The packed Sunday crowd at Suchitra Film Society tapped their feet and clapped as they sang along with Sunitha Ananthaswamy, who rendered some of the numbers that her father Mysore Ananthaswamy and brother Raju, sugama sangeetha stalwarts, made famous.
It was an evening of entertainment as friends paid tribute to her late father and brother, narrating interesting anecdotes between Sunitha’s songs. Sunitha, who moved to the US in 1992, not only teaches Hindustani classical there but has also been active in the sugama sangeetha circuit.
“My father, brother and I were the first sugama sangeetha troupe to tour the US, when we gave 28 concerts in 1988,” recalled Sunitha, who now runs the Shanthi World of Music in Michigan, where she lives with her husband Vijay and two children.
Sunitha, who is an accomplished composer and singer in her own right, is a regular at Kannada conventions like AKKA and Navika. She says she has been able to keep the legacy of her father and brother alive in the US, where she has a big following of the Kannadigas there.
“There are Kannada communities all over the US and Kannadaigas here are very proud of their culture and ‘Kannadathana’. We, as a community, celebrate Rajyotsava and other festivals with pride,” says Sunitha. It’s not just to Kannadigas in the US that Sunitha’s music appeals.
She recently had the honour of performing at the Women of Colour conference in the US, in front of an audience which was predominantly American. Her fusion of Kuvempu-Mysore Ananthaswamy’s ‘Om Sacchidaananda’ with Alicia Keys’ ‘Superwoman’ received a big applause.
While the legacy of Mysore Ananthaswamy and Raju lives on in the US, thanks to Sunitha, his numerous fans and Kannadaigas here feel her father hasn’t got the due he deserves, especially when it comes to his rendering of the Naada Geete (state anthem), ‘Jaya Bharatha Jananiya Tanujate’.
“I always stay grounded with my views. Mysore Ananthaswamy popularised ‘Jaya Bharatha Jananiya Tanujate’ among Kannadigas all over India and the world even before it got the title of Naada Geete. The very first committee formed by the government to select the tune had chosen Mysore Ananthaswamy’s tune among others.
Unfortunately, politics did not spare even the Naada Geete. It will be a shame if Mysore Ananthaswamy is not given the due respect for his contribution in popularising this poem, particularly without expecting anything in return,” says Sunitha.Meanwhile, Sunitha nurtures young talent in the US. “Those passionate about music will continue to explore all genres of music. Among kids who learn from me, most of them sustain for quite some time. I have students who’ve been learning for the past 10 years and some of them will be going off to college soon,” she says.
Hits at the concert
Kattuvevu Naavu Hosanaadondanu
Yaava Mohana Murali
Aache Mane Subbamma
Sugama sangeetha is an eclectic genre that incorporates elements from a variety of styles to present great Kannada poets such as Kuvempu, Bendre and K S Narasimhaswamy. The songs, earlier referred to as bhavageete, are now classified as sugama sangeetha. The most well-known sugama sangeetha singer-composers are Kalinga Rao, Mysore Ananthaswamy and C Ashwath. Shimoga Subbanna is the most well-known among the sugama sangeeta singers performing today. M D Pallavi is from a younger generation of practitioners.