'Musicians share a cordial relationship in Bengaluru'

Sudha Raghuraman was trained in music under her grandfather O V Subramanyam
Last Updated 19 February 2020, 15:12 IST

Carnatic vocalist Sudha Raghuraman, a recipient of the Ustad Bismillah Khan Award for Dance Music, is known for her prowess in both the traditional 'kutcheri' setting and the lesser-credited field of singing for dance recitals. with an impressive lineage steeped in music, Sudha started her journey quite young, exploring interests such as Carnatic music, Bharathanatyam and violin.

She performed at the 'Udaipur World Music Festival 2020' recently, a city-wide, multi venue music festival featuring 150 global artists and a footfall of over 50,000 people. Metrolife finds out more...

You have said that as a child, you wanted to be a dancer. How did you get into music then?

My father and uncle would sing for Bharathanatyam dance rehearsals and I used to tag along with them. I was fascinated by the art form and the artiste, would imitate the steps and show it off to my cousins.

But music was a natural choice. My guru and grandfather, Sangeetha Bhooshanam O V Subramanyam, used to conduct classes at home. I listened to music throughout the day; it was a way of life for me. Soon enough, I started to sing and that's when he thought I was ready to be trained formally — and took me under his wings.

Living in a joint family with illustrious musicians as family members, did you ever feel pressurized or disheartened?

(Laughs) There were too many musicians and too much critiquing in the family! Though they indulged in healthy and constructive criticism, I used to feel sad when I was a child.

Sometimes they would tell me that the raga I delineated was not up to the mark or my uncle would tease me by saying that though I looked gorgeous on stage, it was not enough to become a good musician. However, I am fortunate that all this helped in making me a conscientious musician.

Why is dance music considered inferior to pure Carnatic music?

As a soloist and a composer/singer for dance, I can say that each form has its own advantage and beauty, as long as the artiste is sincere. For me, both are equally exciting and challenging though my role changes — in dance recitals, my only aim is to elevate the dance performance while in a solo recital, I have the freedom to explore new ideas and songs.

There was a clear demarcation between the two earlier but things are changing now.

A cherished memory from your musical journey till now?

I have many. Lessons with my grandfather/guru, top musicians coming to listen to me even when I was singing for dance performances and complimenting me, appreciation from Pandit Ravi Shankar and Karaikudi Mani and so on — compliments from seniors make me feel very good and also remind me that I should do better.

You must have a very busy schedule. What does a typical day in your life look like?

Waking up and enjoying my filter coffee with my husband Raghu (flautist G Raghuraman), after which we go for a walk for about half an hour. I come back, cook a typical South Indian meal for everyone and then I have rehearsals either at home or in other venues.

I always like people around me so I have artistes dropping in for a cup of coffee or a quick meal almost every day. Afternoons are spent with my son Aayush while my concerts usually happen in the evening. However busy we are, I make sure that the family has at least one meal together.

Thoughts about Bengaluru..

I call it a healthy city in terms of arts but crazy in terms of traffic — shuttling from one place to the other here makes me feel nervous. Musicians share a cordial relationship and are always willing to help each other out. There is also healthy competition among the younger lot, helped by the fact that there are many mid and high range festivals organised here.

I love to visit the city for it's warm culture, the thriving arts scene and of course, for its silk weaves.

How was your experience at Udaipur World Music Festival 2020?

It was a one-of-a-kind festival -- from the choice of venues and the ambience to the curation of performances and stage arrangements, everything was beautifully done. Personally, it was one of the best festivals that I have sung at.

How do such music festivals help the musical culture of India?

Festivals like this give an opportunity to Indian artists to collaborate with other musicians, which gives way to interesting experiments. For example, Sanjeev Bhargava asked me to open the festival with a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, along with renowned performer Jeffrey Mpondo, who paid a tribute to Martin Luther King. There was no clash or chaos, just a beautiful mix of sensibilites and genres.

(Published 19 February 2020, 14:57 IST)

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