In the Blog
Suba Sankaran: Worldly Multi-Musician
Every other Thursday I profile a new incredible woman, each from a different walk of life. Different professions, causes, backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations, and anything/everything else!
So without further delay, let me introduce the amazing Suba Sankaran…
Suba Sankaran is a DORA award-winning, JUNO-nominated multi-musician (voice, piano, percussion). Regularly performing across North America, Europe and Asia with world music ensembles Autorickshaw and Trichy’s Trio, she also seamlessly crosses genres with artists such as the FreePlay Duo (with Dylan Bell) and Retrocity (80s a cappella revue). She has also performed for Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Peter Gabriel.
In demand as a choral director, arranger, educator and composer, she has composed, recorded and produced music for theatre, film, radio and dance, including collaborations with Oscar-nominee Deepa Mehta. And she’s this week’s amazingly Shameless Woman.
What drives you to do what you do?
I was born into a musical family and so I’ve had music in my blood since I was born. I learned south Indian singing and drumming from my father as well as western classical singing and piano. After studying both western and eastern music and singing in multiple genres, I became interested in many other aspects of the art - improvisation, composition, arranging, directing, producing, choral conducting, scoring music for other genres (film, radio, tv, theatre, dance). I think the drive, or the inspiration, comes from my hunger to be true to myself - to seek the identity within, to just simply be who I am, to create, to be happy - and the vehicle I’ve chosen to use is music.
How does being a woman empower / challenge you?
It’s funny, I was always a tomboy growing up, surrounded by male friends, and of course, now my career is in a field that is still dominated by men! This doesn’t bother me in any way, though I sometimes find it difficult to relate to women because I don’t live in the same sphere. It just makes my time with my women friends that much more special.
My parents had two daughters, and they always joked that I was probably meant to be a boy! It’s interesting to me that I’m following in my father’s footsteps, I’ve kept my family name though I’m married, and such things. I am thrilled to be a woman who is independent, strong-willed, overachieving, striving for perfection and married to my art. I am a person who finds happiness and beauty in very simple things. Being a woman is also a beautiful though sometimes much more complicated thing!
What advice would you give to young women who want to follow in your footsteps?
Follow your heart. Believe in yourself. Remember to question but not to doubt. Music is my life and my passion. Make sure that you make your career decisions with your heart - your mind will follow suit! It is easy to steer away from what we want to do because it doesn’t seem practical, it’s too much of a challenge, or there is seemingly not enough money to sustain life. I believe that, if you’re doing what you love and you’re satisfying your soul, this is the ultimate reward.
What is one person, place, or thing every young woman should know about?
One person we should all know is an elder from our family - it could be your parents, grandparents or someone who has a key to your past. Family is very important because you learn where you came from, your predispositions, your habits, and your inclinations. I’ve learned so much about myself from looking at my parents. I’ve also spent a great deal of time deciding the best traits of my parents as individuals and I’ve tried (and continue to try) to incorporate this into my being.
One place every young woman should see is the ocean or some other large body of water. The overwhelming experience - walking along the water, the wind brushing through your hair, the waves lapping at your feet, the endless moving shapes and patterns in the sand, the timelessness of being in the great wide open - is a beautiful place to simply be with your thoughts, and to be reminded that we are merely a speck on this earth. You gain great perspective.
One thing every young woman should know about is gardening or cooking. Both are wonderful skills to have, and they make for great activities, but what I think is most important is that it is a feast for the senses and it allows you to improvise. Improvising as a musician and in life allows me to spontaneously create and there is nothing more rewarding than creation or invention. There are other activities/hobbies that serve the same purpose, but these are my two faves!
What is the most important thing we can do in order to change the world?
I think the most important thing we can do in order to change the world is to understand its fragility: embrace nature in order to understand it, and treat it with respect so that there is sustainability. The world will continue long after we’re gone from this earth, so how do we use and not abuse it? In terms of implementation, start from the inside out. I believe that everything in the universe is connected. Therefore, change still starts with you, whether it’s social change, environmental change, a personal change, or improving your quality of life. My job is music and that is what satisfies my soul. Because I love what I do, I’m a very happy person. I spend my time with friends and family and therefore lead a fulfilling life, and I have a great deal of compassion and tolerance for the things and people around me. These traits are not just useful but essential when aiming to change the world.