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Friday, July 12, 2024

One raga at a time

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WOW! catches up with Sivani Saraswatula, a young Carnatic singer straddling between Germany and India

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When she was seven years old, Sivani Saraswatula attended a wedding in which there was a
dance performance that enthralled the young girl. “I remember coming home and asking my
mother to enrol me in a dance class,” she recalls. Her mother, a singer herself, agreed on the
condition, that she take music lessons as well and the rest, as they say, is history.
From the age of seven, the Carnatic vocalist learned the rudiments of music from a variety of
teachers – Dr. P Uma Devi, Dr. Vyzarsu Balasubrahmanyam, Komanduri Ramachary, M
Gopalakrishna, and even today continues to learn from Hyderabad Brothers (one of whom
passed away last month) and Malladi Sriramprasad.
Sivani, a Mechanical engineer from Osmania University, worked in Infosys for four years before
participating and winning in the popular Telugu music program Paadutha Teeyaga in 2015. She
recalls, “It was a very different and challenging experience as I was used to singing classical
music and not movie songs, and both are completely different. However, I was guided by the late
singer, SP Balasubramanyam (who hosted the show) on pitch and voice modulation which was
extremely useful.”
Immediately after the win she sang for a couple of movies (Leo in Kannada and Virata Parvam
in Telugu) before getting married and moving to Germany. Even after moving abroad, the 31-
year-old singer continued her love for Carnatic music. She explains, “While I did many shows
especially during Telugu festivals, I did not get to sing Carnatic music, it was mostly film songs.
In 2020, I started Samathva, which conducts classes and workshops around Carnatic music.”
Living in Europe came with its challenges but where there is a will, there is a way. And Sivani
with her passion for her craft ensured that she practiced daily, took online lessons from her
gurus, and shuttled between India and Germany performing and honing her craft. Favoring songs
of DK Pattamal, K V Narayaswamy, and Malladi Suribabu, she comes dressed in simple
handlooms and with a Veena for backdrop wherever she performs.
Another initiative of hers, Bayern Baithak (Bayern being the city she is based out of) is all about
bringing musicians together. She states, “This is an initiative to bridge gap between the artists
and audiences. Over two hours, a music and a dance performance are conducted in close
interaction with the audience.”

Community is a crucial factor for musicians in traditional art forms. Sivani operates without one
– be it accompanying musicians or avenues to perform yet thrives despite it. “Self- motivation is
crucial,” she smiles and adds, “Carnatic music is devotional, spiritual, and philosophical. Singers
like Thyagaraja and Annamaya sang because they were on the path of liberation, which is the
very essence of Carnatic music that keeps me going.”
Conquering the world, one raga at a time, the onus is on singers like Sivani to take Carnatic
music into the future.

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