With a sweet silvery voice, 12-year-old Nilajanaa Jayant from Bengaluru is one of the lucky kids who will be performing at the Carnegie Hall in New York, live with Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Ustad Zakir Hussain, this October.
A dream come true for the young singer, her recent win at the Golden Voices of America challenge set her up for this marvelous opportunity. Her mother, Sangeetha Ananth, had signed her up for the challenge in March. They sent the judges an audio clip of Nilanjanaa singing the Frank Sinatra popular hit, “Fly Me to the Moon.”
A month later, she won a prize in the Musical Theater/Disney/Broadway/Jazz category, along with a chance to perform at Carnegie Hall with other winners.
According to her mother, Nilanjanaa was always musically inclined, even as a young girl. “When she turned six, we made her join Carnatic music classes. Though she was left-handed, she was expected to put the tala only with the right hand,” her mother recounts to Times of India, adding that she stopped going to classes soon after.
Later, Nilanjanaa joined Taaqademy, a music school in Bengaluru, which her father Jayant Ananthakrishnan says was the best thing that happened to her.
Nilanjanaa chimes in, “It was so much more fun learning music at Taaqademy. They encourage you to do what you want to rather than what you are expected to do!”
Her teacher and coach Ragini Ramanathan has only praise for her prized student. “When she came to Taaqademy, she showed a lot of potential,” says the 25-year-old teacher, “Her voice was loud and clear and her pitch would hit the right notes. She is so determined to learn and so hardworking that she wouldn’t give up even if she didn’t get it right after trying 3-4 times.” Ramanathan was also felicitated by the Golden Voice of America for her exemplary coaching skills.
Her parents are no doubt proud of their only child. “Coming from a South Indian background, people kept advising us against Western music, telling us that she will get used to using the right hand to put her talas,” says her father, adding that they were glad she took up what she does best instead.
Meanwhile, Nilanjanaa, who studies in Class 8 at the Samhita Academy, is preparing for her performance abroad. “I have a bit of stage-fright. I’m just going to try and calm myself down before I get on the stage there,” she said.