Eastern Eye feature on Susheela Raman
By Imran Choudhury
A CRITICALLY acclaimed singer who combines Western and south Asian styles believes India should stop “obsessing” over films and focus more on its music.
Susheela Raman is an experimental, jazz, rock, blues and carnatic (south Indian style) singer whose debut album Salt Rain was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2001. She is set to perform with Pakistani qawwals for the Alchemy festival at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on April 16.
The 38-year-old told Eastern Eye that, unlike film, music is a natural part of the human body.
“Music will always be there – like speech, it’s a natural function of the mind and body. I think people should connect to their music roots and, in respect of India, they should stop obsessing about film.”
Raman from north-west London is best known in India for her recording of Ye Mera Divanapan Hai, a song by legendary playback singer Mukesh from the film Yahudi. It was used in the film The Namesake, directed by Mira Nair and was also heard in the Indian version of Big Brother (Bigg Boss) last year.
Raman studied classical music in India and mixes Indian influences with jazz, soul and other global styles. The singer songwriter recently came back from Lahore in Pakistan, studying under people who teach Qawwali, a form of sufi devo- tional music.
“For my performance at the festival I will be combining qawwali, with Tamil (her mother tongue) and English material,” said Raman.
“It’s music that demolishes boundaries. I don’t believe that distinctions between English, Paki- stani, Indian, Hindu or Muslims have any validity.
“Be what you are, but considering yourself spe- cial or different is just misguided. I love music because it’s about sharing and being together.”
Raman, whose parents hail from Tamil Nadu in India, moved with her family to Australia at the age of four. She was taught Carnatic music and used to sing at community functions.
“It was important for my parents because we were in Australia and a bit culturally isolated,” explained Raman.
She revealed that as a teenager she went away from Indian music and started singing rock, blues and jazz, having being inspired by music legends Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix.
“I formed a band and we started to play in bars in Sydney which horrified my parents10
PAKISTAN is to have its own edition of Hello! and include such celebrity stories as the recent wed- ding in London of Farrah Pervez, daughter of Sir Anwar Pervez, founder and chairman of the Bestway group, writes Amit Roy.
The magazine’s publisher, Zahraa Saifullah, said such a magazine would lift the mood of its readers and help to counteract some of the nega- tive stereotyping of the country.
“Our expat community is out there doing excit- ing things, most of which go undocumented.”
But no longer.
The much respected Sir Anwar, who was knight- ed in 1999, is the wealthiest Pakistani in the UK, according to the 2012 Asian Rich List, published by Eastern Eye. Bride Farrah was born and brought up Britain in a highly successful business family.
The Yale-educated bridegroom, Syed Abid Hus- sain Imam, is the son of Abida Hussain, a well- known female politician in Pakistan and a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington and the fel- low politician Syed Fakhar Imam.
“It’s not a calculated image – that’s me. I think you have to put 100 per cent into performing, otherwise what’s the point? So I move around and I do express my emotions and no doubt my femi- nine individuality as well. There’s a lot of energy up there on that stage and that’s how I like it.
In London, after a registry office wedding, there was a banquet for 450 on March 17 in the huge flower-decked “dinosaur” room of the Natural HistoryMuseum.
A welcoming speech by Sir Anwar’s Eton-edu- cated son, Dawood, was followed by dinner or- ganised by exclusive party and event planners, the Admirable Crichton.
A future issue of Hello! could allocate a mini- mum of 20 pages to the “Pakistani society wed- ding of the year”.
It probably include even photographs of the elegant table settings as well as the stylish menu which bore Sir Anwar’s coat of arms.
Guests included Lord and Lady Noon, as well as the former Bishop of Rochester, Michael James Nazir-Ali who left his native Pakistan to come to Britain and recalled his student days playing cricket at Cambridge (“Majid Khan [the former Pakistani cricketer] was there at the same time”).
Among those who “graced the occasion” were Pakistan’s high commissioner in London, Wajid
“I don’t really know how to conform to an im- age of what an Asian woman performer is sup- posed to be or do.
“But I do know my own mind about music. I have strong feelings about what I like.
“You have to choose your own direction and
NEW PARENTS-IN LAW: Abida Hussain with Sir Anwar Pervez
Shamsul Hasan, a former prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, and the late Benazir Bhutto’s sister, Sanam.
Farrah is moving from London to live with her husband in Lahore.
Also at the reception was the author Moni Mohsin who writes her column The Diary of a Social Butterfly from London for the Friday Times newspaper in Karachi that is owned by her broth- er-in-law Najam Sethi.
FUSION MUSICIAN: Susheela Raman
stick to your guns. It is most rewarding to be do- ing your own thing and not trying to win a popu- larity contest.” nSusheela Raman plays at Alchemy, South Bank Centre, London SE1 on April 16. For tickets, visit: www.southbankcentre.co.uk
Hard to define but easy to enjoy, that’s Susheela
the singer will blend western and asian styles at alchemySee previous news item