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Music has the power to soothe physical pain, says Sudha Ragunathan

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Sudha Raghunathan.
Sudha Raghunathan.

S. Aishwarya

The popular Carnatic vocalist is now researching into its therapeutic effects

TIRUCHI: Chennai’s music season has the credential of an enduring custom despite changes. Amid the very few customary popular singers, Sudha Ragunathan seemed to have held the position for an enviable period of two decades. And not surprisingly, the sabhas, where the different school of music congregate for a set audience, are not tired of vying with each other to engulf the audience with the charming persona and lilting voice of the celebrated disciple of legendary M.L. Vasanthakumari.

While the ‘people’s choice’ has busied herself with the eventful musical month, she has managed to get her hands into a bit of academics too. Her research on music therapy, though at nascent stage, is expected to pull in a new horizon of music’s therapeutic magic.

“Music can cast spell on any listener. And the therapy is no new thing here. It has been known for centuries. It’s just back tagging on a new scientific dimension to it,” says Ms. Ragunathan.

The researches, despite being far and few in between, have picked up in a big way in the country. Western influence might be a reason for it, Ms. Sudha says.

Her part of research seeks to produce the before and after effects of music in any particular field of medicine. The divine power of music might be in its teeming rhythms and lilting rhymes but the healing touch lies in the energy level of quality songs.

They assuage physical pain and intensify the endurance. Her research would identify people with different ailments and musical compositions.

“Everyone knows music is a great stress buster. My research aims to go a bit further to prove could have positive effect on diseases related to gastroenterology, carcinogenic and a lot more.”

Not a substitute

The therapy, she clarifies, doesn’t mean a medicinal substitute altogether. “I’m initially researching on the complementary benefits of music. Perhaps, it could be tried out as a focal treatment in later stage.”

The therapeutic effects of soulful renditions have been much talked about but needs a scientific attestation. “Raagas like Kalyani influences ambience a certain way, which may altogether different from the influence of Amirthavarshini. Each raga is unique. The research will bring the science involved in it to the fore."

Her paper will contain 80 per cent of Carnatic music and a little dosage of other schools too depending on listeners’ choice.

Her research will fuse the effect of instrumental music on the listener, alongside that of her mellifluous voice. She finds the effect of instrumental music to be stronger than vocal in certain cases. “When you have lyrics, you concentrate on it and your mind begins to picture the situation reflexively. Instrumental music brings in a meditative mood. It elates you without any participation of your brain. That gives you an unperturbed tranquillity.”

Sudha’s voice has become ubiquitous so much so that one get to hear her little too often even in films too. Even as she was working on her album ‘Tirupugazh,’ ‘Satham Podadhe’ in Yuvanshankar Raja’s symphony was released with a song to her credit.

But the eternal debate on carnatic singers wielding headsets to voice duets doesn’t seem to faze her. “Film music reaches a wider audience. People who know me through krithis identify my voice in a different platform. Music can’t be simplified beyond a point and film industry pretty well knows that. I’m not being choosy. Music directors are aware of the songs that suit my voice and I’m only getting those.”

You could hear her more in the to-be-released albums of flicks ‘Uliyin Osai’ and ‘Varanam Ayiram.’

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