Music was an important part of Ms. Sumitra’s upbringing. Born in 1941 to Gangamma and Patel Krishnaiyya, who owned areca plantations at Bilalukoppa near Horanadu, her first exposure to melody was when areca-peelers from nearby villages gathered at night to sing folk melodies around a dimly lit petromax lamp.
She had to walk 4 km to reach her school. Her father shifted to Shivamogga to ensure the best education and training in music for his children. Her classical Carnatic music training began from Pandari Bai’s brother M. Prabhakar. Sumitra’s musical journey got a boost in 1964 when G. K. Venkatesh asked her to sing for the film ‘Kavaleradu Kula Ondu’. She hasn’t looked back since then.
Her rise to the top during the 1970s was the result of a single-minded determination to promote singing in Kannada and break the hold that artistes from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh had over the local playback industry.
Her voice is a part of nearly a hundred Kannada films. Over the years she has worked with a range of music directors and composers including Vijaya Bhaskar, M. Ranga Rao, the musical duo Rajan-Nagendra,
Ghantasala and T.G. Lingappa who appreciated her range and ability to adapt to different genres. The tones and moods she has experimented with have ranged from light and bubbly to devotional and pastoral melodies.