If there is something that is close to god, it is music. None other than the famed musician from the heritage city, Y Sumarani can explain this better. She plays sitar, mandolin, knows Carnatic music and Bharatnatyam as well. That she has excelled in whatever she has chosen in the field of music, makes Sumarani a special artiste who has carved a niche with a rare degree of success.
Watching her parents sing melodious songs when she was young, Sumarani getting attracted to music was like bee being drawn to honey. She was barely eight years of age when she started learning Carnatic music. A quick learner that she is, Sumarani soon got to learn mandolin and sitar. The veteran singer’s parents’ house used to be a beehive of musical activities day in and day out. This played a major role in shaping Sumarani getting her priorities right.
Soon after completing her masters in psychology, when she was on the lookout for a job, her guru advised her to choose music as her profession. That she was destined to make it big in the field of music, Sumarani readily chose music. “I embraced the opportunity which came in my way. I am very fortunate to get this opportunity. Getting the opportunity itself was a big break for me,” Sumarani reasons when you ask her about her musical journey.
Sumarani’s journey started with mandolin from well-known artiste Ratan in Mysuru and sitar from Pandit R Ramadoss and engaged in advanced learning in sitar from Pandit N V Gopinath in Bengaluru since 2000. She learnt Bharatanatyam under Guru Kodavuru Madhava Rao for about 4 years during school days.
That music makes a person perfect has come true in the case of Sumarani. She is happy she has learnt of positives as a musician. “Being a musician is a very different experience. You get respect wherever you go. You feel happy when people recognise you and talk to you. It’s difficult to express these emotions in words. Music itself brings positivity in us. Being respected from people for the artiste in you motivates you to do better.”
Sumarani has had the umpteen opportunities to rub shoulders with some of the best playback singers and musicians. The veteran artiste knows there is no end to achieving success in music. The more you achieve, the more is left.
– R MURALI
Something about childhood.. How much did you enjoy it?
I had a very nice and memorable childhood. Growing up with siblings who are elder to you is bliss where you get pampered. I was the third and youngest kid. We sisters and cousins used to play together and used to roam around together always. We had to sing whenever we visited any relatives. We used to enjoy singing always. Each time we used to learn a new song and go so that we wouldn’t have to repeat the song. I can say, it had created a healthy competition between kids if I think about it now. Learning music started in the childhood itself and was going in parallel with academics.
I have Masters’ degree in Psychology along with music as major. Carnatic vocal was major subject in BA. I was very much interested in all co curricular activities. I was in NCC, have represented Karnataka for RD parade in 1981 and 1984. I started learning sitar along with mandolin. Bharatanatyam was one of my interests and was lucky enough to learn that as well along with music.
Your family background. What was your parents’ influence on you? Do you have brothers and sisters?
I come from nuclear family with parents and two elder sisters. My father used to play tabla. We had bulbul taranga instrument at home. That was an experimental instrument for us when were kids. My parents were interested in singing and we loved listening to them singing together. Our home had visitors who were musicians all the time. I got opportunity to listen to many musicians.
When did you start learning music? Do you have musicians in your family?
I started learning methodically from childhood. Brinda was my 1st Carnatic vocal guru. I started learning music from her when I was just 8 years. Then I started learning mandolin from Guru Ratan. Pt. Ramdas was my sitar guru. All gurus were like our family members. They used to come home and teach. I used to always look forward for classes. Home would be filled with music when we had classes and we would feel empty whenever we dint have.
There were no musicians in my family. I didn’t have any music background as such. All family members were music lovers; they always encouraged all art forms. My mother’s uncle Narasinga Rao used to teach piano to Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar.
One musician who has influenced you most?
I was (am) influenced by many musicians I have come across. Each person used to make me wonder the way they used to sing or play instruments. We can learn things in different ways. Listen to music will teach us many things. I have learnt a lot from listening to different kind of music and Musicians. All of them have taught me in one or the other way. I am thankful to all of them who have inspired me either directly or indirectly.
Your favourite musicians.
I like to listen to many musicians. It’s difficult to name only few. All are great in their own field and style of music. I can’t tell only one or two names. Ustad Abdul halim Jaffer Khan, Pt. Nikhil Banerjee,Pt. Budhaditya Mukherjee, Pt.Bhimsen Joshi, Begum Akhtar, Jagjit Singh, Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi to name a few. The list goes on.
Are you happy with what you have achieved so far?
I have not achieved anything, but I am happy with what I am now. Definitely I would like to experiment new things and work for betterment.
Do you see scope for improvement in your career?
Definitely yes. Learning music should always be like flowing water. Lifetime is not enough to learn music. It’s like ocean, which always challenges you and gives you opportunity to learn new things.
Mysuru as a music hub.
Mysuru being the cultural city, I got lot of opportunities to attend music programs and listen to great artists. It influenced me to great extent. Also, I should always be grateful to my friends who have always supported me. I know they will be there for throughout. I got lot of encouragement and support from Mahajana High school teachers where I was doing my High school. I am thankful to them.
Your advise to budding musicians.
Be passionate and enjoy the music
Is it easy to learn sitar? How tough is it?
Nothing is easy or difficult. We need dedication. Sitar is also like that. It gives pleasure as much as it gives you pain. We have a saying in Kannada “Kaliyovargu Brahmavidye, Kalita Mele Kothividye”. You feel it is difficult till you learn it.
Music recording: Began music recording since 1981 for Akashvani and Doordarshan programmes. Worked in association with the renowned Dr M Balamuralikrishna, Hindustani musician Shyamala Bhave and stalwarts of Sugama Sangeeta like H K Narayana, H R Leelavathi, Padmacharan, K P Upadhyaya, C Aswath, Mysuru Ananthaswamy and others.
Contribution to film music: Played sitar for films under the direction of noted music directors VijayaBhaskar, L Vaidyanathan, G K Venkatesh, M Ranga Rao, Rajan Nagendra, P B Srinivas, Hamsalekha, Gurukiran, Sadhukokila, V Manohar and Laxmikant Pyarelal of Hindi filmdom.
Accompaniment for classical dance: Engaged in sitar accompaniment for dance programmes choreographed by leading Kathak dancers like Maya Rao and NirupamaRajendra, Bharatanatyam exponents like Bhanumathi, Vani Ganapathi, Kiran Subramanyam and Sathyanarayan Raju, Vyjayanthi Kashi of Kuchupudi and several others.
Participation in TV shows: Accompanied noted play-back singer S P Balasubramanyam in the songs rendered by him in the popular music show Ede TumbiHaaduvenu of ETV channel,wasa part of Kuhukuhu, a popular show of Udaya TV and others.
Music ensembles: Has been a part of music ensembles in association with accomplished musicians like Pravin D Rao, AnooruAnantha Krishna Sharma and Pravin Godkhindi. Shared platforms with Grammy Award Winners like Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Ricky Kej, Rocky Dawuni, Wouter Kelliman and Darline.
Classical concerts: Classical performances include solo sitar concerts and duets with Carnatic instrumentalists under prestigious banners at Mysore, Bangalore, Hubli, Sirsi and Haveri. Co-ordinated Jhankaar a classical ensemble of five sitars under the direction of Guru N V Gopinath for Prakruti, an important music organisation of Bangalore.