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The BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music The BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music
Susheela Raman

Susheela Raman: Interview
by Garth Cartwright (January 2002)

Q: 2001: an amazing year for Susheela Raman?

A: Very much so. What with the album coming out and getting a Mercury (Music Award) nomination and then nomination for the Radio 3 Award and all the things happening in France - Salt Rain has really taken off there.

Q: To be nominated for and then win Best Newcomer at the first ever Radio 3 World Music Awards: how does that feel?

A: It was great. To be nominated amongst people like Yat-Kha who are my favourite band in the whole world... wow! I have total respect for artists like Cachao and Manu Chao so to be seen alongside them is very complimentary.

Q: What set will you play at the Radio 3 World Music Awards?

A: I dunno... this may change... it may be Kamakshi or a small section of it and Nagumomo. Kamakshi is an invocation to the Goddess whose eyes have to power to consume. It’s something I’m going to do with a shruti box. Nagumomo was written by Thyagaruja who was a singer saint who lived about three hundred years ago. He’s a strong influence on my family. You find statues of him on altars in the south of India - he was based in Tamil Nadu and he worshipped the beloved and his songs were about wanting to become one with the beloved but not quite getting there. I’ve been singing his songs since I was a child.

Q: Is it important for people to understand the culture that the music comes from?

A: I don’t know if I necessarily understand the culture myself, so, no it’s not. When you’re a second generation immigrant life can be difficult as you struggle to find your identity and you can do this through your work. But you don’t really need to know anything to listen to this record. It’s something that’s very universal. Salt Rain is not necessarily about Indian culture. That’s one part of it but Australia and England are also part of it as I grew up in both those countries.

Q: Is there any danger that the process of fusion will bring an end to traditional musics around the world?

A: Absolutely not. Because I think the people who do traditional music will continue to do it. Those musicians who do bring in guitars or drums are looking for something new. A classical musician who grows up in South India will have principles installed inside them that I don’t so I don’t have their hang-ups. At the same time I don’t have their technical brilliance but my reality is that I’m between all these different cultures and my music reflects this.

Q: What do you think of World Music as a category?

A: It’s a bit ridiculous really. World Music is music from around the world and you’ve got say Manu Chao next to Indian classical music and they have nothing in common, it’s not the same thing. World Music is a retail category - it helps for navigation around a record shop. But it does bring together a lot of good, disparate music so it’s OK. But, essentially, I think of myself as a pop singer rather that a World Music singer.

Read our Susheela Raman profile.   //  Radio 3 Awards for World Music

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