Susheela nominated for BBC Award
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Susheela nominated for BBC Award

Indian singer Susheela Raman has been nominated for her Music for Crocodiles, reports Nabanita Sircar.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2006 19:00 IST

Indian singer Susheela Raman has been nominated for the 2006 BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music for her Music for Crocodiles.

In On Love Trap, released in 2003, Susheela Raman sang in Sanskrit, Telugu and Tamil. But Music for Crocodiles is mostly performed in English. Born in London, the singer moved to Australia at the age of four. During her twenties her family moved to India, where Raman studies Hindustani music before returning to London in 1997, where she now lives with her long-term partner Sam Mills.

In London she sang with the Asian dance floor duo Joi. They were signed to Peter Gabriel's Real World label. "I met Sam through the Real World dating agency," she laughs. "I was at the Real World 10th-anniversary party in '99. I fell madly in love with the Paban record..." Mills had collaborated with Paban Das Baul, from Bengal. "Sam made the Paban album in his bedroom," says Raman.

Real World suggested collaboration. "I was in a rather confused state in my musicality, because I'd gone from full Carnatic singing to going around pubs in Sydney, playing blues, and having to really scream to get people's attention. I had a teacher from eight to 14, then rebelled," she told The Independent.

Layered with Indian classical input, Music For Crocodiles has a very detailed production, featuring a strong cast of guest musicians, making it more accessible. "There was a lot of time to work on the development of the songs, and a lot of them we played at gigs," says Raman.

Raman and Mills were working with the same core band members that have been involved from the outset: Hilaire Penda (bass), Aref Durvesh (tabla) and Djanuno Dabo (percussion). This band worked on Raman's debut Salt Rain, which was released in 2001. That album was nominated for the following year's Mercury Music Prize, and Raman also won the BBC World Music Best Newcomer Award in 2002.

She says: "With Love Trap we were going for a really live sound, but this album is a more mature version of that process. We banged out all the stuff in about a week, then did some editing. In October we went to India, so that was the second half of the journey."

The director Mark Kidel was commissioned to make a music documentary for the French television channel Arte. The concept behind Indian Journey was to film Raman and Mills working together with traditional musicians. "We met with quite a lot of strange things in India. Music is very much tied up with religion and identity. I guess it's disturbing for someone to come from outside and be messing with their traditional music. They have pop, and they don't have a middle ground. Sometimes, I don't think they realise that what we're doing is actually very serious."

Talking of her varied cultural experience Raman says: "Ten years ago, my mother and father moved back to Madras from Australia. In the last few years, I've been going back there a lot. During the making of Love Trap, I started doing some research into old traditional music from my mum and dad's hometown. I've been developing that relationship for several years, and I started to meet lots of musicians in Madras. I gave a talk at the British Council, and I had a lot of people come to my workshop."

But she wanted to sing in English "because it's my first language. I want to be heard here."

First Published: Jan 13, 2006 19:00 IST