Surya Kumari (1925-2005)

8. 1. 2008 | Rubriky: Articles,Lives

[by Ken Hunt, London] The Telugu singer, dancer-choreographer and actress Tangutoori Surya Kumari – also rendered Suryakumari – was born in Rajamundry in November 1925. She became part of the Raj-era independence movement against the British that eventually triumphed with the end of colonial rule in 1947. She was a child-actress in Telugu films as early as 1937 when a part was written for her in Vipranarayana. Thereafter she juggled cinematic acting and playback singing roles in a variety of languages including Telugu, Tamil and Hindi. She also sang freedom songs and was particularly extolled for a patriotic song that is still sung called Maa Telugu Talliki Mallepoodanda – a reminder and exhortation to cherish and preserve Telugu culture. Much of her recorded work appeared on the Odeon label.

She travelled to New York in 1959 where she taught at Columbia University, part of that first wave of Indian artists in the 1950s spearheaded by the likes of the sarodist Ali Akbar Khan, the dancer Shanta Rao and the sitar player Ravi Shankar. That wave of people transformed North American appreciation of Indian arts. During her time in the United States she worked in a number of off-Broadway and television dramas, sang and supposedly researched Indian story material for Alfred Hitchcock (though how that work filtered into his film-making seems to have gone unrecorded).

In 1965 she relocated to London, the city in which she died. She worked extensively with children’s arts in Britain and Norway, having married the poet, painter and potter, Harold Elvin. She accompanied him and sang in performance pieces. She also appeared beside the actor Ben Kingsley and the harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler as well as organising concerts for the greatest female Karnatic singer of modern times, M.S. Subbulakshmi (1916-2004). Surya Kumari Elvin died on 25 April 2005, her husband having predeceased her.

Have you enjoyed the article? Digg

Directory of Articles

Most recent Articles