‘Dance helped me become a better composer,’ says Sajna Sudheer whose latest single releases today

In an interview with The NationWide, the singer-composer talks about her latest musical venture 'Sayonee', her foray into the vlogosphere and her upcoming series on YouTube
Sajna Sudheer
Sajna Sudheer

Singer-composer Sajna Sudheer sounds gleeful. Her single Sayonee, which she has composed and lent her voice to, will be releasing today. The song’s lyrics, which talk about love and longing, were penned by poet and writer Honey Bhaskaran. “She is a friend of mine and asked if I could compose the music and render the song. I said yes,” says Sajna.

While most of the production happened in Dubai, the music and its aspects took place in Kerala. And although it might seem like a difficult task, Sajna says, coordinating the project between the two countries wasn’t that big of a challenge. “I learnt during the pandemic that there is nothing you can’t do. This is the third song I have collaborated on during this period, and most of the production team I worked with were scattered. We would communicate through phone calls, video calls, WhatsApp…” For Sayonee, she composed the music, and Ralfin Stephen, who is based in Kochi, did the programming and arrangement. They did all their communication over the phone.

Sajna — who is an assistant professor at the Department of Music, Government College for Women, in Thiruvananthapuram — says that in the past, she could handle only one song a year, due to her hectic work schedule.

“However, as time has slowed down a bit for us during the pandemic, I was able to do more,” she says, adding that it is going to get hectic again as colleges have reopened.

Sayonee is the third song released by Sajna during the last one year. The first song was Jwalamukhi, a lullaby with lyrics written by Smitha Nambiar, which was released in June 2020. “It was a collaboration among seven women — all of us mothers from different corners of the world. We synergised our creative talents to compose, score, sing, choreograph and edit the lullaby. There was no orchestration, just a shruthi.” The second one was Thiruvona Ponnunjal, an Onam song, conceptualised by Wonderwall for Muzic247. Anu Elizabeth penned the lyrics, while Sreekanth Hariharan rendered the song.

While it might not seem much to an average listener, she tells us that each raga can change the mood. Sayonee, which is just over five minutes and has a ghazal touch to it, is set in the raga Yamuna Kalyani. “I gave Honey three options — Yamuna Kalyani, Behag, and Pantuvarali. While Pantuvarali sounded melancholic, Behag sounded too light-hearted. So we chose the middle ground with Yamuna Kalyani, which is a laidback raga, providing us with a lot of space to explore,” she explained.

Apart from the raga, the essence of the song also lies in the lyrics. “Honey had penned a lot of lines for the song. At first, we thought we would trim it. However, we soon realised that the essence of the song would be lost if we did so,” she says, adding that Ralfin has done an “excellent job in arranging the piece”. “He held back where needed, gave just the right texture, and gone all out at other times,” she says.

A dedicated participant in the vlogosphere, the artiste who completed a 42 hour musical marathon, thus entering the Limca Book of Records in 2019, has just complete a season of ‘Conversations with Sajna’ on her YouTube channel. A 12 episode series, the show saw her engaged in conversations with celebrities from different walks of life. The series, which started with an interview with Soorya Krishnamoorthy, also saw motivational speaker Dhanya Ravi, playback singer Karthika Vaidyanathan, and mridangist Aneesh Krishna appear as guests.

Everyone knows Dakshinamoorthy sir as a film composer. However, not many know that he has done a few major works in Carnatic music. I want to pull out compositions of such composers and slightly recreate them in the orchestration

Sajna Sudheer

Sajna is currently working on a series on unfamiliar compositions of composers on the same platform. The first in what will most likely be a six-part series was Pranamamyaham, a composition by Dakshinamoorthy Swami that is set in Saraswathi raga and Rupaka thalam, which she released on January 1, 2021. “Everyone knows Dakshinamoorthy sir as a film composer. However, not many know that he has done a few major works in Carnatic music. I want to pull out compositions of such composers and slightly recreate them in the orchestration,” says Sajna.

Changing the style a bit, while recreating Dakshinamoorthy’s composition, Sajna used a keyboard instead of traditional instruments for the piece. “It has come out well and I have been receiving positive feedback from artistes in the Carnatic field,” an elated Sajna says. For the music video of Pranamamyaham, Sajna roped in actor-dancer Devaki Rajendran and Anaida Stanly — who is an animation/graphics designer as well as a sand artiste. While Anaida illustrated the piece through sand art, Devaki captured the emotions through her dance.

Taking the same creative mix and match, Sajna, who is going to work on a composition in Behag next, plans to tie up with a bass guitarist and a cellist. She expresses her interest in combining different art forms, be it live paintings or sculpting. “Since my PhD topic is neuromusicology, I want to experiment with ragas and see how it reaches across to people,” she says.

The artiste, who learnt classical dance at the age of four under Guru V Mydhili, says she helped her realise her flair for music. She adds that it was Mydhili who introduced Sajna to music Guru Omanakutty teacher. “Dance has helped me understand music — it made composition and communication easier for me. I do not doubt that dance makes you a better musician,” she says.

While music is what she plans to focus on, Sajna hopes to perform a dance kutcheri, like she used to once upon a time.

Through their official Facebook handles, actress Manju Warrier and singer Sujatha Mohan will release Sayonee today under the banner of Muzik247 at 6 pm. Team Nattapathira is behind the song’s production.

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