Carnatic vocalist Sudheer Warrier says music is a holistic healer

“Any music concert is a therapeutic session,” says Sudheer Warrier. “When I sing, I open my mind to the audience and I translate emotions and vibrations. If the music touches their inner thoughts, then it’s as good as consuming medicine.” Carnatic vocalist Sudheer Warrier has sung in hundreds of concerts across South India and is currently a faculty at the Vellore Institute of Technology. Born in a family of Ayurvedic physicians, he always yearned always to veer off the traversed path. “It was a fluke that I learnt music,” he says. “But over the years, I wanted to make my singing more soulful and hence I entered research.”

Sudheer is in the middle of his Ph.D research on music therapy. “It’s better to call it ‘sound therapy’ as music needs some kind of prior knowledge of it while sound doesn’t,” he says. “A certain bunch of frequencies make sounds. The only requirement to undertake sound therapy is receptiveness.” The syllable of Om is an example, he says. “And that’s why the mantras have a medicinal effect. They create vibrations in the atmosphere which sooths the mind.” Sudheer also speaks of ‘Rhythm therapy’. “A combination of sounds gives rhythms and it’s helpful in healing. People with a taste for music respond more quickly in this type of a treatment. What kind of music a person responds to depends on their upbringing, liking and lifestyle.”

He says sound therapy can also be included in mainstream medicine. “As mind plays a vital role in any ailment, a session of music if introduced in hospitals can go a long way in healing people. But, someone with a knowledge of both music and psychology can alone conduct a therapeutic session,” says Sudheer, who was in town for a concert conducted by Aanandhi, the cultural wing of AVN Arogya Ayurvedic Hospital. “Syndromes like autism can be treated with music. I aim to arrive at some formulae – a set of combinations of rhythms to heal different kinds of people.”

Sudheer launched his first album ‘Lullabies of Kerala’ with singer Chithra. It contained two Malayalam lullabies written by Iraivan Thambi. “It was an oral tradition and none of these lullabies were written and composed into songs before. We made two variations of the same lullaby with certain changes in the background score,” he says. The second album of Sudheer was upon Jayadeva’s Ashtapati. “It was called ‘Govindam’ and I got celebrity singers like Shankar Mahadevan, Hariharan and Sujatha to sing the eight songs,” he beams. “It is still a hot seller nearly eight years. I have also done an Ayyappan album with Yesudas. Another devotional album is in the pipeline.”

“Of all the genres of music, Kathakali music is my favourite,” says Sudheer, who is also doing a study on it. “It’s drama music and there are many native ragas exclusively used in Kathakali.” “These ragas are rare and centuries-old. But sadly, some of them have become extinct and are used no more in the performances,” he rues. Sudheer is working on reviving them. “I have identified two ragas ‘Puraneer’ and ‘Indhalam’ which has been completely lost. I am trying to introduce them back, at least in the carnatic genre.” Sudheer says that in the name of fusion and modernity, classical art forms like Kodiyattam and Kathakali are losing their originality. “Introduction of western tunes and fusions of genres is welcome. But the old ragas should be preserved alongside.”