BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
Atlanta, GA, October 6, 2023: “Amma, is Sooryagayatri really going to be in Atlanta? I mean, the Soorya Gayatri from Youtube?” my nine-year-old daughter in the US, who has never made a trip to India brimming with excitement asked, when she heard about the concert. Such is the reach of the abundantly blessed young classical vocalist, Sooryagayathri, who has won millions of hearts, literally, across the globe. Her powerful, and astonishingly mature voice is but a sheer aural pleasure for both the uninitiated and the connoisseur.
“Music is the highest art and to those who understand is the highest worship,” Swami Vivekananda said. The packed hall of Atlanta classical music connoisseurs witnessed this form of worship as Sooryagayathri’s candescent voice channeled the divine, evoking profound emotions in her ethereal delivery of bhajans and kirtans at the devotional concert organized by S3 Gaushala, USA at Gokuldham Haveli on September 23, 2023 and hosted by Sreedhar Venkat in Atlanta.
Subash Razdan, GFUSA Founder/President and Ravi Ponnagi, of The Gandhi Foundation of USA presented The Young Ambassador of Peace and Ahimsa award to gifted Sooryagayathri, “in recognition of her outstanding performance of soulful renditions of Bhajans and Kirtans in the spirit of Gandhi-King teachings of Peace and Ahimsa.”
Back-to-back performances across over 25 cities in the USA showed signs of no strain in the 17-year old’s renditions who even gave in to most of the audience requests, with a smile. In her ‘Swagatham Krishna’, composition of Oothukadu Venkata Subba Iyer of the 1700s which welcomes Lord Krishna, the tender faced resident of Mathura who destroyed Madhu the demon, the young singer’s complete surrender to music was apparent, much like the lyrics, ‘Sharanagatham Krishna….’. ” The universality of nature (Everything is Brahman(Lord)) extolled, often in the form of poems for worship and evident in 15th century composition of Saint Annamacharya’s ‘Brahmam Okate’, came alive in vocalist’s rendition. This particular composition is a fine example of the universal nature of approach of the ancient saints which translates to – ‘an object of fragrance or an object of bad odor, the air that carries the smell is one and the same. Be it an elephant or a dog, the sun shines alike on both of them; The Lord who sits in judgement of the good deeds (Punya) as well as the bad or the sin (Papa) is one and the same. The laws of nature is one and the same even if see its effect as benevolent or violent.’
Rasikas immersed in devotion as her mellifluous ‘Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma’, ‘Muddugare Yashoda’, and ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ rippled through the hall, leaving behind an impeccable imprint that distinguishes itself from the others, despite the familiarity. The talented artist engaged the audience literally as she urged everyone to join her in ‘Vanamala Bhushana’.
But then, she saved the best to the last. Tillana is a rhythmic piece in Carnatic music, often performed at the end of a concert. Sooryagayatri, upon request from the crowd, picked Kalinga Narthana Thillana, a classic composition of Oothukadu Venkata Subbier that depicts the mythological story of Lord Krishna dancing on the serpent Kaliya(Kalinga) to stop him from poisoning the Yamuna river. It is believed that when Venkata kavi sang this thillana in a temple, the icon of Krishna shook in token of Divine appreciation. At Gokuldham, the concluding piece delivered to musical and complex lyrical perfection garnered a standing ovation, casting a lasting impression of the gifted artist among her listeners, and a memorable mark in the world of music.
In her vote of thanks, anchor Srivalli Sridhar thanked sponsors Sridhar Venkat, Kishan Tallapally along with Gokuldham, Purushottam, Kiran photo and video, Ragavendrab Audio, Subhash Razdan. Vibha., Shivarani, Krishna prasad, Ramesh Gudde, and Shivkumar.
Resonant across spiritual landscapes, her ‘Vande Guru Paramparaam’- spiritual musical series right from the get go, has received raving reception in nations far and wide.
Sooryagayathri’s meteoric rise to worldwide stardom bears its roots in the humble village of Purameri, in Kerala. Born into a family of talent, her father, P.V. Anil kumar is an accomplished Mridangam artist in Kerala and her mother, Smt. P.K. Divya is a poetess with a natural flair. After noticing her hold over pitch and talam around age 3, her parents introduced her to disciplined music lessons. Her father became her first Guru. She is formally trained in Carnatic music by S. Anandi and Nishant Nadapuram.
She made waves in the Carnatic music world when she won the reality show contest Padutha Theeyaga, at the age of 8, hosted by ETV Telugu. In 2018, she featured in the album ‘The Journey’, a collaboration with Grammy Award-winning violinist L Subramaniam. She was nine when Kuldeep M Pai, a Bengaluru-based Carnatic singer and independent music composer who was then creating caller tunes for mobile companies decided to get her on board for the rendition of Hanuman Chalisa. After recording Hanuman Chalisa, Pai uploaded the song along with a simple video with still photos of Sooryagayathri recording in his studio and a few Lord Hanuman images, along with Ganesha Pancharatnam, Vishnu Sahasranama, Annamacharya Keerthans, and Vaishnava Jana To — all performances made famous earlier by MS Subbulakshmi. And a star was born.
Apart from successfully running her own music channel “Sooryagayathri” under SG Productions, she now sings for famous music labels including Strumm Spiritual, Believes Music (Ishtar Devotional) & Strings Entertainment. Sooryagayathri’s other Youtube recording includes shlokas like Aigiri Nandini, Kalabhairavashtakam, Nirvanashtakam, Vishnu Sahasranama, Harivarasanam, Carnatic compositions like Rangapura Vihara, Muthai Tharu, Vatapi Ganpathim, Sriman Narayan & bhajans like Shri Ramachandra Kripalu, Gopigopalam amongst many others. 371K reverent fans subscribe to her channel.
Along with classical vocal training, Sooryagayathri is also learning Veena from Ramana Balachandran after learning basics from Krishnendu G. She practices mridangam with her father at her home.
The organizer, S3 Gaushala is a wing of S3 Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization founded by University of Memphis students in 2005. The goal of the organization is to uplift society through individual development through Seva (volunteering), Sadhana (Spiritual Practice), and Satsang (Spiritual Discussion). Their current projects include Gaushala(Cow Sanctuary) , Vedic Farming, and Divya Jananam (Divine Birth). The Gaushala in Memphis, TN houses 200 desi cows, that are fed pure natural hay, grain husk with mineral supplements and grass on their 70-acre farm. The farm is equipped with a barn and a caretaker to tend to cows’ needs. Regular medical checkups for cows by a certified veterinarian are scheduled. The organization has instituted various programs through which they invite the public to acquire benefits of serving the cows.