Songstress from the South
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Earlier this month as MTV India's second season of Unplugged opened to AR Rahman's rehashed acoustic versions of his celebrated film compositions, one song stood apart. Nenjukkulley, a never-before-heard Tamil song from Mani Ratnam's upcoming film Kadal — that went viral on the social network within hours of its telecast — saw the maestro playing the accordion and letting a relatively unknown, mellifluous voice take centre stage. It is one thing to perform in pub-gigs and college-fests and another, to emerge as the sole, leading voice from AR Rahman's elaborate orchestra on national television. Yet, from Shakthisree Gopalan's performance — with her aptness of a stage performer and deftness of a skilful singer — few could tell that the young singer from Chennai was performing at a major platform for the first time in her life.
In fact, Gopalan is not even a full-time singer. After graduating from Chennai's Anna University, she has been working as a professional architect. "I chose to be a freelancer so that I can schedule and balance it with my music," says the 24-year-old.
Music has been a part of her life since childhood, growing up amid the Tamil Brahmin staple of Madurai Mani Iyer and MS Subbulakshmi's songs and going through the almost mandatory rigorous Carnatic classical courses. "Carnatic classical was too heavy when I was young, I started appreciating it much later in life," she says. "I went through the usual phases most of us do — the days of Bacardi Blast, boy-band stuff, and then the Dream Theatre phase," she says
It was later during her college days that she started making her own music — collaborating and performing — and took the musical leap into jazz, blues, electronica and started infusing them into her own songs. "I grew out of the earlier phases, but I keep going back to jazz, blues; John Mayer, Norah Jones and AR Rahman," she says.