From Mathangi Jagdish To Ma.Ja – Unraveling The Artistic Journey
It will be wrong to say that music is only her passion. That’s because she breathes music, eats music and sleeps music. I caught up with the singer Mathangi Jagdish for an interview which looks back at her 14 year journey as a performing artist.
The musical beginning
She hails from a traditional South Indian family, and it does not surprise that she has deep roots in classical music. Her upbringing was eclectic and her exposure to various genres of music was wide. She grew up in Delhi, absorbing Bollywood music and listening to English pop, musicals and watching films like Sound of Music, Silk Stockings, The Easter Parade and Hindi blockbusters like SHOLAY.
From Listening to Legends and singing for them
When I asked her about the kind of music that was on her Playlist as a kid she said
“I was obsessed with artists like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, George Michael.”
Despite her leaning towards English pop, Mathangi trained in Carnatic music and received a government scholarship as well to further her education. During her college days in Jyoti Nivas College, Bangalore, she headed the Indian musical team and won lot of intercollegiate competitions by singing hits of directors like A. R. Rahman, Illayaraja. Little did she know that one day she will sing for these legends and have hits to her credit.
The Playback Break
Qualified with a bachelor’s degree in Management and master’s degree in Communication, Mathangi was pursuing her career in a multinational advertising agency when she got her playback break in the Tamil film industry with the solo song ‘Anjumani’ for the music director Deva in the movie Chocolate (2001), And then, there was no looking back for this versatile singer who went on to sing over 450 films songs over the last decade. Post her playback break she began training in Hindustani classical and western as well.
Her film music career highlights are; singing for the Oscar and Grammy winning A R Rahman, Isai GyaniIllayaraja, Mr. Harris Jayraj (in Ghajini Tamil and Telugu), Mr. Vidhyasagar, Mr. Bharadwaj, Mr D Imman and many more.
Apart from films, Mathangi was also a part of Hindi remix album Club Hits by Leslie Lewis. This association also led to the opportunity to sing at the Coke Studio@MTV season 1.
The Small Screen
The saga of her musical journey does not end here. Mathangi is a popular name in television in South India. She has played different roles of being a mentor, judge, host and a performer on music shows, and she believes that television is a very powerful medium today and has been instrumental in being able to connect with audiences not only in India but all over the world.
For this eclectic artist, music means a ‘blend.’ So if someone goes to her concerts they will probably find themselves grooving to a voice that is Blusey, characterised by some crazy low notes laced with R&B a kick of Indian classical, a style which is definitely her signature.
The Singer Songwriter – The Ma.Ja Story
Since 2013 she has been writing songs from her life and her observations. And then there was the birth of brand Ma.Ja, an identity that merges Mathangi the playback singer with Mathangi the songwriter.
When asked, why Ma.Ja?? she reveals that it’s anyway the first two letters of her full name Mathangi Jagdish. But incidentally in Arabic means splendid, whereas in Greek it means great or mother, in Spanish it means beauty or beautiful and in many Indian languages it means fun. So the acronym itself has meaning.
She’s Got The Look
I asked her about the new look of her brand Ma.Ja as I felt that Fusion of fashion, art and aesthetics seems to be her thing. She reveals that her love for Bharatanatyam and her South Indian roots are represented by the super contemporary temple jewellery that has become a staple in her wardrobe. She teams that up with rock chic leather and her signature curls and a 1960’s look, very representative of her love for jazz and musicals.
Mathangi presently resides in Bangalore, but criss-crosses the country, largely to Chennai and Mumbai with live gigs, studio recordings and TV work and abroad as well.
After chatting up with her, I was left with the feeling that this lady was born to sing. And boy has she sung not just a multitude of genres but also in 18 different languages. I wish her all the best for her upcoming ventures, more fame, success and happiness in the future.
For those who want to catch Ma.Ja in action, and her electric blend of music in a Bollywood line up, can do so on September 5th 2015 at B Flat, Indiranagar.
Sharing some wonderful tracks sung by the singer.
A Bhajan which is Represented.
A Funky version of ‘Jaane Jaa.’
A Tamil song in all Jazzy style.
‘Yaar Basinda’ with Tochi Raina @Mtv Cokestudio.
Another Coke Studio track, ‘Khilte Hai Gul Yahan’ with KK.
Her latest song ‘Sittham’ from the movie Andhra Mess, music composed by Prashant Pillai