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Hear Shreya Ghoshal and Berklee Indian Ensemble’s Powerful Rendition of ‘Sundari Pennae’

The Tamil song, originally composed by D. Imman, is part of the group’s upcoming debut album ‘Shuruaat,’ out July 15th

Anurag Tagat Jun 22, 2022

Shreya Ghoshal performing "Sundari Pennae" with the Berklee Indian Ensemble.

Prog-fusion, konnakol, jazz and the unmatched vocal prowess of Shreya Ghoshal breathe new life into Tamil movie song “Sundari Pennae,” for the Berklee Indian Ensemble’s debut album Shuruaat.

If you’ve wished for Ghoshal’s diva-level vocals to take command over a heavier track, “Sundari Pennae” is the answer. It is, however, business as usual for the Berklee Indian Ensemble, who have been churning out dexterous jazz-informed renditions of India’s biggest music hits for more than a decade now.

Formed in 2011 by Annette Philip, the ensemble garnered global attention with videos streamed in the millions on YouTube, eventually becoming a professional band last year. On “Sundari Pennae,” Ghoshal (who sung the original version for composer D. Imman’s soundtrack to 2014 Tamil film Oru Oorla Rendu Raja) is joined by the 11 member-strong Berklee Indian Ensemble, which comprises artists from India, Jordan, Israel, Nigeria, Indonesia, Norway, the U.S., and other regions across the globe. Rohith Jayaraman leads the konnakol movement on the track, adding a new dimension.

Recorded during Ghoshal’s performance and residency at Berklee College of Music in Boston, the singer took to Instagram to talk about the collaboration. She said of her collaborators in the Ensemble, “These simple-looking, sweet, little innocent faces are extremely talented and so funny and witty, apart from the fun music that we did. The whole trip to Berklee in itself is a life-changing experience for any musician or anybody who loves music. So I was very thrilled.” Ghoshal went on to talk about how the group’s choice of recording “Sundari Pennae” was perhaps rooted in the fact that it followed a 5/8 time signature. “It got so difficult for me to sing, because I’m not used to that kind of crazy stuff that you were playing and I was like, ‘Where is my first beat?’” she added with a laugh.

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Philip says about Ghoshal, “[She] is an icon; a living legend, and one of the most beloved artists of our time. For someone of her artistic prowess, legacy, and super-stardom, she is one of the most down-to-earth, hardworking, kind, and generous people on the planet. We had taken some serious creative liberty, rhythmically, and were humbled by how much time Shreya spent honoring the arrangement. Not only was she totally willing to experiment with the Ensemble, she took ‘Sundari Pennae’ to new heights!”

In addition to Ghoshal, Philip, and alumnus and students from Berklee College of Music, Shuruaat boasts collaborations with tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, plus prolific singers Shankar Mahadevan and Vijay Prakash, among others. The Berklee Indian Ensemble’s multilingual, genre-melding 10-track album will release on July 15th and features a grand total of 98 musicians.  “Our audience has been begging for our music to be available on streaming platforms for a decade. It is fitting that Shuruaat features our most popular live performances as well as four originals, showcasing our journey so far, and the one we’re about to begin,” Philip says in a statement.

Watch the video for “Sundari Pennae” below.


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