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Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Susheela Raman at the Alchemy Festival on the South Bank

I was excited about attending Susheela Rama's concert at the Purcell  Rooms last Thursday 22nd May 2014. I had interviewed the lady and listened to her music but never before had the opportunity to see her perform live. 

You know Susheela because her first album, Salt Rain, was  shortlisted for a Mercury Prize.
She has always been a brave and confident performer, striking out with a style that is gently connected with her Tamil roots. 
Susheela's work is universal and the fact that she has lived in Australia and the UK is clear; she takes and gives to a host of cultures and disciplines and doesn't seem trammelled by any narrow boxes or definitions that critics would like to place her in.  It doesn't take any time to warm to her or for her to warm up; audiences engage and are mesmerised instantly. 
While she is the star performer and we go to see her, she blends with her band members and seems seemlessly tied in with them, so that the strength and power can emanate from any part of the whole ensemble during the evening. It makes for a surprising and delicious musical event; vocals and a virtuoso drum solo  can take you to the edge of your seat. And back again!
It also shows a remarkable absence of ego. In fact, when I first met her, she was more interested in talking about my book than herself!

I know Susheela is an utterly committed performer because my first interview with her happened over several days when she was in intense rehearsal preparing for another concert and I could feel the creative electricity being given off through her work with her fellow artist, an accomplished guitarist, at the time. I could feel the dedication every time I spoke with her. 

What I find exciting about Susheela is that it is impossible to compartmentalise her. She blends jazz, folk, Indian classical and African styles and deserves her place in the sun. 
The Purcell Rooms was the perfect homore to show Susheela Raman at her best, and the packed audience thoroughly enjoyed the performance. It was an eclectic mix and I was very pleased to see so many Asian faces in this bastion of white man's culture. 

The concert was part of the Alchemy Festival at Southbank Centre, and was an intimate preview of Susheela Raman's new disc Queen Between, which is currently world wide available in strictly limited number via the Songlines CD shop -  http://songlinescdshop.co.uk/ . Please catch a concert if you can and meantime, the CD is a beautiful and evocative listen. 

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