Singapore Week: Day 5: Sushma Soma – HOME


Artist: Sushma Soma
Album: HOME

Label: Independent
Release Date: April 8th, 2022
Location: Singapore

Sushma Soma is a Carnatic Vocalist based in Singapore and India, whose music is probably best described as being of a spiritual and borderline hypnotic nature, unique qualities on full display on her latest album HOME.

Before I get into the album, I think that a basic understanding of Carnatic music is crucial in order to fully appreciate it as a whole. This is an oversimplification of a complex and centuries old style of music taken from Lotus Music and Dance (a fantastic organisation worth looking into):

Carnatic Music is a form of Indian classical music with origins in Southern India. Lyrics in Carnatic music are largely devotional; most of the songs are addressed to the Hindu deities. Many songs emphasize love and other social issues or rest on the concept of sublimation of human emotions for union with the divine. As with all Indian classical music, the two main components of Carnatic music are raga, a melodic pattern, and tala, a rhythmic pattern. In Carnatic Vocal Music, the raga is particularly difficult to master, and emphasis on the solfege of Carnatic music is highly pronounced in vocal training.

The other aspect of the album that needs to be understood in order to fully understand it is the scope and focus of the release. Sushma has chosen to reflect upon her relationship with nature and the environment and her response to the events around the world that have impacted her. Most importantly she has explored these themes and concepts using Carnatic music as the foundation and explored sounds from our everyday lives that impact our environmental landscapes. She states that the album attempts to aurally paint a picture of Man, Nature and the interconnectedness between them both. There are multiple layers of complexity at play here as she layers Hindu tradition with the veneration of nature, the connections between the two and how each affects her (and all of our) daily lives. To achieve this she brings in numerous guest musicians and backing vocalists, who help to create this rich tapestry of interwoven concepts and influences.

There’s a hard to pin down spiritual nature to the music and I feel that it comes from the album’s Carnatic base. There’s an unquantifiable quality present that you’ll only really be able to understand when listening to the album. Elevating this further are elements of ambient and new age that lend a further level of immersiveness to the music. They bring a level of relaxation to some of the more atmospheric and low energy tracks. I need to clarify though that this is not an album filled with relaxing tracks, there are several tracks and moments on this album that are highly stimulating and can even be described as hammering the senses.

Tracks such as The Elephants Funeral are absolutely stunning and really showcase the beauty in Carnatic music. There’s a palpable level of passion and emotion in Sushma’s vocals on this track and the stripped back instrumentals really allow them to shine. The same can be said for Grief, which is a stunning yet melancholic way to close the album. Reflecting on the loss of nature and the severing of our connection to it in the modern world in which we live. This is something I personally feel a deep sense of loss over, so this aspect of the album really connected with me. As someone who doesn’t have a faith, I always found a sense of spirituality in nature that I never experience anywhere else.

Contrasting these calmer tracks are songs such as Ma and Ivory Game, which are far more high energy and more abbrasive in their delivery. The former has a long segment of highly repetitive and in your face vocals that almost overstimulate your brain at points. The latter is a high energy, highly engaging drum driven track with wild, powerful almost ritualistic vocals both from Sushma and her supporting guest vocalists.

Overall, this album is a truly unique listening experience and one that I highly recommend any fans of world and folk music take part in. I can honestly way that while I was aware of Carnatic music, I hadn’t really listened to too much of it, so this was a fascinating experience and has left me wanting to further explore this incredible style of music. I look forward to seeing what Sushma Soma does next and congratulate her on winning Singapore’s Young Artist Award in 2020, a well-deserved triumph.

Listen to and order the album:


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