When the refreshing breeze from the peaks of Himachal mountain ranges and the soft lapping waves of the Ganges in Benaras come to a confluence a magic spell of spirituality and romanticism is cast that spreads its fragrance for all to enjoy. Sunanda Sharma brings this effect musically with her mellifluous rendition of Benaras Gharana style of gayaki.

Carrying forward the legacy of the legendary vocalist of Benaras Gharana, the highly revered Dr. Vidushi Girija Devi, a Padma Bhushan awardee and a doyen of Indian classical vocal music, Sunanda is a leading vocalist amongst the young generation.

The salubrious environment of her small native village in Himachal Pradesh called Dah near Pathankot was ideal for Sunanda to develop her natural flair for singing as she comes from a musical family. She started training under the guidance of her father Pandit Sudarshan Sharma when hardly 5 and went on to graduate in music and thereafter topping off her academic achievements with a Gold Medal for her Masters in Indian classical vocal music from Punjab University.

The musical journey reached another milestone when Smt Girija Devi took Sunanda under her wings after spotting her at the Hariballabh Sangeet Sammelan, Jullandhar. This was the beginning of a training in the Gurushishya parampara which saw Sunanda living, serving and learning music from her guru in Benaras and Kolkata for 9 years that has a distinct flavour of the musical grandeur of the temple town of Kashi. The guidance continues even today as the Guru and her shishya continue to perform and leave an imprint of their music, a melodious blend of shastra and bhav paksh on the conscious of music connoisseurs at festivals, concerts, baithaks etc., in India and abroad.

Sunanda, who blossomed under the rigorous training of her Guru, has evolved musically into an artist with substance, which is evident in the many solo performances, lecdems, workshops and as visiting teacher in Universities at home and abroad. Sunanda enjoys the privilege of being a visiting teacher at SOAS, University and Royal Academy of Music in London since 2000.

Though her forte lies in Khayal, Tappa, Thumri, Dadra, Chaiti, Sunanda has expanded her talent and repertoire that includes Punjabi folk, Sufi and other devotional styles. The beauty of Sunanda’s singing lies in her demonstrating and bringing to fore the depth and beauty of her renditions, which immediately builds a rapport with her audiences. The media therefore is an ardent admirer of this versatile artist.

A popular magazine ‘Swagat’ acknowledges the breathtaking range and maturity in Sunanda’s singing by stating "It is always a real pleasure to hear a young and fresh voice full of verve. Like the voice of Sunanda Sharma," adding "Sunanda is delightful in the light-classical genre." Mesmerized, The Indian Express, boldly states, "Sunanda casts magic spell with ragas at City Sangeet Sammellan." The Sunday Tribune wrote, "Sunanda’s recital charms" at the Hariwallabh Sangeet Sabha, Jallandhar. The Financial Express mentioned in its columns, "Keeping aloft flame of Benaras Gharana." The foreign media has not lagged behind in heaping accolades on this irrepressible creative artist. Listening to her recital at the World Voice Festival, Germany, July, 2002 it wrote, "Song flowing like a well". The list of appreciation is endless.

Sunanda, who feels blessed to perform at the feet of the divine in various Temple Festivals of India, has had the privilege to sing in the august presence of Shri Satya Sai Baba in Puttaparthi, Shri Nath Dwara- Rajasthan, Chamunda Devi-Himachal Pradesh, Ek Lingji Maharaj Temple-Udaipur, Durga Mandir- Benaras and other pilgrimage temples. Her rendition elevates traditional classical music to its pristine beauty of spiritual aura.

Sunanda has exhibited her brilliance in prestigious and noteworthy concerts such as Tansen Samaroh in Gwalior and the Baba Hariwallabh Sangeet Sammelan in Jallandhar and also has to her credit some unique "jugalbandis" which includes one with the legendary sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, well-known Kathak dancer Shashwati Sen and others.

Some noteworthy performances in India are:

  • Bangalore Habba
  • Nehru Centre Concert, Mumbai
  • Pancham Nishad, Mumbai
  • Ganga Mahotsav, Varanasi
  • Prayag Samet Samiti, Allahabad
  • Saptak Festival, Ahmedebad
  • Shrutimandal Concerts, Jaipur
  • World Peace Concert, Delhi
  • Sangeet Natak Academy Concerts, Allahabad and Lucknow
  • Baba Hariwallabh Sangeet Sammelan, Jallandar
  • Tansen Sangeet Sammelan, Gwalior
  • Spicmacay Concert Tours (Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar)
  • Chandigargh Sangeet Sammelan and Pracheen Kala Kendra Concerts

Sunanda’s international performances has moved audiences in the UK, the USA, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and Sweden. It includes recitals at the world music festivals in Germany and twice in Belgium. This unassuming talent has exhibited her skills in creative collaborations with artists from Spain, Finland and Norway.

Her recitals abroad include:

  • Concert Tours, Norway, 2006-2009
  • Solo & jugalbandi concert tour in Denmark, 2008
  • Asian Music Circuit’s Y2K Series Concert Tour, UK, 2000
  • Swaranjali Concert, Columbus, USA, 2001
  • Annual Asian Music Circuit Summer Concerts, UK, 2001-08
  • Classical and Experimental Music Concerts, Finland, 2002
  • World Voice Festival, Dusseldorf, Germany, 2002
  • World Music Festival, Belgium, 2004
  • Jugalbandi Concert with Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, National Opera House, Belgium

Sunanda’s solo albums "Dharohar" released in 2000 by Times Music and "Swar Sanchay" by Virgin Records in 2003 has received rave reviews for their musical content, variety, range and innovative flavour. More releases are in the offing.

Achievements and Awards

  • Visiting Classical Vocal Teacher at Kala Ashram, institute of the legendary Kathak Dancer Pandit Birju Maharaj, 2006 and 2007.
  • Visiting Teacher at the Asian Music Circuit’s renowned annual summer school at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London (2000-04) and the Royal Academy of Music, London (2005-2008).
  • Panel Artist for prestigious organizations such as SPICMACAY and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
  • ‘A’ Grade Panel Artist for the Information and Broadcasting Songs & Drama Division.
  • Topper and Gold Medalist, M.A. in Indian Classical Vocal Music, Punjab University, Chandigarh.
  • Talented Young Ladies Award, International Women’s Day, Bharat Nirman, 2004
  • Indian Junior Chamber’s Outstanding Young Persons Award, Chandigarh.
  • Pathankot Sangeet Samiti’s Saptarishi Award

A proud Smt Girija Devi in an interview to The Indian Express summed up the accomplishments of her disciple as, "My legacy will be taken forward through the beautiful thumris, chaitis and kajris sung by Sunanda. She has amazing control over her taans.

Praise coming from her Guru is the best compliment a disciple can get.

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