'I'm doing my own thing'

For over a decade, British Indian musician Susheela Raman has been creating a niche for herself. Creating music that spans from Carnatic to blues and jazz to rock ‘n roll, she has retained her Indian roots while fusing contemporary elements.

Metrolife spoke to the UK-based artiste before her performance at the upcoming ‘Storm Festival’.

Susheela is now onto her sixth studio album ‘The Queen Between’, which has been crowd-funded. “The idea of crowd-funding was just an experiment gone right. Earlier in my career, we got big budgets from record labels. But now, the business of music has really changed and those kinds of budgets just aren’t available anymore. That’s why we decided to try alternative strategies to make money to produce quality music. Fans were invited to buy services like pre-ordering the album as downloads or physical copies, not to simply donate money. We’ve found that this system works really well and we’re proud to have raised the money. The album will be released in India in March,” she informs.

 Language plays a big part in Susheela’s life and music, with her connection to Tamil as strong as that of English. Asked which language she thinks in, she replies, “I think in English since I was born in London. But the Tamil speaks out through my subconscious. However, the new album is less Tamil and more North Indian in its sound. For the last two years, I’ve been going back and forth between Pakistan and England to collaborate with Rizwan-Muazzam, nephews of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and doing qawwali training. So it’s kind of Rajasthan meets London meets Pakistan.”
Elaborating on the new sound, she adds, “There’s a psychedelic 60s’ feel that’s like ‘The Doors’, whom I’ve been listening to a lot more recently. I’m not trying to be like them but it’s come through accidentally. Another major influence has been a book called ‘The Golden Bough’ by James George Frazer, which is a study of magic and religion.”

Does she feel more love from her fans in India or UK? She answers, “It’s a very different feeling in both. In England, every man is an island but in India, the celebrity culture is a bit like worship, especially when it comes to movie stars. But that’s changing now with the modern Indian audiences. On my part, I’m not catering to anyone in particular. I’m doing my own thing and not following any trends.”
Other than music, Susheela’s interest lies in martial arts. “I’m into martial arts like Chinese boxing and tai chi. My two passions overlap only in a physical sense – knowing martial arts helps keep the physicality high during gigs,” says Susheela. Festivals like ‘NH7 Weekender’ are really good platforms for people to express themselves,”  she wraps up.

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