Born in London, raised in Australia and now settled in renowned singer Susheela Raman is an artist who has staunchly charted her own musical path. Always exploring and experimenting with sounds, from diverse musical genres like, Baul folk to Sufi to Gamelan and especially the Indian devotional and Carnatic music of her Tamil roots, Susheela has gone where the music took her.
She started her musical journey in Sydney with her own band, playing popular rock-pop songs, before venturing into blues and jazz. By then she was experiencing the limitations of pop-rock and travelled to India to learn from India’s rich musical heritage.
Her critically acclaimed debut album Salt Rain was nominated for the Mercury Prize, becoming the first World Music artist to receive that honour. She also received the Best Newcomer Award from BBC Radio 3. Susheela has since released five more albums and in 2006 she again received a nomination for the BBC World Music Awards. Currently she is working on her seventh album, Ghost Gamelan, featuring Gamelan artists from Indonesia, which is set to be released in January 2018.
With a head full of frizzy hair, her intense stage presence and exuberant yet soulful singing style, Susheela Raman has received accolades from audiences around the world, confirming her reputation as among the foremost world music artists in the world.
Here RagatoRock speaks to Susheela Raman about her musical jouney and her perspective as a female musician in the world of music:
What do you think of this years Paddy Fields being dedicated to women?
It's a great idea, especially if it reminds people that no two female artists are alike and women don't need to be patronised.
What are your views on Women empowerment?
Culture change towards female equality is good thing. Many men are scared of women and feel and need the control or belittle them ignored to reassure themselves. Women's empowerment will help such men to be free from that conditioning and fear and enjoy being with women as equals and fellow humans. Its also good at omen can participate fully in public life on the basis of merit. It makes for a more fair and balanced environment. .
What is your repertoire about or what can we expect at the Paddy Fields on the theme of women?
I am there to play music, be myself. I am not singing slogans from stage. By playing and being confident and free onstage i think it sends a positive signal that women can and should express themselves without fear.
What would you like see a change in Women Rights?
I want women and girls to have equal rights and opportunites at work, in public and at home. I want women to feel safe whoever they are. The culture that says men have right to censure women for failing to conform to arbitrary, absurd and historically backward values is morally bankrupt.
Name some songs that you like are Women Enpowering or Women oriented ?
How about RESPECT by Aretha Franklin.
You are a multi-lingual Singer, but you haven't done any original music album in English ? Any particular reason.
I have performed and written many songs in English but my albums tend to have a mix of languages.
In fact my next album 'Ghost Gamelan' is all in English.
Tell us about your forthcoming album Ghost Gamelan releasing in 2018?
Its a record i am very excited to have made with incredible musicians from Indonesia. The songs are in English and therea re some intoning vocal arrangements. The record has a really unique sound and am looking forward to sharing with everyone in 2018.
How did you manage that since your 2014 album "Queen Between" was supported by your fans ?
I signed a reocrd contract with a French record company called Naive which is owned by Believe Digital and can distribute music worldwide.
As an artiste what title would you give yourself? Queen of World Music ?
No i would NEVER say that! it doesn't mea anything. And Kings and Queens belong in the dustbin of history along with fake religious leaders!
-Stanley Paul Memury and Pradeep Joseph
For many years the power centre of the Music business lay in the hands of Music moguls who owned the top Record labels. But then there has been a dynamic paradigm shift after the so called “Internet Boom” we see how power has changed hands from Record labels to Mobile companies to Streaming services and today to Event companies.
Living proof of this lies in the fact that in today’s current global scene, an Event company like Live Nation has outgrown and become larger than the world’s largest music company, which is what inspired us at Raga to Rock to ask Mr. Karan Singh, CEO, Sunburn & Mr. Manuj Agarwal, CEO, Percept Live, (the key persons in charge of ‘Sunburn’ one of the largest Music festivals in the world) to get an exclusive inside peek into what the future holds for their business.
Do you plan to be one of the biggest Event Companies in the world?
It’s a different ball game for event companies in India in comparison to the ones that exist globally. When you conceptualize an event in India the audience that we reach out to is mostly local in comparison to global event companies who reach out to a much wider audience and not necessarily from that market alone. Also acceptance and following for different genres of music is much higher in global markets whereas in India each genre has a very niche following and hence the marketing strategies differ to a large extent. Also Euro and Pound currencies versus the INR currency is almost 1/3rd in terms of valuation. Having said that our vision and effort has always been to be the leader in our domain and category.
Do you feel that Event Companies will soon be bigger than Music companies?
Yes, there are many ancillary revenue streams for an Event company as compared to any of the Record Labels. Event companies explore streams such as various IPS’s and concepts, Sponsorship, ticketing, F&B, Experiences and a lot more; whereas Music companies are restricted to record releases and movies. Some great examples of such event companies are Live Nation, SFX, and Percept Live, among others.
With ‘Sunburn’ being your biggest success, what other plans do they have?
Percept Live’s main Intellectual Property till date has been ‘Sunburn’ which is focused primarily on the EDM genre. Percept Live is an umbrella for live events. Apart from Sunburn, EPL, Bollyboom and FLY, Percept Live also has other IP's including Fight Night, Champions of the World, Red Carpet Pop Up Nights, and many more. We have successfully executed ‘Eat Play Love’ (EPL) ,a city food, fashion & Music festival recently. We will soon be launching the second season ‘Bollyboom’ in its new avatar and as the name suggests it will feature popular Bollywood and dance music artists. After a successful first year of FLY with ED Sheeran we plan to get FLY again in the month of March 2017 and will feature Arenas with renowned international talents. 2017 should see the announcement of many more exciting properties from Percept Live
Are you open to partnerships for new Music IPs?
Yes we are open for partnerships. We recently launched a new Food and Lifestyle IP called ‘Eat Play Love’ (EPL) under Percept Live which partnered with the Eat India Company. We’re open for new IPs and concepts.
- Noel Keymer
ShubhaMudgal is a thinking musician: Singer, composer, activist and a lovely human being whose smile brightens up the stage as does her robust mellifluous voice. In a free-wheeling chat, she discusses her upcoming show at the Paddy field festival and much more with Shamali Gupta.
What are your views about this year’s Paddy Fields being dedicated to women? Do you think this kind of effort will really make a difference?
I appreciate the gesture of saluting the voices of women artistes in this year’s edition of Paddy Fields. Whether or not it will make a difference to the status of women in general is impossible for me to predict, but surely it cannot have a negative impact in any way. Besides, folk songs often speak of the plight of women, their dreams and aspirations, their pain and longing, so to hear these songs in the voices of women would not be detrimental in any way. Having said that, I would not be able to claim that deep rooted gender biases that have existed in society for centuries will be wiped away in the course of a music festival just because the festival featured women artistes. But from a curatorial point of view, a showcase of women’s voices is creditable.
What are your views on Women empowerment?
Can you please clarify what exactly you want to ask, because otherwise, the obvious answer is that women must be empowered and attempt to empower themselves, no two ways about it.
Your powerful song “Man kemanjeere” struck a chord in many women’s hearts across the country. How did it happen?
The song Mann KeManjeere was part of an album of the same name, which was produced by Breakthrough, an organisation founded by MallikaDutt. Breakthrough’s mission is to use popular culture for powerful messaging on important social issues, and Mann KeManjeere was the organisation’s very first project. The album contained ten songs on the dreams and aspirations of women, and the title track, Mann keManjeere was a powerful one with lyrics by Prasoon Joshi and music by ShantanuMoitra. It was recorded in my voice and the accompanying music video featuring actor MitaVashisht was based on the true life story of ShameemPathan, a lady from Ahmedabad who overcame several odds including domestic violence, and drove a taxi for a livelihood. The song and the music video were imaginatively used by Breakthrough to create a curriculum for discussion on gender related issues in schools and colleges.
What songs can we expect to hear from you at the Paddy Fields on the theme of women?
Paddy Fields aims at presenting folk repertoire from different parts of the country with fusion music. I was born and grew up in Uttar Pradesh and my mother was from Kumaon, therefore my association is with folk music from these two regions primarily. I have therefore worked on a repertoire of folk songs from these two regions. The songs I will present include references to women as Mother Earth, and others in which women feature in seasonal songs and life cycle songs.
Please tell us about your experimentations with different forms of folk?
I cannot claim to have experimented with folk music in any way, so my involvement with folk music has been more that of a student of music trying to learn. One of the forms I have been studying for a long time is thumri-dadra which includes elements of folk music, as thumri-dadra repertoire includes seasonal songs forms like kajri, hori, chaiti, baramasa etc. I have been referring to several old collections of such songs and compositions to enhance and extend my own repertoire and study.
From classical to folk to fusion you have done it all. What has been the experience like?
Well, I haven’t done it all because for a student there is always more to do and more to learn. But the journey continues to be exciting and challenging and fulfilling, and I continue to be an eager student.
No Stranger Here, a modern take on Kabir’sdohas by you, Ursula Rucker and Business Class Refugees, your listeners would like to know more about this.
No Strangers Here is an album produced and distributed by Earthsync, an independent music label that has been working quietly but resolutely for several years. Yotam and Patrick, who produce music under the stage name of Business Class Refugees had invited me to collaborate with them and we met at the Earthsync Studio in Chennai to work on the collaboration. Yotam and Patrick created grooves over which I composed and sang Kabir verses, and then they arranged the songs meticulously
Raincoat, HazaaronKhwahishenAisi…and you - in short your presence in Bollywood.
My presence in film music is virtually non-existent. Very occasionally I have been invited to record a song or two for films and my experience there has largely been enriching.
.Any unfulfilled dreams as a musician?
I dream all the time, even sing in my dreams. (she smiles) But seriously, I have little to be discontented about
Aneesh and I are working on a most delightful and exciting project called The Bridge of Dreams. Our collaborators in this project are some wonderful musicians from Australia. There is the leading saxophonist and composer Sandy Evans, with whom Aneesh and I are composing for the project. Sandy has also arranged the compositions all three of us have created for the project. The compositions will be performed by all three of us, the Sirens Big Band, an all women big band from Australia, Bobby Singh who is an Australia based tabla player and also Aneesh’s student, and our dear friend and ace harmonium artiste SudhirNayak. An album of the tracks is also in the making and should be launched sometime next year. And we also hope to get opportunities to perform live with our collaborators.
Late last year music journalist and author Verus Ferreira released his second book The Great Rock Music Quiz Book with Bollywood composer Lesle Lewis giving his stamp of approval. The book that takes you into the green room of 16 bands.It is now available in the overseas market on www.amazon.com.
In a short interview we chat up with Verus Ferreira to know more about his book.
What was it like giving this kind of quiz book direction?
I can tell you didn't want it to be too difficult and neither too easy. There’s a lot to talk about in the book. Music lovers can enhance their knowledge of music as it happened… age to age, through the 16 chapters all well-documented, including musicians who’ve departed and left a deep impact on us (In Memory of). The questions are not too difficult, and if you have followed these bands on a regular basis, it would be an easy trip. There are song lyrics to complete, questions on famous album covers, trivia on when bands performed in India, so it’s not too difficult, though I have added a few difficult questions in a few chapters. It could be that when you read a question, it might be on the tip of your tongue, but you really can’t remember the answer, so it all boils down to a bit of enhancing your knowledge about rock bands. You can also lay myths and facts about music and artistes at rest. There is also a chapter on Quotes from the Rockers, very light hearted and something to reflect on. Then you also have Code of Conduct that tells you how to dress and how to behave at an open air concert or at an auditorium. We also take a look at the funny side of music artists in the last chapter that makes a Mickey of the artists featured in the book.
In terms of research, how long did it take you to compile the entire book?
After I had done my first book ‘The Great Music Quiz Book’ in 2013, I immersed myself in promoting it. I got a lot of feedback with many who liked it, asking me when the next book would be released. I thought about is seriously and some later went back to my book file and found that there were many questions and answers that didn’t make it to the first book and those were mainly in the rock genre. There were over 40 – 50 of them. It was then that I thought of bringing out a book on rock music. This was sometime in mid 2015. I collated the list of my favourite rock artists and believe me the list was endless. From over 35 – 40 bands, I had to shortlist it to 16 of my all time favourites. I began work in earnest and by early 2016 I began the work of collating the Q & As, getting the images and other such details. I sourced out material from the music albums, DVDs, LP records and music books of the bands in my collection. Most of the information in the book is from all these sources. I also put down the little I knew on these artists and added whatever I knew to make the book what I feel it should have. I have checked and cross checked facts before I used it and so the book is up to date. I completed the book in April 2017 and approached Story Mirror, who liked the concept and decided to sign me on and publish my book. All this took me around two years to complete, conceptualising the book to publishing it with Story Mirror in December 2017.
- Were the artists you took up to include as chapters essentially ones you have followed and had a deep knowledge about? Or was the choice of artists more dictated by what was popular?
All the bands featured here are my favourites. The Scorpions, Guns N’ Roses, Queen and of course Pink Floyd the toppers. All the bands featured in the book were bands I grew up listening to and followed closely. Infact I interviewed all the members of Iron Maiden when they visited Mumbai and performed here in 2008. Similarly I also attended the concerts of artists like The Scorpions, Roger Waters, Guns N’ Roses, Gilby Clarke, Coldplay. Infact the cover picture of Slash was shot by me at his concert in Mumbai in 2015.
In the case of some newer artists, did you feel like you had to explore their history on a different level and learned something new about them through the process of compiling the questions?
The only new artist among the grand daddies of rock is Coldplay. While I was working on the book, I got to know that Coldplay was part of a mega event Global Citizen which was to be held in November 2016. I love Coldplay and knew that they are one of the world’s biggest bands. I didn’t know much about them, except of course their catchy songs and colourful music videos. I did a bit of research on the band and managed to make a whole chapter on the band. I decided to feature them, targeting the newer EDM generation of fans who would pick up the book to know more about Coldplay and in turn also get to know the grand daddies of rock music that they probably missed out and which I am sure they might have been heard down the years. I also attended the Global Citizen event and the final act was Coldplay. I shot a couple of pictures that found their way in the book, including a rare image with AR Rehman and Chris Martin. The book also has a chapter on Open Secret – a Gospel band. How does it fit in the book? Well years ago, a friend of mine was holding a one hour presentation called Rock and Ruin, that showcased the bad side of rock music, from backward masking, to lyrics in rock songs and the visuals shown in music videos. I was the first to interview him for a magazine and believe it or not, three other publications took the story. He also later gave me the entire presentation in audio and video. This was way back in the mid 90s. The response was very good. In my book I offer readers a chance to listen to gospel music. I am not suggesting that you need to stop listening to rock music, I still listen to rock music, but I am offering you a choice to listen to the same rock music, with only the lyrics that speak on the glory of God.
Obviously being a quizmaster has its peeves - I imagine some people think you're just showing off your knowledge if you're trying to bring up interesting facts and stories about a particular artist?
Not at all. I am only sharing the knowledge I have gained over the last 26 years with rock music lovers who like the same music as I do. Instead of looking up a Wikipedia and learning about the band, in this book I offer you the same thing, but in a question and answer format where you will learn about the band in an interesting and fun way, where you can also test your knowledge of songs with your friends, by probably singing a line from the book and asking your friends to name the song. Isn’t that interesting? As for me, I not only learned more about each artist, things that I never knew, but I am also enhancing the knowledge of the reader to get to know his favourite artist/s much better and in an interactive way.
Was there any particular artist you had a lot of fun researching when you compiled their particular chapter of questions in the book?
Guns N’ Roses, The Scorpions and The Rolling Stones were the most entertaining for me, with the latter having some really quirky songs and album covers. The Scorpions have some really obscene album covers that never really made it to the shelves, one of which I have used in the book.
What do you think is the appeal of the book in the age of online quizzes and instant information?
I am not competing with online quizzes and neither are they my competitors. They are in a different format. The millennials would prefer participating in a quiz where they meet face to face, unlike an online quiz. It’s like reality shows, they happen in real time and not online. There is a certain charm when quiz contests were held in schools and on TV back in the nineties, the competitive team spirit, the points grading system and the prizes were a major
attraction. It is still widely prevalent and loved even today in many schools and colleges and even in corporate houses to break the ice with staff. It also makes for a perfect gift, at a very reasonable price. Can you gift an online quiz? Imagine just chilling out with friends over a beer, listening to your favourite band, taking the book in your hand and bombarding your friends with questions on the antics of Pink Floyd, the lyrics of Eagles, or the escapades of Mick Jagger. Online quizzes definitely do not give you such a thrill.
Published by: Story Mirror. Pages: 204. Price: Rs 225/-
Located in a former mill, the Mumbai outpost of the US chain of resto-bars has a mixed reputation among the city's musicians. In the first couple of years after opening, in 2006, indie rock acts were often asked to include a stipulated number of cover songs in their set lists. These days, Hard Rock Café, which hosts gigs every Tuesday and Thursday night, sticks mostly to cover bands, with a couple of dates a month spared for indie groups. Skip these gigs, and come here only for the ticketed events, when one of the seating areas is cleared to make room for a larger stage, for performances by Indian indie icons (folk-fusion veterans Indian Ocean, electro-rock superstars Pentagram), international chart toppers (Wyclef Jean, Jay Sean) or club-packing DJs (Bob Sinclair, Paul van Dyk). Be warned, though: the waiters break into a synchronised jig every time the Village People's "YMCA" comes on.
Bombay Dyeing Mill Compound, Pandurang Budhkar Marg, Worli, + 91 22 2438 2888, Hardrockindiablog.com. Open daily noon-1.30am. Performance times and entrance fees vary