Raga revelry in remote places

Sudha Ragunathan on her experience of participating in a unique festival

Updated - April 06, 2017 05:46 pm IST

Published - April 06, 2017 04:04 pm IST

Sudha Ragunathan with a participant

Sudha Ragunathan with a participant

It was the usual fare that Sudha Ragunathan presented but the occasion — WOMADelaide 2017, March 10-13 — was unique. An annual music festival in which artistes from around the globe are invited to perform. The sprawling Botanic Park provided the scenic backdrop for the spate of concerts that showcased world music in all its genres. Invited for the second time — the previous outing was in 2013 — Sudha describes the experience as humbling. She was the only Carnatic musician to have performed at three venues — two in Adelaide, Australia, on March 12 and 13 and one in New Zealand on March 17. “One feels like a tiny speck in that ocean of music,” she says.

“It is awe-inspiring — the sheer size and the clock-like precision with which troupes ascend the stage are amazing,” she continues. “The eclectic audience can choose from several venues, where performances take place seamlessly,” explains Sudha. She was accompanied by Neyveli Skandasubramaniam and B. Guru Raghavendra. The time given is one hour. “Even as we descended, we could catch the announcements being made at the centre, where the next performance was happening. Ours was one of the smallest groups,” she adds.

Absolutely dedicated

Were there many Indians among the listeners? “Not really. The houseful audience had a handful of Indians. But absolutely dedicated,” she observes. It was threatening to rain and in fact a mild drizzle heralded her kutcheri. The audience sat on the damp grass. Some had brought chairs but on the whole a wet atmosphere. “I fervently prayed that the rain held back and even told the crowd that,” says Sudha. “I said, ‘We thank you for coming in such large numbers to listen to our music notwithstanding the weather condition. I have prayed to the Sun god to be kind and come out.’ They cheered warmly and presently the sun came out and stayed until the concert was over,” elaborates Sudha.

“At the fringe festival, where again performers from our country were featured, Indian presence was high,” she recalls.

A section of the audience

A section of the audience


From Adelaide, Sudha’s group flew to Auckland, New Zealand, where the party presented a concert on March 17. New Plymouth is two-hours drive from the airport. “The venue, Dell Stage, Brooklands Park, was deep inside a forest and a buggy ride took us some distance. The rest of the undulating path had to be covered on foot — rather challenging, because we had to carry our instruments, and I had to deal with my silk sari,” she laughs. Again it was an unforgettable experience to be one with Nature and present the music. And she amends: “I felt blessed to sing Carnatic music in that remote place, a blessing from the Almighty and my Guru.”

Other participants

New Orleans Hot 8 Brass Band, Turkish psych legends Baab Zula, Warsaw Village band, 9 Bach, Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, Inna Modja from Mali, Moroccan influenced Jewish local choir Piyuet Ensemble, Aziza Brahim’s fusion of sounds of Spain, Senegal and Western Sahara...

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