Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 20th 2015 Contents | PROFILES |
By Bavina Sookdeo
Photo by Richard Cook
Makeup by Diane John
Hair by Randy Jairam
Styling by Michael Salickram
"I BELIEVE THAT BOTH GENDERS need each other, but I also believe
that women can be very powerful." These are the words of Nirmala
Sesnarayan, founder of the band "Nithya." Nirmala is known to many
as an Indian Classical singer, and while her band focuses on a mix of
music, she has not forgotten to throw in some of her classical hits. She
is highly qualified in other areas of endeavour as well. "People think mu-
sicians are uneducated, but they are wrong. My father always chan-
nelled me into holistic development."
The well-rounded performer, who is currently pursuing a Master's in
Public Administration, was awarded a scholarship in 1996 to study In-
dian Classical Music at the Caribbean School of Indian Music, under the
tutelage of Mungal Patasar. There, Nirmala studied Vocal and Instru-
mental Indian Classical music for ten years. A former student of St
Stephen's College, she is now an English teacher at St Joseph's Sec-
ondary. "'Nithya,' means everlasting, or the everlasting sound of music.
My concept for my band is a different one. I merge Bollywood hits (old
and new) with Classical Indian music. We also do traditional folk songs
-- what we call 'Mehafills' (an evening of song), where we start with de-
votional songs and then we get into Bollywood hits. I don't do chutney,
but I do throw in some Kanchan."
Nithya is comprised of four core members: Nirmala, Kailash Dookran
(tabla player), Adesh Sahadeo (keyboardist) and Nari Jagroop (percus-
sion). Asked why she decided to form a band, Nirmala, who has been
singing since the age of four, said, "My dad wanted to do something
like this before he died. When he passed away I stopped singing. How-
ever, I found a friend in Vijai Ramroop, and he started seeing some po-
tential in what I did, so I got some motivation. In 2013, I decided to form
a young group that is like a role model. Instead of saying 'Nirmala
Sesnarayan and group,' I preferred to call it 'Nithya.'"
Throughout the interview, it was evident that Nirmala admired her father
very much, and that he had a great impact on her life. "The support of
my parents made me into who I am today." Whether it is her parents'
doing or her own talent, Nirmala has accomplished a great deal. In 1996,
she placed second in the Baal Vikaas children's competition (Local Clas-
sical Singing). In August of the same year, she represented Trinidad and
Tobago in London for Independence celebrations. In 1998, she was the
most outstanding student overall in the Secondary Schools' Sanskritik
Sangam. In 2000 she won the Under-19 Local Classical singing compe-
tition in Trinidad and Tobago. In December of the same year, she repre-
sented Trinidad and Tobago at the UNESCO International Youth Heritage
Forum at Delhi Public School, New Delhi, India.
In 1997, Sesnarayan was a finalist in the Children of Mastana and was
again a finalist in 2004 in the Mastana Bahar show. At the same show,
she was a judge in 2008. From 2009 to 2010, the energetic, young
woman was Vice-Chairperson of the Youth Arm of the National Council
of Indian Culture (NCIC) of Trinidad and Tobago. In 2009, she also rep-
resented her country at the 12th Know India Programme (KIP) in part-
nering Indian States of Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. She
performed in all three states and at the President's House in Delhi.
In addition, Nirmala is a radio announcer, was Secretary of NCIC's Youth
Arm, and has performed in Toronto, Guyana, Suriname, Guadeloupe,
Canada, the UK, India, and many stages across Trinidad and Tobago.
Her most memorable moment as a singer/musician was "singing for
the President of India (in India, at her house), and also having my dad
sit next to me for my performances. I cherish those moments so much
now." With the aim of building awareness and getting the name of her
band out there, Nirmala hopes Nithya will be synonymous with quality
professionalism, and that later on the band will do its own production.
Who does the singer wish to thank for her success? "God, for my tal-
ents and abilities and all of my blessings; my parents --- my dad, who
was my driving force, and my mom, who is my support and sanity; my
sister, Satrupa; my musical gurus -- Sri Mungal Patasar for seeing my
talent at age 10; Shri Ram Narayan Jha of India for encouraging me
again; and Shri Kries Ramkhelawan for coaching and encouraging me."
Sesnarayan also thanked her close friends and her team, Nithya. "The
boys are super supportive, reliable and talented," she said.
As for advice to parents, the teacher said, "The curriculum is now being
geared towards holistic development; however, being someone who
has taught music, I know that parents have the tendency to believe
everything happens overnight. It is a process. You have to be dedicated
and supportive, and remember, too, that sometimes what we want for
our children is not what they are cut out to do. Allow children to express
themselves so that they can become who they want to become, not
who we want them to be."
September 20, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
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