Auckland-based Sujatha Selwyn loves music and Tamil. And uses both to make soothing and soulful music
Sujatha Selwyn is a rare songbird. The Auckland-based musician composes, writes and sings Tamil Christian songs. She has four albums to her credit, with the latest one, ‘Nenjame II’ already sold out in the U.S., UAE and a few other countries within a short span. Her music is part of the collection at the National Library of New Zealand.
Born as Lakshmi into a Hindu family, she says her parents, M.R. Kannan and Sulochana, were hardworking people who did their best to bring up their five children with good values, which they practised. Says Sujatha, “We may not have had the best of clothes or food, but there was no dearth of love in our home. I learnt many slokas and prayers at a young age and used to recite them. I encountered Christ as a child, but made a decision to follow him as a teenager. My father did object initially, but he realised with the passage of time that my faith was not doing any harm, only inculcating good values in me and so left it at that. My mother, my siblings and my brother’s wife are now believers.”
Gift for composing
When she broke into song during a prayerful moment, Sujatha realised she had a gift for composing. Her classical music training came in good stead as did her fluency in Tamil and scriptural knowledge. She composed a number of songs but didn't know what to do with them.
After marriage to Selwyn Thomas and two children later, the family migrated to New Zealand. Selwyn encouraged her musical endeavours. They met a tabla player in Auckland who suggested she should consider recording as her voice was good. He and his friend helped Sujatha bring out her first album, ‘Anadhi Snegam’ in 2005.Then came ‘Irai Isai’ three years later, followed by ‘Nenjamae I’ in 2011.
Along came musician Clement Vedanayagam Sastriyar, and he introduced the couple to the young musician, J. J. Ruban. The latest album, which is a sequel to ‘Nenjamae,’ has a good mix of songs. Mention must be made of ‘Kadavul Vazthu’ in Tamil alphabetical order. One can also find a wedding song, a pure classical number, a Hindustani piece and a folk song that caters for varied tastes. The opening number, ‘Jebathai Ketkum Devanae’ lends a rousing start.
Sujatha has composed more than 100 songs. The artist says the only reason she records her songs is to put to good use the talents that she has been blessed with. In Auckland, she sings at Tamil and English churches and gospel concerts. “Whenever I compose a new song, I sing it in our church first, before it is recorded. I also compose new songs for special occasions – Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, weddings, and sing them in the Tamil churches here.” She finds satisfaction when listeners call in to tell her that the song ministered to them.
The singer-songwriter is a financial analyst .She asserts,” I love my job in Deloitte”. “We both have a busy corporate life. But, the rest of the time, we are engaged in various activities in support of our music/radio ministries. Besides we are active members of our Tamil Methodist Church based at Auckland.” On live concerts in India, Sujatha says, “I have received requests to perform. I intend to take these up when I plan my next trip to India.” The New Zealander loves Bharatiar’s works, and Andal’s Tiruppavai.
The NZ Government’s Archives Department approached her with a request to add her music to the Government archives.
IRAI ISAI Tamil Christian Radio that the musician-couple operate is one of the most popular Tamil Christian Radios reaching over 125 countries, with a huge listener base. “This radio is run with our personal resources as we do not solicit donations nor engage in any revenue-generating activities.”
Details of Sujatha Selwyn’s albums are on www.nenjamae.com and www.sujathaselwyn.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. In Chennai, the album is distributed by Word of the Lord, Koyambedu. Ph: 044-24799266.