ‘Bharat Bharat Hum Iski Santan’, which was composed by santoor maestro Pandit Bhajan Sopori. It was a very popular song on Doordarshan’s national channel. We eventually became friends,” Dr. Shailesh said.

“Padma Bhushan Vani Jairam ji was a virtuous, versatile singer with wide range. When I was posted in Delhi Doordarshan, I recorded a national song with her. Padma Bhushan Udit Narayan ji was the male singer with her. The lyrics of the song were – ‘Bharat Bharat Hum Iski Santan’. Its music was composed by Padma Shri Pandit Bhajan Sopori ji, who was a noted santoor player in classical music. This was in the year 1996-97. The visual creation of this song was mine. It was greatly appreciated by the public,” she added.

She further said, “Vani ji was a talented artist with a very simple personality. Her husband Jairam ji was a very good sitar player. He used to take care of her a lot. Vani ji had come to meet my mother at my residence at Sarogini Nagar in Delhi. It was her greatness that such a very talented artist – “Lata” of South came here. I thank the Almighty God that the office has given me the opportunity to do this work.”

“Vani ji lent her voice for Bharat Ratna Pandit Ravi Shankar in the film “Meera”. She sang all the songs of this movie. Suddenly she left us. Vani became silent forever...but she will always live in our minds and hearts with her voice and singing. An artist does not die. S/he leaves the body, but lives forever through his/her creation,” Dr. Shailesh summed up.

She further said, “Vani ji was known for her humility and for remaining rooted as a classical singer – qualities I believe that may have contributed to her inability to survive in the tough-as-nuts Hindi film industry for a long time. I wasn’t too far off the mark in my assessment of her either – I once asked her about it when she just smiled and spoke her heart out.”

She has sung in over a dozen languages, including Tamil, Marathi, Telugu, Hindi and Bhojpuri. The song ‘Bole Re Papihara’, from the Jaya Bhaduri-Dharmendra starrer ‘Guddi’, is one of her iconic songs. It was offered to her by music composer Vasant Desai.

She followed a unique discipline for her music as well, a practice that was evidenced in every song sung by her. ‘Bole Re Papihara’ was composed in Miyan Ki Malhar raag and the song showcased her classical prowess, subsequently fetching her many laurels. Classical music aficionados will remember and appreciate the manner in which she dropped the ‘se’ in the lines ‘Nit man pyaasa, nit man tarase,’ quickly to move on to the next note.

She went on to sing a few songs for music directors of Hindi cinema, but she loved to sing devotional songs the most. Observing the ease of her singing and preparation, composer and renowned sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar offered her the movie ‘Meera’ in 1979. She sang all the bhajans in the film. All 12 bhajans, including ‘Mere To Giridhar Gopal’, remain popular till date.

She has recorded songs in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Gujarati, Marathi, Marwari, Haryanvi, Bengali, Odiya, English, Bhojpuri, Rajasthani, Badaga, Urdu, Sanskrit, Punjabi and Tulu, and more – a total of 19 languages, which is an incredible feat for any singer. She eventually turned her back on the industry and recorded thousands of devotionals and private albums, apart from travelling across the country and abroad performing in concerts.

She belonged to a family of music lovers and learners, which led her to music since her childhood. Her marital home also supported her music. Her husband, well-known sitar player Jairam persuaded her to train in classical music. Thereafter, she studied under the tutelage of Ustad Abdul Rehman Khan of the Patiala gharana in 1969. Her rigorous training with him led her to quit a steady job at a bank and pursue music as profession.

“Her mother-in-law, Padma Swaminathan, a social activist and Carnatic music singer also supported her passion. Her repertoire is wide-ranging – she has sung nuances of various vocal forms such as Thumri, Ghazal, Classical and Bhajans,” Dr Shailesh concluded.