Home review: Sushma Soma’s second album is an unforgettably powerful ode to the environment and its creatures

MD Merajul IslamMay 6, 2022

It was the dying of a pregnant elephant after being fed a pineapple full of firecrackers in Malappuram, Kerala, that left Singapore-based Carnatic vocalist Sushma Soma (pictured) devastated. As Soma grieved, she determined to show her lament into The Elephant’s Funeral, a music that borrows from the Tamil custom of mourning the place crying is accompanied by ‘celebratory’ sounding percussion. She bemoans the elephant’s passing and her calf by a heartwrenching ballad based mostly on the sad raga, Mukhari.

Soma enunciates every gamaka with a lot readability, it immediately hyperlinks you to those overwhelming feelings. Though she builds the air of absolute sorrow whereas mourning in her searing voice by a Seventeenth-century Carnatic composer Neelkanta Sivan piece, she juxtaposes it with the concordant beats of the Parai (one of many oldest percussion devices) alongside a nadaswaram, as if implying the human race’s disregard for the elephant and its calf’s lives. It’s heartwrenching as one doesn’t hear this form of try in mainstream and even unbiased music usually. This music isn’t consolatory. Soma sings the ache of dying — not straightforward to tug off for a musician. Soma does it delicately however with out restraint and that’s the place the ability lies.

The music is part of Dwelling, her second album, and an ode to surroundings and sustainability by music. She follows up Elephant’s funeral with Ivory recreation, a music concerning the unlawful ivory commerce and poaching that’s led to innumerable animal deaths in Africa. She makes use of 4 phrases — Lobh, krodh, moha, mada, whereas emitting loud piercing cries, as if from a dying elephant, together with heavy percussion preparations by Praveen Sparsh, deftly creating vivid imagery of the violence and man’s destruction of nature. She makes use of the uncommon raga Varali for the piece, the raga that creates the temper of abandonment. Within the well-known nirgun bhajan, Maili chadar odh ke kaise dwaar tere major aaun (How do I stand earlier than you with this dirty physique), the hopelessness in Soma’s voice is disconcerting to say the least. The devotional piece is about discovering oneself on the courtroom of conscience, equating chadar with one’s physique and major because the soul. It’s been popularly sung as a extra uplifting piece within the romantic Pahadi by many. However Soma sings it like a wistful resignation with none percussion within the poignant raag Pilu.

Whereas the songs of sorrow are rather more impactful in Dwelling, Soma additionally sings of the happiness that nature brings, in her opening piece. Composed in raag Hamsadhwani, she sings a bunch of syllables over a shifting rhythmic metre. The presence of famous grasp participant Manu Delago within the music is spectacular. His solo lets one hear the cross-pattern of a circle of melody he builds with the nice and cozy sounds of the grasp drum. Man I and Man II are each compositions by famed Sixteenth-century saint-composer Muthuswamy Dikhsitar. Again within the day, these had been impressed by western band music of the time. In these, Soma makes use of voices from on a regular basis life: wanting an additional bathe, a younger man eager to double bag his meals, sound of tearing the plastic off a packet amongst others and pairs them with phrases – Lobh, krodha, moha, mada. Fledgling items, the 2 include an fascinating idea however they want extra work to sound pure. Proper now, they sound like follow periods.

One in every of Soma’s most prolific items within the album is Ma — a music for the Earth. She sings three phrases — Ma dhara Vasundhara — in three levels, in three ragas, for seven minutes and makes a novel musical assertion. She opens gently in Shankarabharanam, however someplace into the second minute, one hears disenchantment and disappointment by the despondent Bhairavi and later sharp shocks of fury alongside pounding drums by raag Varali. The silence after the storm is equally piercing. Her scream for nature’s scourge and ache hangs within the air after the music’s given an abrupt finish.

One doesn’t usually hear a Carnatic classical vocalist go a lot past their structured world and nonetheless keep true to the fundamental Carnatic sensibilities. Soma lets the exterior world’s harm have an effect on her, revealing that classical music can not and shouldn’t exist in a vacuum, that she is part of the universe and must let her disdain and ache identified.

One of many most interesting albums about surroundings and wildlife in a yr when India gained a Grammy for one which’s all about constructive messaging, Soma means enterprise. We can be listening.


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