Meet Tarali Sarma
A Philanthropist, Music Director & Playback Singer
Being born in an Axomiya family that has a legacy of traditional Axomiya music, she has always been inclined towards the traditional & folk music. The music flows in her DNA. Her father is a prominent person in the Assamese music industry. Her love for music has been intense since her childhood. She does vocal practices every day, routinely and sincerely.
She chooses ancient and difficult idioms of different genres of traditional & folk music, and experiments with different motifs, to beautify the music composition. Abhimaan is her first album. Her other albums like Tarali, Abhixari Priya, Anubhob, Prajapati, Borgit, Parves Sultanr Geet, have mesmerized a lot of people. Lately, her albums Mukoli and Hengulia have established her as a serious singer having her own unique genre of music & songs.
Here, we have Tarali Sharma, the first Assamese to win a National Film Award for the Best Female Playback Singer (2003) for Akashitorar Kothare, and perhaps, the first female Music Director in the mobile theatres of Assam. She created her own identity in the field of music at a tender age, when she composed the music for AIR program, and since then there has been no looking back. She has lent her voice for various films, serials and plays. She moved her magic as music director for 11 feature films which includes Laaz, Basundhara, Othello, Sarbagunakar Sri manta Shankar Deva, Antareen, Khobor, Calendar, Tumi Ahibaane, Marksheet, and a couple of short films and many documentaries and serials. She is a regular performing artist of All India Radio & Doordarshan. She draws inspiration from nature. Her creations are related to various elements of nature. To know more about her, read this interaction.
Tell us about yourself.
Music is our family legacy. My childhood was beautiful.
I cherish those memories often. I was engrossed in music since that time. My mother used to be a very good singer and a violinist. And, my father, Sri Prabhat Sarma is a legendary musician, singer, composer and a flutist. He is a folk exponent and a Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee. I remember my father used to do his Riyaz early in the morning, followed by lessons for his discipline. I learned music by watching him practice.
I am the eldest of the three daughters. I studied in the Holy Child School where I was also a part of the musical band called Evergreen. During vacations, I used to visit my grandparents in Sundaridiya Satra, Barpeta. I was greatly influenced by the Satra culture and music. I learned a great deal about it, there. I am married to my childhood friend Jintu and we have a son Tanish, who is nine years old. We are also fostering a girl child, by taking the entire responsibility of her upbringing.
You said you are fostering a girl child. Tell us about it a bit.
Yes, I feel really good about it. She was a lost child, who was rescued and sent to Snehalaya. One day, Fr Lukose Cheruvalel, the Founder-Director, Snehalaya, casually told me that I should think of fostering a child. Somehow, this thought got imbibed in me. I thought about it seriously, and finally, I decided to foster a child. I thought of going for a girl child because girls render power. They carry boundless and superb power within themselves that they achieve anything they really want to, while taking care of the parents.
When she was brought to Snehalaya, her name was Sonia. I gave her my surname. Now, she is Sonia Sarma. I got her admitted in the school where I studied, the Holy Child School. Now, she has grown up to be a beautiful girl. She is in standard 9. She calls me "Ma" now, and that makes me feel beautiful from within.
At what age were you musically-struck?
I can't recall exactly at what age I was inclined towards music. But one thing for sure is that I was musically struck from the childhood itself. The notes and the melodies touched the deep corners of my soul. I was mesmerized by music. Probably, it is all due to the music that I got to learn at home & while listening to it during the practice sessions. Music came to me spontaneously.
What led you to pursue music as your profession? Did your family approve of it?
Taking up music as a profession wasn’t actually a plan. It just happened spontaneously. One recording led to another and before I even realized, I had become a professional artist.
My mother loved it and encouraged me to pursue music as a career, but my father was a little skeptical in the beginning.
His thoughts about me being a very sensitive girl, and the ups and downs of the profession that might hamper my health, were genuine. It's a fatherly love which cannot be measured or compared with anything. However, when I started enjoying my work gradually, he too become content with this.
What genre of music you have tried so far and which is your favourite?
My genre of music is pure Melody with a touch of classical and occasional folk. I have also tried light classical music, and the folk genre like Kamrupi Lokageet, and the divine genre of Borgeet, which are devotional compositions of Vasnavite Saint Srimanta Shankar Deva and Sri Sri Madhab Deva. I love these three genres, but I also love Indian classical Music, Ghazals and fusions.
Do you have any plans to work on ethnic Assamese folk music like Jhumur and Bharigaan and take it further to global level?
Yes, I do. In fact, I have a folk and traditional music society called Debogandhar where we organize workshops related to the folk and traditional music. We are also planning to open an institute where these genres of music can be taught. Under the patronage of IPTA, I have also prepared a band called Lokamanthan for various ethnic music groups and Assamese genres of music. It is the brainchild of IPTA. The purpose of our band is to make our ethnic folk and traditional music, go global.
What is your upcoming assignment or show?
Some of my upcoming shows will take place in Guwahati, Tezpur, Nagaon, Delhi and Kolkata. This will start one after the other from 3rd November, this year.
You have performed in so many places. Tell us about the most memorable performance.
Actually, all my shows are memorable and inspirational. However, I would tell you about two of them. A few years back, I had done a show in Canada, organized by my friend Jim Talukdar and his wife Uma. It was a Tarali Sarma Nite. I still remember it because to sing my own songs and the songs from our land to an audience, a huge part of which may not even know our language or about our land was immensely satisfying.
I had performed in the Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, in 2009, which was organized by the Assam Society of America. I performed Assamese our folk songs along with my own compositions. The crowd there was Assamese. All of them became nostalgic as they remembered their homes, villages & memories. Many were overwhelmed, & cried too - power of music, I guess.
During the shows, I get a chance to interact with my audience directly. They are the ones who inspire me in multifarious ways.
To what extent your birth place has some influence on your music or career in music?
I am absolutely in love with my birth place. Obviously, my music is influenced by Assam’s people, culture, and music.
You will find glimpses of Assamese folk and traditional music in my songs and compositions. I am glad to have been blessed with a musical career in my own motherland.
Tell us about your achievements.
Well, I consider the love and blessings of my audiences as my biggest achievement. However, technically, one of my achievements is the National Award in the category of Best Female Playback Singer, in 2003.
Some other achievements are: State Government's Award in the category of Best Music Director and Best Female Playback Award (in 2010) and the Best Singer Award, both in the College and University remains my favorite till date.
Do you support any social cause?
I work for the betterment of the street children. I am associated with Snehalaya, which also happens to be working for the street children. I work towards enhancing the mental health and depression that can be healed through music (sort of therapy). Snehalaya is a social service program for the care and rehabilitation of children in distress in the city of Guwahati. It is committed to build a child-friendly city where even the poorest of the poor children enjoy their rights to survival, protection, development and participation. It is an out-reach program run by the Don Bosco Society. Recently, I have also signed up a project to spread awareness about cancer.
Rapid Fire Round:
. Your biggest Strength: My family, especially my mother
. Your Ideal person: My father
. Which is your favourite musical instrument, and why? My favorite musical instrument is Indian bamboo flute, because of the Indian essence, it adds through its incomparable heart-touching sound and also, because it is the instrument of Lord Krishna.
. No. of concerts or shows you do, a year: Around 20 to 25 concerts every year
. When are you planning to launch your next album? I will launch my next album early next year
. Given a chance, who would you like to perform a duet with: Yesudas, and Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan
. What do you in your leisure time, apart from singing or composing? In my leisure time, I like to write, paint, and travel different places.
. Your favourite singer: Lata Mangeskar, Yesudas, Dipali Borthakur, Hemlata, Manna Dey and Shafqat Amanat Ali
. Your favourite book: Naamgosha by Sri Sri Madhab Deva and Kite Runner by Khaled Hossaini
. Your favourite colour: White
. Your favourite Actor or Actress: Julia Roberts, Shahab Hosseini,, Irfan Khan and Bishnu Kharghoria
Your work has brought you confidence and a sense of independence. But women in many parts of India are still lacking the same and considered as weaker gender. They want to come out of the shell and grow, but refrain themselves due to social hypocrisy and stigma, and family restrictions. Any message for them?
In such a situation, "Believing in Self" comes as the only key.
I think they should start believing in themselves first, because there is nothing that can strain out or limit their power. They are way better and powerful, than they think they are.
Considering your strong determination and constant efforts, where do you see yourself in a span of five years?
Well, 5 years down the line, I see myself working the way I am right now.
3 things you want your readers and fan-followers to do to save the environment.
. Avoid using plastics and disposable battery cups. We can carry rechargeable batteries instead. Carry your own bags for lunch and shopping; avoid using plastic bags from the shops.
. Two days a week, maybe, or more, we should avoid driving our vehicles. Rather, we can take public transport or cycle our way to the destination. Cycling pollutes less and keeps you healthy.
. Make it a point to plant a tree, whenever, wherever and as often it's possible.