The Battle Within An intimate evening with Akademi’s founder

Women artistes have always had a fantastic repertoire

October 15, 2019
Women artistes have always had a fantastic repertoire

Sudha Ragunathan, one of the leading lights among contemporary Carnatic vocalists, performs today (October 5) at the Navarathri Mandapam in Thiruvananthapuram for the first time. The Padma Bhushan recipient, who has comfortably made her mark as a playback singer and on world music platforms, talks about how the universe of Carnatic music has evolved for the better and how each musician finds his/her niche in the creative space. Edited excepts from an interview over phone…

How do you feel about your first-ever recital at the Navarathri Mandapam?

It is an exciting prospect and I thank the Almighty for that. It is a dream come true because we hear about it so much and my grand-guru [GN Balasubramaniam] has sung there. I don’t think my guru [ML Vasanthakumari] has, because at that point of time women were not allowed to sing [in the Mandapam]. And I am glad that they are welcoming women artistes at the Mandapam now. It shows the organiser’s broad perspective and outlook on how we should be celebrating music.

Any special preparations for the concert, since only kritis by Swathi Thirunal are sung at the Mandapam?

Yes. For the last two days, I have been concentrating on learning new kritis since, although I do know Swathi kritis, they are the common ones. However, I do want to create a special repertoire for this concert as each one (singer) is assigned a particular Navarathri kriti for that day. So I have to structure the rest of the concert around that.

Particular choices?

All the kritis are special because you sing them with your heart and then it becomes special, any kriti for that matter (laughs). So I have taken some familiar ones and a few not-so-commonly heard ones. This is my first concert there and I need to get my feet on the ground.

Until a few years ago, women artistes were not welcomed at many venues or to accompany leading vocalists?

Well, I am glad that we are tiding over that phase. Discrimination was definitely happening in certain places and there were a lot of, I would call, imbalances in the way accompanying artistes would refuse to play for women. But then, we are slowly overcoming all that. I think the reason why opportunities are opening up is because you can’t deny excellence. Women artistes are grooming themselves well and the music presented is also exhilarating. So there is no reason for any organiser or organisation to not include women artistes to perform during the season or in the concert schedule. It is a welcome change and I think we are also rising to the expectation of what the organisers want us to do. I am sure women artistes always had a fantastic repertoire and charm for the audience in their own way. Every artiste has certain dynamics. Women were always good and I would say they were even better earlier because my guru and the artistes during her time were excellent. But for some reason, some had this funny, I still find it strange, reason for being away from women artistes. However, instead of talking about the past, let us talk about the positive aspects that are happening now.

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