Susheela Raman as singer, composer and curator moves between genres, across frontiers into new spaces with uncanny ease. Born to South Indian parents in London and raised in Australia, Susheela released her seventh studio album Ghost Gamelan in 2018 and is known as a beguiling and incandescent live performer. As The Guardian said Susheela is “wildly original, passionate and dangerous”. A song-driven artist, she has the rare ability to shape-shift from a Sanskrit Mantra via a Throbbing Gristle cover to one her own borderless compositions, which vary from roots-infused melodic to twelve-tone and experimental. Though her music has sometimes been described as ‘World’, categorisation does not sit easily with her and prefers to call it ‘unearthly’, which captures more of its magical and enigmatic character.
Susheela’s musical accomplice throughout her journey has been Sam Mills, a founder member of 80’s cult post-punk experimentalists 23 Skidoo. Perhaps the most ‘post-punk’ aspect of her music is its denial of restrictions and the emphasis on continuous change and evolution in her sound. Raman and Mills are now focussing strongly on their Ghost Gamelan album, a work with gamelan players led by ‘kontemporer’ composer Gondrong Gunarto to be released globally in June on all formats by Naive Records /Believe Digital. Recorded in Surakarta and London with a unique, mercurial sonority which somehow succeeds in aligning Susheela’s own melodic, harmonic and lyrical gifts with the delirious microtonality and virtuosity of the Javanese Gamelan. As Susheela says “people underestimate the importance of Gamelan in all contemporary music; it has informed all smart music-makers from Debussy and Satie to John Cage, Miles Davis, Steve Reich and Sonic Youth. Its slippery DNA is on everything from Modal Jazz to EDM, so playing with the gamelan is more about connectedness than any kind of exoticism. Bringing a South Indian perspective to it also uncovers another kind of resonance.”
The record also graced by one of her musical heroes, the fearlessly inventive This Heat drummer and singer Charles Hayward, a pathbreaker for many in the the avantgarde and experimental music world. Susheela has performed live with her ‘Ghost Gamelan Orchestra’ at Roundhouse, London and had performances scheduled later in 2018 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and at Peter Brooks Bouffes du Nord Theatre in Paris. Raman and Mills both feel this is a game-changing album for them. Says Raman “we have been getting incredible reaction for its sound and also for the songs themselves which the best we have ever written”