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All you wanted to know about the Raghu Leela School of Music, Mysuru

  • A stimulating conversation with Sunitha ji Chandrakumar, founder of Raghu Leela School of Music. It includes how it started, what is Nagara Sankeertane music, challenges and video links to their performances.  

I got to know about the Raghu Leela School of Music on seeing videos of their performance at Bengaluru Airport and Sri Ram Mandir, Ayodhya. A friend was nice enough to connect me with its founder Smt Sunitha ji. I was curious to know how it all started and this form of light and rhythmic music. Here is my chat with Sunitha ji.    


Q1. Why did you start Raghuleela Music and when?

Raghu Leela School of Music (RSLM) officially started its journey on the auspicious day of Pundara Dasa Aradhane, on first February 2003, under the directive of my Gurus.


Q2. Briefly, give your background.

I was born into a joint family with roots in Udupi district, to parents Late Sri Anantha Krishna Bhat and Smt. Sumathi Bhat, as their seventh child. My father owned a hotel and was originally from Mysuru. I was born, raised and educated in Mysuru.


On most evenings, it was customary at home to sing bhajans in the presence of God and because my family were patrons of art, my siblings and I were encouraged to learn classical music and dance. I was formally trained in Indian classical music and dance.


Q3. What is the objective of Raghuleela Music?

In Kannada literature, there is a beautiful form in which music can be incorporated into the lyrics, which is light music. Songs dedicated to Gods, verses of Shiva by sharanas and sharanes, philosophy of Sufi saints, devotional songs by great poets, thematic songs, folk songs and so on.


Songs composed by renowned composers from earlier generations to this type of lyrics, is what was taught earlier at RLSM as a part of light music education.


Post 2006, a distinct 'SCHOOL OF THOUGHT' with specially designed levels is being taught. These lessons comprise of not only songs composed by me but also include special workshops by expert artists from the music industry.


Q4. Why the name Raghuleela?

Raghu Leela School of Music (RLSM), the name is an ode to my music teachers Sri. S. G. Raghuram and Smt. H. R. Leelavathi. 

Performance at Sringeri Mutt. Courtesy Karnataka.com 

Q5. What type of dance and music do you teach?

As the name suggests, it’s a music school. Except classical and film music, all forms of light music is taught here. Dance or musical drama is presented only when the thematic performance demands it.

Performance at Kashi Vishwanath Corridor. 

Q6. What is Sankeertane music?

Only form of music taught at RLSM is light music. This form includes devotional songs dedicated to various gods, vachanas i.e., verses about Shiva by sharanas and sharanes, philosophy of Sufi saints, songs by great poets, thematic songs, folk songs and so on.


Dance is choreographed and practiced by students only as a part of performances at our thematic annual show.

Performance at Mysore Palace. 

Q7. What is Nagara Sankeertane music?

Sankeerthane’ is a way of invoking the God’s name. The practice of us singing songs in Gods name, during the early hours of dawn or dusk is ‘Nagara Sankeerthane’. 


“It is an old custom where musicians and dancers walked through residential areas while singing devotional songs. The custom gradually lost its luster over time but it is being slowly brought back to life.”2  


“Nagara Sankeerthane happens on the first Sunday of every month, wherein the students of RLSM walk from one temple to another while singing devotional songs for about an hour early in the morning.”1

Q8. How many students are there today?

RLSM has over 250 students who belong to all age groups.

Performance at Mysore Palace in front of Queen Mother.

Q9. How many teachers are there today?

Since the light music genre is lyrically dominant, I believe that justice can be done with teaching/lessons only if the composition's feelings are conveyed directly by me. No one else has been hired to teach at RLSM.


Q10. What are the challenges in your journey?

Self-learning and growth play a critical role in teaching. With learning and teaching, there exists a challenge to grow at each level, and with each newer level there will newer challenges.


A big challenge is to hold onto the roots of the light music genre while composing and designing new lessons to suit the new generations.

Performance at Sri Ram Mandir, Ayodhya. 

Q11. Tell us about your experience of performing at Ram Mandir Ayodhya?

As the tradition goes, year on year thousands of mahathmas have given their time, efforts, and sacrificed for the holy land of Ramajanmabhoomi. The divine opportunity to present our sankeerthane in front of Lord Rama was truly the smallest Seva from our side. It was also the most meaningful opportunity for us.

Raga Rangavalli  

Q12. How many boys are there in total students?

When teaching music, owing to the difference in the pitch of male and female voices, most boys and men tend to learn from male teachers and girls and women, from female teachers. The ratio is usually 1:15, of male:female.


Q13. Students learn music and dance part-time, is it?

RLSM School lessons are offered only part-time, twice a week, in different batches at convenient timings.


RLSM Twitter handle @rlsmmysuru, RLSM on U Tube


Sunitha ji efforts to promote light music esp. Sankeerthane need to be appreciated. Her work must be promoted across the world. 


To see videos

1. Performance at Mysore Palace to Mother Queen Smt P Devi Wodeyar

2. Performance at Sringeri Mutt 4 minutes

3. Performance at Kashi – tweet

4. Jai Jai Hanuma 5 minutes

5. Nagara Sankeerthan on streets of Mysore 5 minutes

6. Performance at Ram Mandir, Ayodhya 1 minute


Also read

1. Nagar Sankeertane or Prabhat Feri: The Tale of Raghu Leela Music School, Mysuru

2. Interview Karnataka.com


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