How Sushma Soma is bringing home the sounds of sustainability


Scenes from Home SOS by Sushma Soma

Scenes from Home SOS by Sushma Soma
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Amid greenery, upcycled and recycled art that hung off the ceiling and walls, signs of eco-conservation were to be seen in every direction at Bangalore Creative Circus. Singapore Carnatic vocalist Sushma Soma brought more urgency to environmentally-conscious messaging with her performance titled Home SOS: Sounds of Sustainability on January 20.

When the artiset took the stage, she began with the song ‘The Elephant’s Funeral,’ which voiced out how Soma reacted with the news of how, in 2020, a pregnant elephant died after consuming a pineapple stuffed with explosives, a method used by farmers to protect their land from wild animals. Where most Carnatic vocalists are expected to maintain a certain register, Soma subverted that with her raw, emotive vocals. It immediately made Home SOS a visceral experience for everyone in attendance, which included all age groups.

Joined by Adyar D Balasubramani on the nadaswaram, a trio of Tamil folk-drum artistes — N. Deepan on the parai, M Rajendran on the thamuru and M Vijay on the satti, as well as percussionist Sumesh Narayanan — this was the first time Soma was staging Home SOS in India.

Scenes from Home SOS by Sushma Soma

Scenes from Home SOS by Sushma Soma
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

The artistes took on a journey that involved intensely cathartic performances with choreography, a friendly and quick audience poll about waste segregation and an ice-breaking singalong segment that covered (and evoked) different moods in the space that was Bangalore Creative Circus. She also ceded the space for N Deepan to take the stage and narrate his lived experiences about changes that members of the fishing community have seen in North Chennai.

With some of the performed songs and stories unfiltered, Soma says that the primeval tone that the concert takes on immediately is something she credits to director, choreographer and dramaturg of Home SOS, Mythili Prakash. Soma says, “When Mythili builds her show or her choreography, she builds structures that allow her to feel the emotion, since the truth is that sometimes you are in such a happy mood that you don’t feel the grief or you are so sad that you can’t feel the joy.”

Scenes from Home SOS by Sushma Soma

Scenes from Home SOS by Sushma Soma
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Her interaction with Prakash specifically brought in how one felt about the news of the pregnant elephant’s death in Kerala in 2020. The question was presented as she walked to the centre of the stage; what she remembered, what she felt at the time of hearing the news. She says, “The structure itself allows with that slow walk, that intention, of remembering that there is this emotion. It is not tangible, it is not there. But it is moving towards that, as if a dead elephant is there. And then it is about how I feel at that moment.”

Around 150 people gathered at Bangalore Creative Circus for the concert, which concluded with a scavenger hunt conducted by one of the event’s partners, Skrap. Soma hopes that even if 15 people in the audience were influenced enough to “adopt earth-friendly choices, it is a big step”.

Aishwarya Natarajan, founder of the platform Indianuance, and producer of Home SOS noted that there was a “raw, rooted, accessible energy about the production” that was perhaps an added dimension. Natarajan adds, “I especially loved the part where Sushma’s narrative is taken over by her co-artiste Deepan in a dramatic turn, as he speaks about how the industrial waste has affected the livelihood of the fisherman community which he belongs to.”

Scenes from Home SOS by Sushma Soma

Scenes from Home SOS by Sushma Soma
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Along with Natarajan, brand strategist Amrita Haldipur and live events specialist Nanni Singh were part of the all-women team behind executing Home SOS in Bengaluru. The organisers plan to take the show to more cities across India, hoping to build a community of “sustainability-conscious citizens.”

Natarajan adds, “I strongly believe in the power of the universal language of music, to move, impact and influence change and inspire people to embraces earth-conscious choices.”

Scenes from Home SOS by Sushma Soma

Scenes from Home SOS by Sushma Soma
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement



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