Categorized | Feature, Interviews

Music is storytelling in a song.

Posted on 15 December 2010 by admin

Being born and brought up in the Western culture hasn’t hampered Suba Sankaran’s performances in various languages especially in Hindi and Punjabi where the sounds of alphabet vary quite a bit. In an interview with Suba Sankaran, a vocalist for a band called Autorickshaw, Suba tells us “My ears are very much tuned to the phonetic sounds, so it’s a matter of very deep listening and imitation. I don’t find it difficult…it’s a good kind of challenge though and those muscles need to be exercised regularly!”

Autorickshaw is a unique name. Very few people in South Asian community call rickshaw an autorickshaw these days. Whose brain was behind the name?

“Ed Hanley and I, the co-artistic directors of the band came up with the name Autorickshaw because it has both modern (“auto”) and traditional (“rickshaw”) elements to it. Therefore, Autorickshaw is our musical vehicle (pardon the pun!) for our artistic expression, steeped in the traditions of north and south Indian classical music, fused with modern pop, funk, folk and jazz.”

The tow other members of the band are Rich Brown and Patrick Graham.

Unlike many modern day performers, Suba has a background in music. Born in the family of musicians, Suba has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a specialized honours in music and an MA.

Even fewer think of music as a serious profession.

“The challenge is to write music that means something to you, or has a message, or tells a personal story, or makes you want to dance, or clap or cry! I think of music as being storytelling through song. If everyone thinks of it this way, maybe there will be more memorable music out there,” Suba says.

As a young woman, she feels the issues of today’s young generation are “body image, violence, drugs and alcohol, bullying, coming to terms with ethnicity, activism and playing your part, etc.”

As a performer looks are even more crucial. “I think looks are important when you are in the public eye. It’s not everything, but it’s a part of the package.” Yoga and being vegetarian have become her lifestyle choices.

The way Suba dresses reminds us of Aabida Parveen, a sufi singer from Pakistan. The Sufi music, Suba feels has “an exoticism and a deep inner beauty.” Nonetheless influences on her music are South Indian classical, western European classical (medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Romantic), folk, jazz, pop, rock, vintage 60s and 70s Bollywood, world influences like Peter Gabriel, lyrical and melodic influences like Joni Mitchell, vocal inspiration like Bobby McFerrin.” We wonder if she has left anyone to be inspired from, an indication that she is a strong believer in learning from everyone.

Being a performer does not mean that she is not engaged civically. In this day and age when very few youth take interest in politics, Suba follows politics to make an informed choice as to who her elected official should be.

“I do follow Canadian politics to the extent that I keep up-to date on current events and I vote. In terms of political leanings, I’m definitely left-wing and believe in an egalitarian society. I subscribe to ethical funds, bullfrog power and believe in making the smallest eco-footprint (i.e., I don’t own a car but I subscribe to Autoshare, I get Front Door Organics delivered to my door once every two weeks, and much of the produce is Ontario-grown).”

Supporting local community in one of the many things she does rountinely.

“I support farmer’s markets and try to buy locally and organically.”

Married to Dylan Bell an outsider to South Asian culture, “I’m a very proud Canadian but I also like to show my roots and embrace my heritage in a way that is true to who I am,” Suba says.

Suba’s responses to our questions indicate that she is a strong believer in higher power and karma. In ten years, she sees herself “I’m a person who tends to live in the here and now. Maybe I’ll have children by that time, maybe I’ll continue to tour, travel, compose, arrange music, teach, etc. Whatever it is, I know I will follow the path that the Universe has set out for me, and I will always seek whatever satisfies my soul. So much of our progress of human beings has to do with being aware. This is what I hope to do all my life.”

For more information about Autorickshaw and their upcoming album, please visit

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