Melodious Sunanda loves ghazals, classical music and cooking

Kersi Meher-Homji talks with her
It is almost six weeks since I listened to the charming Sunanda Sharma swoon the audience with “thandee hawaayen” at Vinod Rajput’s Band Baajaa and still can’t stop humming that cool number.
The 21 year-old Sunanda — Sunny to friends — has everything; hauntingly beautiful voice, winning personality and enchanting presence. I think she will stun audiences in television shows like “Australia Has Talent”. Perhaps it will be next year as she is packing in so much in a day now; studying, working, learning music, teaching music, attending rehearsals”¦

It was a pleasure interviewing her exclusively for The Indian Down Under:
What made you get interested in music, especially old songs?
“My dad was my inspiration to learn old Hindi songs. Besides being a lot more melodious than present day Bollywood songs, I think the songs those days reflected the Indian classical style as you will find many that hold purity of certain ragas.
“More than the Bollywood hits, besides of course Hindustani and Carnatic classical, I love ghazals, ranging from Mehdi Hassan sahib to Ghulam Ali Khan sahib. I think ghazals not only have the technicality and emotion behind the tunes but also behind the lyrics. The complete package! My interest in classical music developed in my late teens, forged by listening firstly to Bade Ghulam Ali Khan sahib, Smt Parveen Sultana, Ustad Rashid Khan and Smt Ashwini Bide Deshpande.
Tell me about music in your family?
“My dad has training in the Hawaiian guitar and has been a passionate listener and critique of filmi and folk songs. He has also developed a great sensitivity to Hindustani classical music and can easily put a song to a raga. My mum also truly enjoys the old golden hits as well as classical music. She has training in various instruments during her college years. She still recalls learning bandishes in raga Bhimpalasi and can play keherwa taal fluently on the tabla despite being out of touch for so long!”
At which age did you start singing?
“I started singing from around the age of 8 but was “gunguna-ing” from a much younger age.”
Your musical teachers?
“I am so grateful to have first Smt Sumathi Krishnan to have taught me the andaaz of singing. My lessons from her placed a vocal imprint in my subconscious. Recently Aunty has been really busy with her own Indian classical website, I am currently taking Hindustani lessons via Skype from Sri Debapriya Adhikary of Benares Gharana.”
Do you also sing modern Indian and/or Western songs?
“I am part of a band, “Roxarela” (composed of myself, Jiva, Harry, Nila and Colin) and we make fusion Indian-World music, ranging from classical to folk. I enjoy singing all styles of music, including Irish ballads. We are currently working on a fusion Arabic piece. I do enjoy singing new Bollywood hits, Mariah Carey songs as well as dabbling in everlasting hits of Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James.”
Which instruments do you play?
“I play the western flute, in which I have undergone training. However I usually play in an Indian style. I also dabble in playing the harmonium.”
Your idol / hero?
“I have many idols and heroes. I have found that the most complete idols are the spiritual ones. One of my idols is Swami Tejomayananda of Chinmaya Mission, and also Swami Yogananda. I also really admire Gandhiji. From an entertainment perspective, youth idol for me would definitely be Jasmeet Singh aka Jus Reign – the youtube character who cracks up not only myself but my whole family. Also Shankar Tucker, the upcoming Indian classical fusion producer. One of my other idols is Vandana Shiva, a green-activist, who has expounded on sustainable living.”
Your favourite singers?
“Sunidhi Chauhan is my favourite female singer. She’s a current Bollywood singer. I look up to her because she has a vast vocal range. I also admire Kaushiki Chakraborty (Hindustani classical) of the new era and Kesarbai Kerkar and Parveen Sultani of the old era.”
Are you a Uni student?
“Yes, I am. I also work in Finance. It is dry stuff compared to the music that I indulge myself in!”
Your hobbies, other interests?
“Besides being part of Roxarela, I enjoy organising charity events and teaching music at the IABBV Hindi School. On top of that I am part of a spiritual band named Swaranjali, we make Hindu/Sikh/Sufi music. I am heavily involved in CHYK and learning about spirituality. And last but not least I love love love cooking – vegetarian cooking is what I’m also currently working on. I do want to get into videography.”
Your ambition?
“To become a vocalist and a producer! Music is my serious side project, as I know I won’t be able to give up my day time job anytime soon.”

Good on you Sunanda, you will go far with your harmoniously-blended virtuosity and make us Indo-Aussies proud.

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