Sudha Ragunathan

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Sudha Ragunathan is a leading light of Carnatic song. She learned bhajans from her mother V Choodamani in childhood, and went on to be the star disciple of ML Vasanthakumari. Her guru set demanding standards (“you had to do much of the research or learning yourself – listening to her old tapes and looking at her notations in her notebooks. It was very challenging because hers was a very difficult style”).

She kept her studies up alongside her music, enjoying zoology, botany, and chemistry and sometimes dreaming of being a gynaecologist. But music’s allure proved too strong in the end. She has gone on to release over 200 albums, as well as writing for Tamil cinema and working on fusion projects. Outside of music she set up the Samudhaaya Foundation, that provides healthcare to those too poor to afford it.

"I can create different colours, different emotions, I can treat the raga differently, approach the composition in my own style...but I must keep in mind that I should not trespass the tapestry of the definition of the raga."

—Also see Living Traditions: 21 articles for 21st-century Indian classical music, our new series exploring how music with ancient roots continues to innovate in a fast-paced, interconnected modern world. Expand your appreciation!

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