Sumana Chandrashekar is a Karnatik vocalist and ghatam player. She currently works as Senior Programme Officer responsible for the Arts Practice programme at the India Foundation for the Arts. She learnt to play the ghatam under the tutelage of Sukkanya Ramgopal, the first woman to play the instrument on stage. In this interview, Sumana Chandrashekar talks to the Indian Cultural Forum about the gendered universe of Karnatik music.
This gendering of space finds its roots in both the anti-nautch and nationalist movements. As a result, women would either learn to play a mellifluous instrument like the veena or the violin, or would be trained as vocalists, while percussion, almost exclusively, became a male domain.
She reflects on the fact that even now they are referred to as ‘women ghatam players’, a sign that the mainstream of the music fraternity still does not accept them as serious performers or often considers them to be an exotic lot. Sumana Chandrashekar talks about the challenges they face in the backdrop of such entrenched prejudice.
When Women Play the Ghatam