The journey homeward, through music

Finding Home, a musical performance, attempted to trace the ever-shifting definitions of the word

January 28, 2019 05:35 pm | Updated 05:35 pm IST

A warm cup of filter coffee and steaming hot dosas to go with music that talks about diaspora, identity and the concept of home. All this, by the beach and in an intimate space, on a slightly humid Sunday morning. As I walk into the front yard of Spaces, Besant Nagar that accommodates the warm rays of sunlight falling through the trees, I hear beats from a cajon and the soothing tune of ‘Chinnanjiru Kiliye Kannamma’ that follows. Finding Home, a musical performance by Singapore-based musician Sushma Somasekharan along with Chennai-based Praveen Sparsh on percussion and Ravi G on keys, organised by Silkworm boutique as part of the latter’s performance series that concentrates on promoting arts, would begin soon. Finding Home is the fifth performance in the series.

For the Singapore and Chennai-based classical vocalist Sushma, home has always been a vague concept. “Is it the place, people, sounds or smell? What or who is home?” she ponders, through this well-strung piece of performance which touched upon Carnatic, Hindustani and contemporary fusion music. As she eases the audience into the morning, strongly supported by Praveen and Ravi, through the introductory track ‘Chinnanjiru Kiliye Kannamma’ — a Bharati song — she means to say that she recognises home in her mother.

“Later on, home to me meant romance; the love and passion that make you feel at home,” she tells the audience. An improvised rendition of Jagjit Singh’s ghazal, ‘Hothon Se Chhulo Tum’ follows, which further amplifies the mood. By now, the audience is engrossed, nodding their heads, as though lost in the atmosphere.

Soon enough, to the background sound of an auto rickshaw zooming by, she speaks again, “Cities themselves are home to us, the sights and sounds associated with it. For instance, the tea kadai that you pass by the road,” and begins the next piece — the most interesting in the performance. An improvisation follows: Praveen’s funky beats are complemented by Ravi’s interventions, and Sushma singing the tanam. The musicians read cues from each others’ faces to take the contemporary piece forward, and immediately get the audience tapping their feet. Then the definition of home takes shape in the freedom to live, and the great personalities who had fought for it, through a cover of ‘Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram’.

“The idea was sparked by ‘Nyharva’, a Kabir poem, which is the last song in this production. The meaning of the song is that one has to go beyond one’s natal home — beyond the sun, moon, where there’s no water... This sort of led me to start the quest,” Sushma later says, adding that this is the first time this production has taken to stage.

As the humidity soars, and the 45-minute long performance comes to an end, steaming hot dosas are served in the front yard.

A well-spent Sunday morning, I hear others say.

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