Interview: Suman Sridhar

WHO Mumbai-based Sridhar is a singer, actor, songwriter and producer and one half of the contemporary music duo Sridhar/Thayil. She has appeared on independent albums Violet Samudra and Brown Circles, and sung soundtracks for Hindi films 404and Shaitan.

How has your family contributed to your music?
My mum would trick me into going for music class — alighting the BEST bus last minute, and leaving me to ride to class by myself. A rebel child, I could never study music as a discipline with my mother or any other teacher. However, it percolated into my life at all times. My parents would always be performing, teaching, attending concerts, in jam and recording sessions. I grew up with a 7 am aalap for an alarm.

Jazz, electro-pop and Hindustani classical. How do you fuse them?
Music happens in the silences and spaces between these categories. When musicians create, these genres are irrelevant. Genres are a product of our market-driven economy and record labels needing to slot your music into a shelf.

Who are you as a part of Sridhar/ Thayil? How are you different outside?
My material outside of Sridhar/Thayil tends to be more political and demands the audience to engage. Sridhar/Thayil, however, is deliberately more mainstream in content.

Tell us about your opera-noir.
The Flying Wallas: Opera Noir is a two-person minimalist contemporary opera; a conversation between a ghost and a soprano and the audience. Two lovers belong to the same flying trapeze company. One fails to catch the other, as the latter falls to his death. The opera opens with this death scene and a blood-curdling scream from the soprano. The story is a conversation about guilt, murder, love and loss. We deliberately used contemporary language sung in a classical operatic style; the ghost’s words were spoken in verse. The result was a being of its own — neither opera, nor drama, nor poetry, nor a concert.

How does travelling inspire your work?
Travelling means you wake up in a new place, anonymous, with few belongings, without a ringing phone. It is the natural state of being for a musician — the troubadour.

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This interview appeared in the July 14th issue (no. 28) of Tehelka magazine. 

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