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Two of a kind

For Roopkumar and Sonali Rathod `sangeet' is `sadhana'. Versatile in all genres of music, the couple talk of their latest album `Sunn zara' and other musical ventures.


MAKING MUSIC: Sonali and Roopkumar Rathod.

ROOPKUMAR AND Sonali Rathod have been enthralling audiences across continents with their mellifluous music. Trained as classical musicians, they are adept in singing anything from a khayal, thumri, tappa to geet, ghazal and bhajan. They have blazed across the musical circuit with successful albums (individual and duet) like Ishara, Khushboo, Mitwa, Aaghaz, Dil-kash, Parwaaz, Velvet Voices, 24 carats gold, Mohabbat to name a few. Roopkumar has also forayed into films making it big with Sandese aate hain (Border). On a visit to the twin cities (for the inauguration of Shilpa Kala Vedika at Shilparamam) they spoke about their latest album Sunn Zara and other musical ventures. The couple have recently come back from a concert tour-cum holiday in Europe.

Sunn Zara is significant as it is music composers' Ehsaan and Arun's debut album. So is the video (shot in Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani) which is the maiden effort of Khalid. It is for the first time that Sonali sang for another music composer besides Roopkumar.

On Sunn Zara, Sonali says "For me it was a special one as I was doing it with my husband after two years. Generally Roop composes music for all our albums. Both of us love poetry so we like to experiment with new poetry. Lot of new shayars come home so we like to do our own stuff. It was a different situation with Sunn Zara." When two young music directors Ehsaan and Arun wanted them to record their new compositions the couple readily agreed. "Ehsaan comes from a musical background. His father is sitar maestro Ustad Shameer Ahmed Khan. So his knowledge of classical music is good. At the same time he's got a terrific sense of modern music. We liked the music and Adinath Mangeshkar (son of Hridaynath Mangeshkar, Sonali's guru) decided to launch this album through Musicurry Records & Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. Ehsaan added good nuances and gave a different dimension to our voices," Sonali and Roop inform.

Like most classical singers, the couple are into private albums. "It is a way of reaching out to the masses and also popularising our own music. The pop world today is flooded with singers who are really non-singers, who have not really learnt music. I feel singers who have learnt music seriously should reach out to the masses. If we, as popular musicians sing something like Sajna bin (a `thumri'-like composition based on raag Hamir) then the common man will make an effort to listen to it otherwise he would dismiss it by saying yeh to classical hai. Classical music is like a khas cheez. It has got a select audience."

Roopkumar has sung in films like Border, Rehna Hai Terre Dil Mein and its Tamil original Minnale, Filhaal to name a few. His latest assignments include J.P. Dutta's Line of Control, (lyrics by Javed Akhtar, music by Anu Malik) for Honey Irani's debut film and a qawwali composed by Jatin Lalit for a Govinda starrer Raat tera kya kehna with Kavita K. Subramanian."

Roop has just tuned a score for a teleserial Yaatra (to be aired on Star plus shortly) produced by Dipti Bhatnagar. "I feel blessed as Lata didi sang for me," he says. He is looking forward to compose for films as well.

Sonali has just ventured into films. She has sung a ghazal composed by Dilip Sen with Roopkumar for a thriller Koi Hai and a duet composed by Raja Pandit with Kumar Sanu for Deewani.

Sonali has participated in a fusion attempt like many other singers. She spoke about the exhilarating experience with international composer R. Sakamoto (Oscar-award winner for the film The Last Emperor). "Sakamoto composed music for the album Zero Landmine brought out by Warner Brothers and Tokyo Broadcasting Station. He recorded music from different parts of the world for this album. I did the Indian part along with Ustad Sultan Khan and Calvin Singh on the tabla. The recording in Mumbai was a fantastic experience. I sang Sanskrit shlokas with some alaaps, while Ustad Sultan Khan was fantastic on the sarangi. It was 8-9 minutes piece included in the 40-minute album. Then they called me to do it live for the Tokyo Broadcasting Station."

She considers her selection to be a stroke of luck. "Calvin was in town and asked whether I would be interested. When I did the recording in Mumbai I never visualised the magnitude. After three months I got a letter from Warner Brothers asking me to perform live in Tokyo. Sakamoto conducted the 150-piece orchestra. A CD and video have been made but have not been released in India yet.

The couple listen to Carnatic music and are open to jugalbandhis with Carnatic musicians. Sonali is a great fan of Balamuralikrishna and Yesudas. Both are keen to learn Thyagaraja kritis. "We shall at some point attempt a fusion sort of an album with the southern musicians," hopes Sonali.

With parents steeped in music can their daughter be far behind? "Surshree is a musical child. We don't want to lose her childhood at the moment. She is nine and a half and is learning Western classical on the piano as she loves the instrument. Since classical music is constantly reverberating at home, she picks up the notes and sings when we do riyaaz. In today's world you cannot expect a nine-year-old to know the difference between Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Ustad Amir Khan but she can make out the difference," says a proud mother.

How difficult or easy has life been for them as singers? "Well it has not always been a path of roses for me. It's been quite tough. We have always tried to give something new to our audiences. That is why we are still here. It's always a struggle and it is better that way because you enrich yourself as a musician,'' says Sonali. "We are happy. We hail from a musical family where we were taught sangeet is sadhana - like meditation. We derive joy from our singing and we are happy with that."

RADHIKA RAJAMANI

Photo: Mohd Yousuf

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