Susheela Raman

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Susheela Raman
Raman in Paris Plage, 2007
Raman in Paris Plage, 2007
Background information
Birth nameSusheela Raman
Born (1973-07-20) 20 July 1973 (age 48)
Hendon, London, England
GenresWorld music
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, composer, arranger
Years active1997–present
LabelsXIII Bis, Narada

Susheela Raman (Tamil: சுசீலா ராமன்; born 21 July 1973) is a British musician. She was nominated for the 2006 BBC World Music Awards. Her debut album Salt Rain was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2001.[1] She is known for energetic, vibrant, syncretic, and uplifting live performances built on the sacred Bhakti and Sufi traditions of India and Pakistan.[2][3]


Early years[edit]

Susheela Raman's parents are Tamils from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, India, who arrived in London, UK in the mid-sixties. At the age of four, Raman and her family left the UK for Australia.[4] Susheela grew up singing South Indian classical music and began giving recitals at an early age.[1] She recalls how her family "were eager to keep our Tamil culture alive."[1] As a teenager in Sydney she started her own band, describing its sound as "funk and rock and roll",[5][6] before branching out into more blues and jazz-based music, which demanded quite different voice techniques. She tried to bring these streams together when in 1995 she travelled to India to rediscover her roots by way of further exploring Carnatic music.

Music career[edit]

Returning to England in 1997, she started to work with her partner, guitarist/producer Sam Mills who had recorded "Real Sugar" with a Bengali singer named Paban Das Baul. According to Raman "it bridged a gap and found common ground for one particular kind of Indian music to be expressed to a new audience."[1] In 1999, Raman co-wrote songs for the album One and One is One by Joi, also performing on the track "Asian Vibes." Mills had worked with West African musicians in the group Tama which also opened musical contact points within the Parisian music scene.

Salt Rain[edit]

After a period of three years collaborating with Sam Mills, Raman released her first album Salt Rain in 2001 on Narada, an American subsidiary of EMI.

The album went gold in France and in the UK was shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize. Raman also won the Best Newcomer award from BBC Radio 3.

Salt Rain drew on traditional Tamil music blended with jazz-folk and pop influences.[4] It featured original material, as well as old songs Raman sang at recitals when younger.

Love Trap[edit]

In 2003 Raman released her second album Love Trap which featured amongst other collaborators the Nigerian drummer Tony Allen and Tuvan singer Albert Kuvezin of the group Yat-Kha.

The title track is a re-interpretation of an Ethiopian song by Mahmoud Ahmed.

Raman performing in 2007

Music for Crocodiles[edit]

Music for Crocodiles, Raman's third album, was released in 2005. It had been partly recorded in Chennai (Madras), India. The album included "The Same Song" which was used by Mira Nair for the end credits of her film The Namesake. (Nair also used Raman's version of the 1960s Hindi film song "Ye Mera Divanapan Hai" from the previous album).

On Music for Crocodiles Raman sang for the first time in French on "L'Ame Volatile".

Raman's training in Carnatic classical music makes its presence felt in Tamil classical titles such as "Sharavana," her singing "Meanwhile" (on the same album) in a rāgam called Kanakaangi, and in the song "Light Years" which features a melody in Kalyani rāgam as well as the veena playing of Punya 'Devi' Srinivas.

In 2006 Susheela was again nominated for a BBC World Music Award and was the subject of a one-hour documentary by French-German TV Channel Arte, called Indian Journey directed by Mark Kidel.


Susheela's deal with Narada ended in 2006 and that year she independently recorded an album 3313, a set of re-imaginings of tracks from the nineteen sixties and seventies. Artists covered include Bob Dylan, John Lennon, The Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, Jimi Hendrix, Can and Throbbing Gristle. The album features long term collaborators Sam Mills on guitar, Vincent Segal on cello, and tabla player and percussionist Aref Durvesh.

The album was released in April 2007 in France on the independent label XIII Bis.

2008 to 2010[edit]

Raman garnered acclaim for her live performances.[7] She continued to research and discover music from Tamil Nadu, studying in 2007 with the Bhakti singer Kovai Kamla.


In 2011, Raman released Vel, marking a change in musical direction which was well received.[8][9]

She followed this up with a series of concerts which showcased her new musical direction, demonstrating, as her reviewers put it "a rousing comeback".[10]

2011 to 2013[edit]

Concert in Brittany (France) in July 2014

Through 2011 to 2013, Raman worked with Sufi Qawali singers and musicians in Lahore in addition to Rajasthani musicians, and continued to explore ecstatic and devotional musical styles.[11][12]

In 2013, Raman returned to the stage in London at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the Alchemy Festival, having previously played at the Jaipur Literary Festival.[13][14]

Queen Between[edit]

In September 2013 Susheela Raman announced a new album, as yet untitled, inviting pledges from fans to ensure its release in spring 2014.[15] Of this she said: "The record I am making now reflects my work in recent years living in London but travelling to work with master musicians from India and Pakistan. It features master musicians from Rajasthan, and spectacular Sufi Qawwali singers from Pakistan. In addition to my longstanding companions guitarist/producer Sam Mills and tabla demon Aref Durvesh, Fela Kuti’s legendary drummer Tony Allen and French cellist Vincent Segal also make an appearance. It is a really exciting album with singing in English, Tamil, Panjabi, Urdu, Marwari and Bengali. It has some amazing playing and guest vocals by Kutle Khan and Rizwan Muazzam. It’s a big, beautiful, ambitious, groundbreaking album and ... it’s all about the songs. It’s a work in progress and a strong start has been made. While the Qawals and Rajasthanis were in London this April we had some great sessions and laid down the basic recording for about nine tracks so far and now are looking for funding to complete the recording and editing, to mix, master and then to promote the album."

The album was finally released on 1 March 2014 as Queen Between.[16]


  • Salt Rain (2001) No. 29 FRA
  • Love Trap (2003) No. 32 FRA
  • Music for Crocodiles (2005) No. 51 FRA
  • 3313 (2007) No. 120 FRA
  • Vel (2011)
  • Queen Between (2014)
  • Ghost Gamelan (2018)
  • Gypsy (2020)



Other than music, she is well known for narrating documentaries, including BBC's Mountains of the Monsoon.


  1. ^ a b c d "Susheela Raman Biography". 2002. Archived from the original on 29 January 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2008.
  2. ^ Denselow, Robin (11 April 2013). "Susheela Raman – review". The Guardian. London.
  3. ^ "Alchemy festival celebrates South Asia in London".
  4. ^ a b Cartwright, Garth (November 2001). "BBC Radio 3 – Awards for World Music – Susheela Raman". BBC. Retrieved 15 February 2008.
  5. ^ Biswas, Premankur (1 February 2008). "Musical Alliances". Express India. Archived from the original on 8 April 2009. Retrieved 15 February 2008.
  6. ^ Cartwright, Garth (January 2002). "BBC Radio 3 – Susheela Raman interview". BBC. Retrieved 15 February 2008.
  7. ^ Denselow, Robin (15 February 2002). "Susheela Raman, London". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 February 2008.
  8. ^ Denselow, Robin (12 May 2011). "Susheela Raman: Vel – review". The Guardian. London.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 June 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Denselow, Robin (21 April 2011). "Susheela Raman – review". The Guardian. London.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "When qawwali and folk music fill the air". The Express Tribune. 4 March 2013.
  13. ^ "Susheela Raman | Southbank Centre". 6 March 2013. Archived from the original on 6 March 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 September 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ [1][permanent dead link]
  16. ^ "Susheela Raman: New Album | PledgeMusic". 19 September 2013. Archived from the original on 19 September 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  17. ^ "SUSHEELA RAMAN 'VODOO CHILD' – Vidéo Dailymotion". 19 June 2007. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  18. ^ "Susheela Raman "You Do Right /Bolo Bolo" – Vidéo Dailymotion". 19 June 2007. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  19. ^ "Mujhse Shadi Karoge Voting Online | Save your favourite contestant Now".

External links[edit]