My Journey

My music practice stems from a vast ecosystem of very rich music that I have had the privilege of knowing and being a part of since my childhood. Bringing some of these influences together, repeatedly questioning both form and content, and having a keen lens to bring out lesser known voices has helped me make the music my own.

Listening to the late Vasantibai Kanitkar, an exponent of abhangs and kirtan

The Beginnings

The music of formative years was primarily Carnatic classical, which I learnt for 2 decades, across Pune, Hyderabad and Chennai from 4 wonderful gurus- my grandmother Krishnaveni Suryanarayan, Rajalakshmi Pichumani, Komanduri Seshadri and B. Krishnamoorthy. Parallely, I also learnt abhangs in a mandali with Vikram Pendharkar, and sang in a choir led by Veronica Krishnayya. I performed my first full length classical concert and age 12, and sang for recordings and dance programs. Formal education took me to BITS Pilani. It was then that I started questioning the notions of classical music and the hierarchies in the system, and whether I wanted to make it my life practice.

Shabad Ki Chot (Wound of the Word):

Kabir says that we are ‘struck by the word’. My moment of being wounded happened when I heard the exponent of nirguni folk in Malwa, Prahlad Singh Tipaniya, singing at a festival in Mumbai. He opened my eyes to the nature of folk music- raw, powerful, visceral, and the deep questioning that the poetry of Kabir brings. I began to realise that a lot of music from my childhood (abhangs, vachanas) was connected as well. I began to explore and sing both Kabir in the Malwi style and the abhangs I had picked up as a child.

With Prahladji and a whole host of friends and co-musicians of mystic traditions

“Jo utra so doob gaya, jo dooba so paar”

Vithu Mazha, the work that emerged from reclaiming women warikari voices

Finding my own voice:

I had been performing Kabir and Abhangs for a while, when I was introduced to the work of Jacqui Daukes, a researcher who had been working on women’s voices in the warikari sampraday. Jacqui had been asking and answering questions of why women’s songs were disappearing from the oral tradition. I began to question the notions of my practice, and my own commitment to gender and social equality through my music. Jacqui’s translations of 300+ abhangs formed the basis of my work on the women warikaris, which was later supported with a grant from the India Foundation for the Arts. I started composing music extensively, and consciously picked songs that existed in text, but not performance. It is something I continue with a whole host of poets from across the subcontinent.

Journeying both Outside and Within:

My work has now taken me to delightfully varied places – concert halls in Mumbai, villages in Bengal, ghats of Varanasi, universities in the USA. In every place, I try to contextualise the music and poetry to the reality that my listeners are in. I like slow travel, immersing in the place that I go to, meeting musicians from the region, and I absolutely love learning songs from new places! I am grateful for many collaborators and co-conspirators in my journey – Yuji Nakagawa, Shruteendra Katagade, Vedanth Bharadwaj, Sanjukta Wagh, Netai Chandra Das – and many others. Without them, the music would not be what it is.

Sharing music and ridiculous faces with the girls at Global Village Project in Atlanta, GA
  • To know about my performances and to listen to more, visit Music
  • To know about my work in education, visit Teaching
  • To get in touch, Contact Me