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Sugama sangeeta is my first love, says Mangala Ravi

The singer cherishes the moment Lata Mangeshkar appreciated her singing

Mangala Ravi

Hailing from a family of musicians, I was always interested in music. I am told I started speaking full sentences at when I was one, and my music training also started at a very young age.

I was introduced to the Kannada film industry as a child artiste; my debut was with S P Balasubramanyam in the film ‘Balondu Bhavageethe’. How I got there is a story: I sent cassettes of my voice in response to an advertisement in ‘Roopataara’, a monthly film magazine in Kannada.

The music composer Hamsalekha had called for new talent. I was selected from among 600 singers who had applied.

I couldn’t concentrate much on playback singing back then because of my studies, although I took part in each and every singing competition. It was only after I was featured in the singing reality show ‘Sangeetha Lahari’ that my music journey resumed.

Raju Ananthaswamy, who was part of the show, offered to teach me music and that changed my life.

After I officially became a part of Raju Ananthaswamy’s troupe, I slowly ventured back into playback singing. I have worked with almost all music composers in the Kannada industry, startign with Hamsalekha, Gurukiran, and Harikrishna.

I am always told by people that I sound most comfortable while singing ‘sugama sangeeta’ (musical rendering of conte porary Kannada poetry). Although that is my first love, I also enjoy singing film songs. I consider Raju Ananthaswamy and C Ashwath my mentors. Even though they aren’t with us anymore, I still feel their presence whenever I perform. I am glad I got a chance to perform in both their final concerts.

The sugama sangeeta scene changed with the live show ‘Kannadave Satya’ in Bengaluru. It featrured C Ashwath and other singers, back in 2005. Many people actually started singing sugama sangeeta after that.

However, the number of singers taking to sugama sangeeta has gone down after the passing of C Ashwath and Raju Ananthaswamy.

I have many sweet memories. Lata Mangeshkar appreciating my singing is a milestone in my career. I had sung the pilot track of the Kannada version of Vaishnava Janato for a film called ‘Gandhi Smiles’. It was to be sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Suresh Wadkar. When the team went to Mumbai to record the song, Lataji asked them to retain my voice as she liked it. That is something I can never forget.

Currently, I am one of the mentors at a Kannada reality show called ‘Kannada Kogile’. Before going there, I had a negative perception of reality shows--I had reservations about peer and parental pressure, fame and many other things.

I don’t deny these exisit, but at the same time, I have realised that TV is a good platform to showcase talents.

The visual medium gives good exposure, and it all depends on individuals how they handle all the pressure and the fame.
I, along with my aunt Meera, run a music institution called Alapana Kala Samsthe, where we teach sugama sangeeta. There is also a virtual learning platform coming up for students to learn different genres of music. Well-known Kannada singers will be a part of this initiative.

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