‘I enjoy all kinds of music’

Elegantly draped in a hand woven saree, SHUBHA MUDGAL sported her usual tika-like bindi and a lovely smile. Quite unlike her multi-layered repertoire of music, Shubha, the person, seemed plain and understated. A singer tutored by the likes of Ram Ashreya Jha, Kumar Gandharva and Naina Devi, she was humble enough to say she’s still learning. Invited by the Odisha Tourism to perform in its Megha Utsav last week, Shubha spoke to Diana Sahu about her connection with Odissi music and liking for the State.

Published: 14th August 2012 11:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th August 2012 11:53 AM   |  A+A-

You have performed here many times. How did it feel to perform at Megha festival?

My first connection with Odissi vocals was when I was in my early 20s. Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra was in New Delhi for a lecture demonstration and his accompanying vocalist developed throat problems. I was called in and I remember Guruji taught me ‘Astapadi’ in the car on way to the venue. Besides Guruji, I have also been the accompanying vocalist for Madhavi Mudgal for some time.

As far as Megha Utsav is concerned, I think theme-based concerts are always exciting. As a listener and a performer, it was  wonderful. It’s wonderful that in this part of the country there still seems to be support for traditional music.

Has this year’s monsoon inspired anything new in your compositions?

Actually the world of music is so vast and experiments are so common, it’s difficult to claim that one has done something new. People like me can only try in our own little way  - and that is new for us. So what I do today, someone might already have done in some other part of the globe.

What kind of music do you enjoy?

My familiarity is with khayal, thumri, dadra. But I really enjoy listening to different kinds of music. You’ll find all kinds of music on my iPod - Hindustani classical music, music from Tuba and Cuba, folk music from different parts of country.

What is life for Subha Mudgal beyond music?

Though my world revolves around melody, I am an avid sari collector and a compulsive foodie, who savours all kinds of vegetarian preparations. I also read whenever I get time. I am naturally drawn to literature, particularly poetry. In fact, I enjoy setting spiritual and socially relevant verses to music.

I have done research in ‘Bhakti Sahitya’ to know how it can guide and add depth to my ‘sangeet’. Because when I started learning I was told that music and devotion are synonymous. That’s why Indian music is meditative and soothing. This is one of the reasons why I took ‘diksha’ into a Krishna sect. They make two kinds of offerings to the Lord - bhog seva and raga seva. My tika, which many see as a stylised bindi, owes allegiance to this group.

What are your present projects?

This year, I came out with my album ‘No Stranger here’ which is inspired by Kabir’s poetry that swept across India as a rebellion against religious orthodoxy, caste distinctions and Brahmanic rituals. Me, Philadelphia-based poet and spoken word artist Ursula Rucker and producers Business Class Refugees (Patrick Sebag and Yotam Agam) have come together for this album.

You can find Eastern musical elements, the Western orchestral contributions and the transglobal electronica beats fused together in this album. At present, I am busy with my concerts within the country.


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