Features Saturday, July 18, 2015 - 05:30
Trained as a Carnatic singer but inspired by Michael Jackson, Sangeetha Rajeev worked as a software engineer for three years before thinking “What the hell, let me just do this!” This, was turning a full time singer, either with a band or as a solo artist who sings Kannada songs giving it a rock flavor. And the result was an album of songs called Sarvasva, named after their seven-piece band which includes the flute and a violin along with bass and rhythm guitars and percussion. Written by Vasuki Vaibhav, lead vocal Sangeetha says the song describes best what they have in mind for Sarvasva. The flute accompanies her as she sings about the song of dreams and after she sings Sarvasva, sarvakalika / Sarvasva, truptidayaka the flute breaks away, to get the listener pepped up. “When people listen to our violin, they can head bang to it, when they listen to our flute, they can head bang,” Sangeetha says. Asked if it wasn’t an unusual choice to include a violin and flute as part of the ensemble, Sangeetha says: “We wanted to give it an Indian touch as well, have an element of fusion.” However, when she performs, she always plays the Kannada identity: talking to the audience in Kannada, telling them to get up dance. In one performance, she tells the audience: “Mysurin janre, enu, nidde madthiddira? Eddeli, Rock music na kuthkondu kelbaradu. Eddu ninthu kuni beku” (People of Mysore, are you sleeping? Get on your feet. You should not listen to rock music sitting down. Get on your feet and dance.) As the lead singer, her performances are energetic, her voice rich and able to span a range of melodies. The song that really propelled her to fame was from the film Lucia.    She says the director Pawan Kumar first got it sung and uploaded it on Soundcloud and artists were invited to sing. She too tried her hand at it. She says it became viral and was shared a lot on the social media. “It is a difficult song to sing, it’s not about the music, but the words. The song has a very village rawness to it. It challenged me,” she says. When you listen to it, you understand why. The song became so famous that she became known as “Thinbeda Kammi Sangeetha”.  It was around the same time that she, Sagar Gururaj on the keys, Amith Kumar on the bass, Vikram Parthan with rhythm, Himal Giri with the lead guitar, Yadhunandan Nagraj on the drums, Arjun the flautist, and Sarith Sukumaran the violinist got together with Vasuki Vaibhav who composed most of the lyrics to record the songs for the first album Sarvasva. Now, however, the original members aren’t all here. Himal has gone back to Bhutan, after completing an engineering course in Bangalore. Some are in Kerala. “But when we perform these songs, we always go as Sarvasva with whoever is available,” Sangeetha says. It was one of her early associates Roshan D’Souza and Sagar who gave the band its rock identity, which they have stuck to. Asked about where they perform, the answers might seem strange. The expected answer includes some of the most well-known names in the city which host music performances, but the bands most popular shows have been at the Mysuru Dasara and the last Bengaluru Ganeshotsava.  Asked why this was the case, Roshan said: “The big pubs and clubs do not want Kannada music, and Sarvasva is a Kannada rock band and that’s the problem.” After a pause, “But it doesnt affect us,” he says, listing a rock show in Gulbarga two years ago, another performance in Bidar and numerous corporate and private shows. Although she and her fellow musicians have given rock a Kannada identity, it is pop music where Sangeetha’s heart lies. “I love pop. That would be the real me, Sangeetha Rajeev,” she says. (This story was first published on February 8, 2015)