Carnatic Vocal by Smt. Sushruti Santhanam August 27, 2018
Sushruti Santhanam, an experienced Carnatic vocalist and teacher, has worked for many years in communities across Rajasthan and Telangana for her music and history research, and thus she didn’t find it unusual when Baithak approached her with an idea to conduct a concert at a construction site labour camp. She already had the experience of performing for uninitiated audiences, and thus even offered us some inputs to make our endeavor more impactful.
When we reached to the site after an hour log drive, TMCP staff had already set up a room for the concert, sufficient for 30 – 40 students and parents. Sushruti made the concert truly participative, and urged – almost forced – everyone to sing, clap to the rhythm, and try playing the manjira.She required no formalities, and as soon as she settled with the Taanpura, she began conversing with the children who were already present. She asked them their names, about their hometowns, about the folk music they might have listened, etc. Children, shy in the beginning, opened up, and after a short ice-breaking session, all were ready to listen to the music.
Sushruti introduced the children to the basic 7 swar-s of music, and together they sang it for a few times before moving forward. She gave them the anology that the way a painting is made out of a few chosen colours, Raag and compositions in classical music are made out of a few chosen swar-s and their combinations. All the children sang Sa-re-ga-ma with much enthusiasm. Even a few parents who attended the concert sang the sargam with the children.
Sushruti began the concert with a Vandana ‘Giriraj Sudha’ in Adi taal. She was accompanied by Harsha on the mridangam and Smt. Aruna on the violin. Both the accompanists were well versed with their instruments and executed complex musical passages fluently. Sushruti gave the manjira to the children one by one, and helped them play it to the rhythm. Gajanan, a ten year old boy, did exceptionally well, and Sushruti was highly impressed.
After the Vandana, she presented another composition, describing the Lord Shiva. Before presenting the composition, she told the story of the composition in Marathi, so that the students could relate the musical composition and the meaning. Sushruti and Aruna demonstrated the dialogue between Shiva and Paarvati through the vocals and violin, phrase by phrase. Children found this part very interesting, and listened to it attentively. She also taught a few lines of this composition to the students and helped everyone sing together.
Before the concluding piece, Harsha demonstrated the playing technique of the mridangam. He recited the syllables of the instrument, and played them one by one. It was as if a new language to the children, and they tried imitating him. Harsha then recited a long bol and played it in single and double speed.
Sushruti ended the session with a thillana, in moderately fast paced Adi Taal. Sushruti got each child involved in the concert, thus making it successful as well as memorable. Apart from singing, more importantly, children got to see Sushruti’s passion and dedication towards classical music. While speaking to Baithak after the concert, Sushruti praised TMCP’s initiative to work at construction sites for supporting the labourers’ community, and said that music is one of the important tools to bridge the gap between various communities.