Susheela Raman’s performance on the 10 November at 6:30pm at the Riverside Theatre was received with spirited foot tapping and cheerful clapping by what I can only call ‘the new genre of listeners’.
The audience was varied, ranging from Tamil Sri Lankans, both first and second generation, Indians to Australians. They absorbed her unique embellishments of century old Tamil Songs, many formed the mystic chants of great Tamil Poets and are usually sung in the temples of Tamil India.
However in the voice and touch of Susheela Raman, they take on a different vibrant effect. Certainly captivating and interesting.
Born and brought up in the suburbs of Sydney Susheela Raman has now traversed various parts of the world travelling and performing extensively gathering her audience as she goes along.
Those who have never heard of Avvayyar’s great devotional poetry are now crooning it with Susheela Raman. ‘Paal manakadhe, Pazham Manakadhe, Pazhani Maalaee Le‘.
The meaning of the song is that the “Scent of Milk and Fruit, fill the mountain of Pazhani” Pazhani is a township of Tamil Nadu where the grand old temple of the diety Muruga attracts thousands each day. Whilst Susheela Raman faces growing criticism for what the purists would call ‘her abject contortion of the great songs on Muruga’, she is attracting a new genre of listeners who are more welcoming of her music.
Susheela Raman’s modern upbeat version of Maamavatu defines her style. The guitarist usually accompanying her, is her life partner, Sam Mills whose accompaniment is really tasteful filling in where needed and letting the purity of her voice fill the space in silence. Kutle Khan a renowned musician in his own right lent his voice beautiful as it was with a sufi effect to her songs.
This modern or rather the version of Susheela Raman is uniquely hers. Her twist and experimentation of the traditional piece is innovative and surprisingly sensitive to the purity and grammar of the raga.