Sheela’s music carries the Srikantan stamp

Carnatic vocalist M.S. Sheela

Carnatic vocalist M.S. Sheela   | Photo Credit: CH_VIJAYA BHASKAR


M.S. Sheela, who will be bestowed the title of Sangita Kala Acharya by the Music Academy, is dedicated to propagating the doyen’s style of music

M.S. Sheela is known for her performances in classical, devotional and light music. She has a distinct voice that traverses across octaves effortlessly. Decorated with a number of awards, including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar, the newest addition to the list is the title Sangita Kala Acharya from the Music Academy, which will be presented to her at the Sadas on January 1, 2020.

Sheela began learning music from her mother M.N. Rathna, who later sent her to the eminent musician R.K. Srikantan for advanced training, an association that remained till the legend’s demise. “My mother felt that I was taking a lot of liberty with her and she ensured that I had some serious training,” she says. Was it difficult for the young girl singing at as higher a pitch as six (‘A’ pitch) to learn from a male guru with a sonorous voice? Sheela says, “Not at all. Srikantan sir could sing in all the srutis with his students. His teaching always was one on one, never as a group. He sang in the respective srutis of his students!”

“We wrote the script — the sahitya (lyric) and the notation, for every kriti we learnt. Many times we used to write the sahitya and notation while our guru was singing the compositions. This helped us to master the sangatis. Also, my mother and guru insisted on listening to both radio concerts and live performances,” Sheela reminisces about her learning curve.

Sheela has performed across the globe. Apart from traditional concerts, she has presented thematic performances like Eka raga and Eka vaggeyakara concerts. Her lecture-demonstrations are popular too. “They are important for a student in quest of deeper knowledge,” she says.

Sheela has sung along with R.K. Srikantan in a couple of albums and AIR recordings. She marvels at the power of his voice till the end. “He taught us many intricacies of music. He used to say that unless a kriti is presented well and in a grand manner, the niraval will not stand out. To me, he was more than a guru. My learning sessions with him were not just music classes; it was always a privilege to sing in front of him.”

The experience of notating with her guru has helped Sheela in the art of setting compositions to tune. Dasa sahityas, for example. “Sharadaye Karunanidhaye of Vijayadasa set in Thodi, can be sung with an elaborate alapana, niraval and kalpanaswaram while ‘Govinda Gopala’ of Vadiraja set in ragamalika is for the tukkada part of concerts,” says Sheela, who is happy that many singers present them in concerts.

A top rank artiste of AIR and Doordarshan in both classical and light music, a rare distinction among classical musicians, Sheela has also sung in films and won the best female playback singer from the Karnataka State Film Chambers for the film Vimochane, which was based on a story of the life of a classical music teacher. Hamsadhwani Creations, a cultural organisation, founded by Sheela and her husband Prof. B. K. Ramaswamy hosts an annual festival with concerts, lec-dems and a Lalitha Sahasranama puja.

“I feel music is deeply associated with devotion,” she says. Her recordings of Lalitha Sahasranamam and Sri Sharada Suprabhatham are popular and are played daily in many homes.

Sheela has been teaching classical vocal music for more than two decades and many of her students are now performing artistes. She teaches in Amrutha Gurukula programme of AIR, Bengaluru and has been guest lecturer at the Department of Music, Bangalore University. She also taught in the summer school at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London. “The aim is to pass on my guru’s music — RKS bani — to my students, who will take it forward,” says Sheela.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 8:47:43 PM |

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