“A beautiful musical journey” – SAMYO member Jainee-Khushali Patel
Jainee-Khushali Patel auditioned as a Sitarist in SAMYO in 2012, and was selected as a member of the Training Orchestra. After a year of attending every SAMYO reunion, the MUSIC INDIA Summer School, and learning the entire SAMYO repertoire, Jainee was fast tracked into the performance orchestra for the SAMYO10 Concert on March 16th 2013.
Over the year, we heard her play and sing Indian music and Jazz! Even her parents quickly became part of the MILAPFEST family, and have supported the orchestra immensely over the year, and we enjoyed talking to the whole family at rehearsals, reunions, concerts and the Summer School.
We spoke to Jainee soon after the SAMYO10 concert, to ask about her whirlwind year in SAMYO, how it has impacted her music, and what she’s looking forward to in the future.
You auditioned almost exactly a year ago for SAMYO; can you summarise what the last one year has been like for you musically?
Actually, it’s hard to believe it’s already been a year! This year has been a beautiful musical journey more than anything else, and I owe nearly all of it to SAMYO. I have developed and added to what I already know and I’ve learned a lot of new skills. For example, I hadn’t even seen the type of notation SAMYO use before! Now I can read it quite easily.
How has SAMYO changed you?
SAMYO has taught me most of what I know about Indian music. Looking back to this time last year, my playing has improved massively. But it isn’t just about technique and skills. I have become more confident over the year, and the support from all the conductors, members and everyone at MILAPFEST has encouraged me to try new things and push out the boundaries of my comfort zone. At Music India last summer, I sang a bit in the group competition, something I would never have done before (I’ve always been quite shy about my voice).
How much have you performed before, and how did SAMYO10 compare to your previous performance experiences?
I perform fairly regularly at charity events, occasionally at celebrations and also with the local orchestras I’m in, but there is no comparison. SAMYO10 was easily the biggest gig I’ve ever done. The atmosphere was amazing. Everyone worked so hard and I for one really enjoyed it. It always helps when you love the music you’re playing and I loved every piece. It was only the second time that I’d performed on two instruments in one concert (the first being when I played sitar with the Bolton Youth Jazz Orchestra) and it was so wonderful to experience the compositions from two different cultural points of view.
You had some friends and family in the audience, how did they react to hearing you perform?
Everyone I’ve spoken to was really impressed. No one had seen anything like it and they’re all raving about it! The reactions ranged from hugs and congratulations to a barrage of fan mail! I did actually get quite a few phone calls and emails to say well done. I even got a card from some family friends congratulating me and saying that they even had favourites, which were, if you’re interested, Samsara and Sunshine. Obviously, it took a whole orchestra, a team of conductors and a team of organisers to put on such a fantastic show. Everyone was really proud of us. I was immensely proud of us!
How would you describe SAMYO’s music?
That’s a hard one. It has to be a new genre. It’s a seamless mix of Hindustani and Carnatic styles with western elements as well, such as the idea of harmonies. I don’t really know much about Indian music on the theory side, but I know for sure that it’s not the same as Indian classical music.
You recorded for 4 days in London for SAMYO’s new CD “TEN”. Very interestingly, in both the CD and the concert you play both Sitar and Saxophone! How was that experience, and how do you think that will help you in the future?
[Note: I’m laughing to myself at the memory of those 4 days. It was very busy, but a lot of fun.] I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but every experience I’ve had with SAMYO has changed me. The recording was a big one. It pinpoints the time when Western music and Indian music started to really overlap in my brain. That in itself is an invaluable skill.
I didn’t realize that Girishhji had a sax part for “Caribbean Escape” written in western staff notation, so I spent the evening before we recorded it listening to the MIDI file over and over. In the morning I wrote the entire piece out in staff notation from my sitar notation. I think it was mainly my meditation that got me through the mad rush of scribbling down the notes! I did the same thing with Dialogue. When I arrived in the morning to record, Ranajitji wrote down some ideas for the solo and I didn’t have time to convert them, so I used the Indian notation in the recording. By that time, I could follow it pretty well, so I didn’t convert it for the concert either.
I think that was the main thing I got out of the recording, though the actual recording process was something new. The long hours and the repeated “just one more take” tested us all, but we all came out stronger because of it.
To your audition last year, to all of the reunions and rehearsals you bring your Saxophone, and we heard you doing Jazz improvised singing last year during MUSIC INDIA. What kind of training do you have in Jazz or other forms of music?
If I’m being honest, I am a Jazz musician. I don’t know nearly as much about Indian music, but I’m learning and I’m learning fairly quickly thanks to Milapfest. The concerts, talks and rehearsals have provided and excellent insight into both Carnatic and Hindustani styles. I started piano and violin when I was 4 years old, playing Western Classical music on both. I also played recorder. I started Jazz Saxophone when I was 9 and switched to Jazz piano at around the same time. From then until last year, I didn’t go anywhere near a classical piece of music! I had heard a beautiful classical piece for piano so I got the music and taught myself. Singing is something I just do without thinking. I sing to myself a lot without noticing what I’m doing, much to the annoyance of my friends! I had a couple of singing lessons in the western classical style of teaching when I was about 11, but I don’t really use what I learned. I only started sitar when I was 10, and even then I had lessons on and off. The longest break I had from lessons was over a year. So Indian music is the third style I learned on my instruments and I play all three styles still.
Why should people join SAMYO?
Musically, SAMYO is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I don’t say that lightly. Being a member has taught me so much in the space of just a year, but more importantly, it has encouraged me to independently find, learn and teach myself new skills and techniques. This year, I have seen myself improve hugely, but I’ve also seen other members of the orchestra blossom. Everyone genuinely cares and wants you to do well.
People should join for the simple reason that such an orchestra actually exists, it is the only one of its kind as far as I know, and it is truly incredible.
SAMYO’s first ever musician from Bolton, and the North West of England, Jainee is now setting an example as a committed, multi-talented and ambitious young musician, and we wish her all the best for the future!