Blues singer reaches out to Indian women

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VIBRANT MELODY: Blues musician Rattlesnake Annie. Photo: T. Singaravelou
VIBRANT MELODY: Blues musician Rattlesnake Annie. Photo: T. Singaravelou

Deepa H Ramakrishnan

Rattlesnake Annie performs at Women's Day celebration

PONDICHERRY: Her grandmother, who was half Cherokee and half Irish, called her Rattlesnake. "The rattlesnake is the healing sign of the Cherokee Red Indians and that name has stuck to me," says this rebellious musician, who has nurtured nothing but music in her heart ever since she laid her hands on a guitar.

"My first earnings from music came when I was eight years old. Music was my ticket away from the farm on which I was raised. I never tried to achieve anything else in life but to be a good musician, and to be able to make my living with it," says Rattlesnake Annie, who took part in the Women's Day celebration of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Pondicherry.

Wearing a band over her hair and the tail of a rattlesnake for an earring, Rattlesnake Annie with her gusty voice and honest face impressed a crowd of 700 women, members of the MSSRF's self-help groups. "I sang a song about the dream of a Red Indian. But, it fits the Indian context so pretty well that the women could relate to the song through a very able translator. The song is about how a dying Indian dreams of a world with no guns, and no hunger or poverty.

Been there, done that

I was amazed to see women dressed in their best silks walking through muddy roads and fields to the programme carrying their children on their hips. We made a lot of eye contact and there were very warm vibrations," she told The Hindu at Hotel Surguru.

She has been all over the world and has recorded music in every country that she has visited. She has sung in Czechoslovakia and also in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. "I saw how Communism had divided the country and felt sad at that. But, I also witnessed the breaking down of the Berlin Wall and was happy," said the singer, who composed and sang songs for the Civil Rights Movement, women's rights movement and also against the Vietnam War. Rattlesnake Annie records World Music for Sony Music in Japan, and is currently working on a world music project in India.

Breaking down barriers

"Songs are so important to make a statement on issues, and that's how I have used my music. Life is just full of objections, especially when you are a woman. I was one of the first women producers in the music business and also one to play the guitar. I was breaking down barriers. If I could work like a man in the fields, why couldn't I play a guitar and cut records. Playing the guitar was considered a very male thing and girls used to play at home not outside," she said.

She sings in several languages, including Czech, Cherokee, Spanish and German, and now she is practicing a song in Sanskrit.

"When I was studying yoga I always dreamt of coming to India and learning yoga here. In this recording I have a Sanskrit song. Hopefully, this record will be out by the end of this year. The working title of the CD is `Rattlesnake Annie and Friends Around the World'. I like to bring peace and understanding through music," she concludes.

Visit for more details about the singer and her tours.




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