Discernment. Online
















            Sumati wanted the music to "flow".  She wanted to follow the rhythm of the words. So their not having conventional metre didn't come in her way












Gamini: describing women's journeys








"I looked for poems that weren't stuck in the groove of patriarchal attitudes. Many folk songs have that problem," says Usha
Sumati: Agra to pop







Woman Express and journey songs

Rs 20

Why did this singer of classical music suddenly turn her attention to pop? The story of how Gamini , the first all-women album in Kannada, came about 


N S Sumati was never the pop type. A disciple of the late Pandit Ramarao Nayak of the Agra gharana, she sang traditional Hindustani music. So how come she suddenly decided to make Gamini, this album of pop music?

"At Hengsara Hakkina Sangha,  where I work, everyone knew I was a singer. Sarita Vellani, who heads the communication cell, one day asked me if there was anything in Kannada on the lines of Mann ke Manjeere ," recalls Sumati. There was no comparable album she could think of. "Why can't we do one," Sarita said. And so the idea of an album of women's voices was sparked off. Sandhya Rao, director of the NGO, gave her okay, set to work on the broad outline, and remarked, "We don't have to look for a composer, we have one in house".

Everyone at the NGO, which works in the area of women's rights, endorsed the project. Sumati then contacted her poet-friend B N Usha, who set about reading hundreds of books of poetry written by women.

Usha shortlisted 30 poets, but the album could have only about 10 songs, which is why the list was scaled down again. Finally, she chose 10 poems, written with no inkling that they would be turned one day into songs. "I looked for poems that weren't stuck in the groove of patriarchal attitudes. Many folk songs have that problem," says Usha. Neither was she happy with poems that stridently went to war with men. "I finally found that many women had written sensitive poetry that didn't fall in either category."   

And then Sumati set about making the tunes. "I had made tunes for bhajans and composed my own taranas. Some I kept in my mind, others I wrote down," she says. But she hadn't shut her ears to popular music, and counts Bob Marley, Shubha Mudgal and Rahman among her favourites.

The recording was done at Prabhat Studio in Bangalore. She took the help of Praveen D Rao for the sequencing and the orchestra. 

Some poems, like Bedagu and Doni had no conventional metre, which Sumati took as a challenge. She wanted the music, as she says, to "flow". She wanted to follow the rhythm of the words.

B Jaishree, theatre director and star of many raspy Kannada film hits, sang the rap-style Bagilu. Each line was different, and Jaishree said she couldn't make out how to sing the number. She went into lots of takes, but finally got it all stylishly. This track finally became the centre of a dispute in the NGO, with Sumati defending her choice of singer and her style, and some others arguing that it was too aggressive. Sumati finally persuaded the others to see her point, which was that no one other singer could throw her voice as effectively as Jaishree. "It was a learning experience for them, as it has been for me," she says. 

The singers on the album are, besides Sumati, Bharati, M D Pallavi, Aditi and Suchitra. The instrumentalists include Faiyaz Khan (sarangi), Raman Iyer (saxophone) and Jyoti (sitar). Lahari is distributing Gamini.

Would Sumati's orthodox guru have appreciated this sort of music? "He used to startle me by saying he liked songs like Cheez badi hai mast mast and Amma dekh! Maybe he wouldn't have disapproved," muses Sumati.

Arundhati Rao (still popularly known as Arundhati Nag, thanks to the unfading public memory of her actor-husband Shankar Nag) released the album in Bangalore on 31 March 2001. Gamini had two releases: one at Bombay Store on M G Road, and the other at Calypso at Jayanagar. Watch out: a couple of songs from the album could be made into videos.

Suchitra's note:
Since I am one of the singers on this album, I was caught in a dilemma: should we publish a piece on it or not, and if we do, will it amount to self-promotion. We then reasoned that since this is Sumati's album, and your humble editor only plays a very miniscule role in it, we shouldn't really go to the extent of blanking it out. Just because Sumati made the mistake of giving me a song, why deprive the world of hearing about her album! So, dear reader, here we go. 

Write to the editor

Write to Sumati, the music composer

Write to Hengasara Hakkina Sangha, producers of Gamini

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