Jelam’s songs stir patriotism among listeners

By Kersi Meher-Homji

I have seldom missed the flag-hoisting ceremony during India’s Independence Day and Republic Day functions hosted by the Indian Consul General of Sydney. Apart from reading of Indian President’s speech by the Consul General, the feature to me has been singing of patriotic Indian songs by Jelam Vachharajani in recent years. I come home humming Vande Mataram, Vaishnava janato among other devotional songs.

It was a pleasure interviewing Jelam for The Indian Down Under. Below are her answers to my questions as to what made her migrate to Australia and her love of singing and literature:

“My husband Hardik and I love travelling. He wanted to get work and life experience somewhere  outside our motherland India. Finally, agreeing to his wish to explore the world, we migrated to Sydney, Australia from India in June 2015  as permanent residents.

“We come from Gujarat. I am born and brought up in Bhuj, Kutch, the place and district  now known to the world because of the devastating earthquake in 2001.

“I inherit love for music from my parents which was nurtured lovingly also by my in-laws. My father Kirtikumar Hathi used to be a high grade light music singer on All India Radio and Doordarshan. My mother Tarala also has a very sweet and soothing voice. Both of them used to perform at family gatherings. My father shared the stage with renowned Gujarati singers and composers like Padma Shri Purushottam Upadhyay. My father’s musical record is archived in BBC, London.

“So the musical notes were poured effortlessly in the ears of both my sister Margi Hathi ”“ a doctorate in English ”“ and I. She is a very sought after anchor in literature and music programs. We began our training for Hindustani classical vocal from our Guru Shri Chatursinhji Jadeja when we were around 12 years old.

“In 1996, I finished my Sangeet Visharad [equivalent of graduation] in classical vocal from Akhil Bharateey Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. Then I was an approved light music singer for All India Radio, Rajkot.

“Music was my learning process since then. I did perform in India and do sing in Sydney now and then for my inner joy. Performing at places like the Indian Consulate keeps me connected to music and motherland. I sing because it makes me feel like a life time lover and learner of music. I have not performed at any concerts or commercial programs here except in one Gujarati community show.

“Like music, teaching also runs in my family. I was a lecturer of English in India. In Sydney, I did take up some teaching and training assignments initially as a volunteer and then as a casual. To maintain the speed and space of life and likes in Sydney, I decided not to take up any full time job as we are just two as a family. Both Hardik and I like reading, watching movies and meeting friends. Apart from singing, I also write in different magazines. My two books of translation from English to Gujarati are bestsellers in India. Currently I am writing a series of three articles based on History and Migration to Australia for Forbes, one of the oldest and a very renowned Gujarati journal, as also in travelogues for one of the Gujarati newspapers.

“I joined SBS Gujarati radio in 2016 and enjoy my work as a casual broadcaster since then. I like talking to intellectuals from several fields. We don’t have a live music segment in SBS but I love creating features and interviews as I stay connected with my language and literature and learn a lot simultaneously. Before I joined SBS Gujarati radio in 2016, I contributed a monthly segment on Gujarati poetry for almost a year at a community radio here.

“I immediately fall in love with whichever music that touches my soul. The same is true for singing. I love devotional, folk and semi-classical. Also I enjoy listening to Pandit Jasrajji and Kaushikiji Chakrabarty.

“Kishore Kumar and Lataji are my favourite singers. The songs and music of their times has a niche corner in my heart, maybe because I have grown up listening to their songs being played on radio and tape recorder by my parents.

“The music of the composers of old times used to be less noisy and more melodious giving more focus to poetry than to instrumentation. But I must admit that there are many soulful songs in recent times too. It’s all about the changing of times and choices.”

Thank you, Jelam, for sharing your memories with the readers of The Indian Down Under.

Pics by Harmohan Walia

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