|Susheela Raman. Photo credit: Asopum/ Creative Commons|
Born in London, Susheela Raman‘s work unites and draws strength from her South Indian Tamil roots and the ‘western’ culture that she grew up with after her parents moved to London in the Sixties. She has released a string of critically acclaimed albums since since her Mercury shortlisted 2001 debut ‘Salt Rain’. She is appearing at Turner Sims tonight 5th December.
She talked to Oliver Krug about her impressions and worries of the current debate about immigration and how it will affect the UK’s cultural life. Returning from her international tour to her home country, the UK, to play the last concert for this year in Southampton tonight, she thought the country has changed. She said she wanted to raise her voice in the name of arts and culture before a hostile atmosphere settles in, endangering the UK’s top position as a magnet for international creativity.
Over the last decade Susheela has spent several months each year in the Indian subcontinent researching and making connections with music and musicians in Tamil Nadu, Bengal, Rajasthan and most recently Pakistan where she developed a two year project for the British Council and Southbank which was presented at Royal Festival Hall in 2013. She is uniquely positioned to represent a multi-faceted culture that has defined modern British life
Susheela will play with the probably most diverse band she has appeared with so far, Alongside many of her generation, Susheela is one of the iconic musicians who stand for a multi-cultural Britain that has been celebrated around the globe.
Susheela Raman said:
“All of culture is a weaving together and its always unfinished business. We are living a moment when what it means to be British or English becomes a thorny question. The UKIP manifesto says it ‘recognises and values an overarching British culture which is open and inclusive to anyone, regardless of their ethnic and religious background’. We are not told what this culture is that we must all include ourselves in. It has the air of a threat.”
“As a musician my work reflects the weaving of culture. I see its hybridity as a strength. I don’t see how one can look at either British culture or Indian culture as some kind of fixed, unchanging thing but here are these defensive, conservative voices on both sides. In my world, culture is something porous and very adaptive, an unrestricted, endless encounter. I have played with musicians from all over the world and there is always things to learn. Nothing is complete in itself.”.
“The history of music reflects migrations where cultures have collided with all their contradictions but have fused to create the greatest art. If we look at the music that dominates now, its based on African music that travelled to America on slave ships but adjusted with European musical idea and spread back here changing us completely. More recently in Britain, just look at the way Jamaican musical ideas have been adopted into British musical currency. In spite of inspiring work by British Asian musicians, maybe the same kind of exchange has yet to happen with music from the Indian subcontinent. Why shouldn’t you see Tablas, for example, with a rock band, without it being something remarkable?
Beyond the steamrolling presence of Beyonces or Bollywoods, there are a million other niches and ways of making music to be explored. I draw on all the musical sources I know to build a strong music that stands up over a long time period. It’s my way of projecting an inclusive cultural idea without some kind of enforced conformity. For me the magic of music is that it can melt barriers, expand who ‘we’ are, and help us shape the world we actually want to live in.”
Susheela Raman, vocals
Pirashannah Theverajah and Aref Durvesh are two of the UK finest percussionists who play the Nother and south indian instruments Mridinangam and Tabla. Pirashannah worked for many years with Ravi Shankar ann Anoushka Shankar. Aref has plays with Jeff Beck, Sting, John Mclaughlin
Danny Keane is a cellist who frequently plays with Mulatu Astake and Nithin Sahwey among many others.
Kartik Raghnuthan plays violin and is a celebrated world music singer.
Sam Mills on guitar formerly in the band 23 Skidoo, and is a British producer who worked with Real World Records (Peter Gabriel).