The simple yet poignant lyrics of the under-two-minute song are “Dharti Ma pranaam, tujh par nirbhar hum, sadeeyon se tummne sabhi ko dee jeevan”.
During her recent concert in Delhi, “Nightingale of the South” Bombay Jayashri, who is an ambassador for the US-based Earth Day Network, spoke of the song she has composed and sung for the network, a salutation to Mother Earth “Dharti Ma”. (The other artiste ambassadors are Kaushiki Chakravorty and Ricky Kej.)
The simple yet poignant lyrics of the under-two-minute song are “Dharti Ma pranaam, tujh par nirbhar hum, sadeeyon se tummne sabhi ko dee jeevan”. As the video opens, there is a stark message “The Earth can outlive us, we need it more than it needs us.”
The haunting strains of the sarangi played by Ustad Murad Ali Khan, accompanying the song in music inspired by Raga Kalyani (or Aiman in the North) combined with the beautiful visuals of the green trees, raindrops falling, a sunset, a turtle swimming add to the power of Bombay Jayashri’s molten, unusually timbered voice. Jayashri shared “M.T. Aditya played the percussion and mixed and mastered the song,, Chetana Shrikant wrote the lyrics, Rathna compiled the video and Amrit arranged the music. The inclusion of the chorus sung by children from a choir put together by Sudha Raja of Chennai was important to awaken awareness on environmental issues amongst the young. The entire team was young, under 25 years.”
Continuing, Jayashri said, “I feel very strongly about the misuse of materials in our world — we live in a society that uses and throws away without thinking through the consequences of that misuse. Nothing goes away ever; it just adds to the waste Mother Earth is collecting. We need to do this right now; we have already done too much damage, and every day each one of us needs to do something, even if it’s within a 5 km radius around us. I saw lots of audio and video presentations from all over the world, done by musicians and dancers on the issue of preservation, and it was inspiring, but it’s not enough. Each one of us has to be conscious and act responsible every day”.
I asked what led to the song. Jayashri replied: “The Earth Day Network representatives in India asked me to compose and sing a song that could be used as a rallying chorus at all the events the Network holds all over India. We all feel the same way about needing to conserve, and protect but maybe I have a louder voice that is heard more often, they said. So I agreed. For me it’s a way of igniting people’s consciousness to the cause musically. I feel it’s my duty to whatever I can to contribute to a cause as important as this. It took me time to work out how to structure the song – it needed to be very simple and easy to remember and sing to. Yet the melody needed to be something that would not be forgotten. I also wanted to create something that reflects my personality as the composer and singer. I tried out 2-3 options before zoning in on this tune.”
Continuing her memories of making the song, the diva said “then the lyrics were the next issue – the suggestions Earth Day Network sent me in English did not lend themselves to easy translation. Though I have grown up in Bombay and am no stranger to Hindi, I don’t really think in Hindi, if you know what I mean! So for me to compose in Hindi was a challenge. Finally after several trials and errors I asked a friend with whom I have grown up in Bombay, Chetana Shrikant to compose the lyrics for me, and I think they convey what I wanted.”
Jayashri added earnestly, “I believe this ancient land of ours with all its wisdom needs to be preserved. I sing all the time on “bhakti”, but this subject is as important. We should plant more trees, use less water – all these little things add up. I hope “Dharti Ma acts as a reminder to everyone who listens to it to be caring of each species on our planet, to avoid using single use plastic, and to consume less. We will formally be launching it soon.” (“Dharti Ma” is now available on all the usual platforms.)
Shailaja Khanna writes on music, musicians and matters of music