Sushma Soma’s album HOME releases April 8

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India Post News Service

HOME is Carnatic vocalist Sushma Soma’s reflection on her relationship with nature and the environment and her response to the events around the world that have impacted her. Using Carnatic music as the foundation in this album and exploring sounds from our everyday lives that impact our environmental landscapes, the album attempts to aurally paint a picture of Man, Nature and the interconnectedness between the two.

In Sushma’s words, “The starting point for this album was a series of incidents that left me feeling gutted; from the pregnant elephant in India who tragically died when she fed on a pineapple stuffed with explosives, to the loss of indigenous plants and wildlife in the Amazon forest fires. I was also struggling to reconcile my love for the natural world with my everyday choices starting from the careless consumption of single use plastic and to blatant wastage of resources.

Home is my expression of wonderment, pain, conflict, shame, gratitude and so much more that I feel towards this incredible planet. This has also been an important journey for me with Carnatic music as I have engaged with the form without letting my preconceived biases about the form – that it is niche and appeals to only a specific audience – influence my musical choices for the album.

I hope this album can play a small part in reminding us to snap ourselves out of apathy, complacency and convenience and take action to preserve and save this beautiful, intricate, emotional and intelligent ecosystem that we share together – the only Home we’ve known.

About the music

NATURE is a musical exploration of the overwhelming beauty and wonderment that is nature. Inspired by the Oscar-winning documentary, My Octopus Teacher, this song takes the listener on a journey into the magical qualities of nature. Created using the Carnatic raga Hamsadhwani and improvisational elements Virutham (melodic improvisation on lyrics without a rhythmic meter) and Tanam (melodic improvisation using syllables over a fluid rhythmic meter), the track uses voices as the drone, and features hand-pan artist Manu Delago for the melodic percussion element.

MAN explores the casual and whimsical attitudes of man towards nature. The song uses sounds from our everyday lives that impact our environmental landscapes juxtaposed with a playful melody inspired from a song composed by the prolific Carnatic composer, Muthuswamy Dikshitar. These compositions, known as ‘nottusvaram’ are distinct in the Carnatic repertoire, because they are inspired by the Western Band music during British rule in the 1700s. The original song by Dikshitar references the vices of humans – Loba, Krodha, Moha, Mada – Greed, Anger, Delusion and Arrogance respectively. MAN explores how these vices have essentially colonized Nature and how it is not just violence and vindictiveness that ruins our environment, but our apathy, complacency and convenience in our everyday choices cause equal, if not more, destruction.

MA DHARA – Mother Earth

This track imagines the journey of Mother Earth – from that of compassion and love to frustration and rage, emotions not often explored in the Carnatic voice. In the Carnatic conventional repertoire, Bhakti or Devotion, is often the feeling that is explored and emotions are also often explored using lyrics. Ma Dhara explores the emotional journey that I travel through before reaching the state of anger and attempts to push the physical endurance of my voice to explore that journey. The ragas used are Shankarabharanam, Bhairavi and Varali. The words used are synonyms of Mother Earth – “Ma Dhara, Vasundhara and Nirantara”

THE ELEPHANT’S FUNERAL

The song was motivated by the death of a pregnant elephant in Kerala, India, after she fed on a pineapple stuffed with explosives in it. She was a victim to the longstanding human vs. wildlife habitat conflict that’s been happening in various parts of the world now. Affected by her death on a very personal level, I wanted to express my utter devastation and disappointment in my fellow humans. In Tamil Nadu, whenever someone passes away, there’s a specific tradition with percussion that takes place during the funeral procession. And it’s always intrigued me because the rhythm sounds celebratory to my ears and on the other hand, there is mourning and crying. This juxtaposition of mourning with celebration was what I wanted to explore in this track. My mourning of the death of the elephant and her calf, with what I believe is the celebration of Man at the cost of her life. This song features Nadaswaram by V Prakash Ilaiyaraja and percussion by N. Deepan, N. Rajan and M. Vijay from the Parai Isai tradition. The lyrics are from a song in the Carnatic repertoire titled ‘Endraiki Siva Krupai’ by composer Neelakanta Sivan, in raga Mukhari.

IVORY GAME

This song was conceptualized after watching the documentary, ‘The Ivory Game’ – hence the title. The documentary examined the illegal ivory trade that was causing unprecedented poaching levels and gruesome deaths of the elephants in Africa. Infuriated by what I perceive to be War between Man and Nature, this track was conceived to show destruction using the same words Loba, Krodha, Moha and Mada – this time not by the casualness of our everyday choices, but by the violence caused by embodying these vices. Referencing Ma Dhara, this track was created in raga Varali. This track also features percussion from the Parai Isai tradition.

GRIEF

As the song title suggests, this song is my expression of grief and shame. The rough translation is: ‘How can I stand before you in my soiled body?’

Originally sung in a different melody, this song has been re-tuned by myself in raag Peelu. The launch preview concert will be presented by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Singapore on 24th and 26th February.

About Sushma:

Recognized as one of the passionate “youths driving positive change through their actions” (Today Paper, Singapore, November 2020) and one of the ’10 women leaders in music’ in Singapore (Hear65, Singapore, March 2021), Sushma was awarded the prestigious Young Artist Award, the highest honor for young arts practitioners in Singapore, by The National Arts Council, Singapore, in December 2020.

Sushma started her Carnatic music training at the age of 4. After receiving her formative training at Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society, Sushma moved to Chennai to started learning under Lalita Sivakumar and now trains under RK Shriramkumar, one of the leading Carnatic musicians and musicologists of today.

She has performed solo and in collaborations in various cities and venues across the world over the last decade including London, Luxembourg, Brussels, San Diego, Los Angeles, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore just to name a few. Her notable collaborations include her recent performance with Bharata Natyam exponent Mythili Prakash that premiered at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany at the Reflektor festival curated by Anoushka Shankar. Sushma was the vocalist and one of the co-composers on the production.

Sushma’s debut album ‘Sa’, released in March 2020 featured many global artists including award winning American vocalist and composer Aditya Prakash and BBC presenter and London based sarod composer Soumik Datta.

Apart from her capacity as a performer, Sushma also explores her role as a writer, researcher and educator. Her archival work with the National Archives of Singapore was given special mention at the Singapore Parliament in March 2019.

Sushma is passionate about raising awareness about environment and sustainability. One of the tracks from her previous album ‘Nature’ was featured in the BBC EarthShot awards.

www.sushmasoma.com

HOME releases on all streaming platforms on April 8th.