What would the music industry look like without the earthy melodies of Shreya Ghoshal? Bland, I must say.
Starting her musical journey as a participant in the Television show Sa Re Ga Ma to her debut in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas, Shreya Ghoshal has established herself as India’s best female vocalist. Apart from Bollywood, Shreya Ghoshal is also known for her songs in many other Indian languages including Punjabi, Urdu, Assamese, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Oriya, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and her mother tongue Bengali. What came out of the interview is a humble, earthy and a very responsible young woman. Apart from being a musical sensation, Shreya with her intelligence discussed about her learnings, the film industry, why she prefers regional music over Bollywood and the Michigan magic!
An exclusive interview with Anu Gopalakrishnan for Miindia.com as she prepares to serenade Detroit on Friday (8/25) at the architecturally beautiful Fox Theater. A special thanks to the Michigan promoter Mr. Nandan Shah.
Here are some excerpts~
Q: So much has been written about your parents who have been an inspiration to you. Tell us about your learnings. I have been really fortunate to have my dad guide me in every aspect of my life. As a mentor and as a friend. My parents have always taught me about keeping the right priorities and living your life by those priorities. One thing that my dad stressed on was not to be carried away by fame. The real truth, he always said was to stay simple, dedicated and honest in whatever you have chosen to do. When you start looking at fame, it is so easy to lose focus. One has to be proactive and take charge. I am here because of Music. I need to constantly nurture this skill and if the focus shifts away from music, then I don’t give 100% and that pretty much will result in failure. It is just about staying grounded and not to have too many attachments. I am a mirror image of my dad. I owe it to my parents for all that have today.
Q: You have sung in several languages, what’s your perspective on the different working styles of these regional film industries? Frankly speaking, it is just pure joy doing great music. The amount of good work in regional films is more challenging and fulfilling than mainstream Bollywood. Malayalam songs are not just numbers made to fit into the story. Malayalam songs offer a continuous momentum for the script. It has a lot of meaning. Similarly, Bengali songs. What good literature? I love this variety and the richness. Bollywood is more ruled by blockbusters. The focus is on viral content that is short lived. Finally, Art has nothing to do with language. I should be able to look back, much older and credit myself for the work I have done. I am so privileged to be given an opportunity to work with such amazing composers and lyricists.
Q: And how do you sing with such good diction in so many languages? When I started singing for regional films, I used to learn the meaning of every word. Soon, I felt that I am not going to remember all the words. I began to realize that the composition in itself is an emotion. Ilayaraja sir constantly says “sing what’s taught to you”. Nothing more. Nothing less. I used to wonder what he meant by that. As a singer when I hear some songs, the song composition itself is doing its job. I write everything in Hindi. I need to have my pen and paper. When we talk about the song, we make notes on the nuances of the language and expression. There are various styles and I remember in Tamil I had to sing a song in the film “Virumandi” called Onnavida with Kamal sir. That was pretty challenging to sing in a colloquial dialect. Composition helps enunciate those accents.
Q: You have been on both sides of the fence – as a participant and as a judge for TV show/competitions. Which side of the fence do you prefer to be? Both are equally tiring. As a participant, there was no grooming, no clothes selection when I contested. The greatest stage I got was to sing in front of some great musicians. Some people who are now no more. It had nothing to do with reality. Singing in front of some great stalwarts was the biggest win. As a judge, it is extremely tough. There is so much of exposure for the child -pressure from public (voting), their choices in clothes and presence, the kids are losing their naivety. I feel there is a sense of nervousness being a judge because I am always worried that the external media will pollute their innocence. I feel for that moment. That’s where I think parents have a bigger role to play. They need to handle it right for the kids.
Q: Shreya- how many songs have you sung so far? And have you ever been out of work? Honestly, I really do not know the number. I don’t think I have ever kept a count on it. I sing and then I move on. One thing I have never done is calling anybody for work. I have been blessed in abundance. And also, it doesn’t work that way. You cannot call and ask for work when it comes to music. Networking and contacts work only to a certain point. The talent persists and in music there is no cheating. A music director or a composer would call you. You sing and if the song does not touch the heart, then nothing can save you. In the music industry, when you are successful – only your talent and work thrives.
Q: From Ilayaraja to AR Rahman – two extremely different styles. What was your preference? It depends on the way you look at music. I enjoy both styles. Ilayaraja sir’s process is different. He composes songs very differently. He would be in his room on a harmonium which is the main melody. He always speaks about what’s going to be in the baseline. His thought process is linear and all connected together. I would easily compare him to the Mozart and Beethoven kind of work. His mind thinks of something and there in one go, he gets it all. Complete genius. To be able to execute his thought process is sheer joy to me. They are such beautiful moments in my career. Now I begin to relate when he says “sing what’s taught to you”. Rahman sir is the extreme. His technique is creatively very satisfying. He lets the singer inside his thought process and allows the singer to contribute to the blooming of the song. You wouldn’t know which direction his mind would go. For the song Barso Re Megha from Guru, I sang 300 variations. Finally, a few variations were fit into one song. A genius when it comes to sound design apart from composition. Their magic in totality has inspired several composers. Every moment I spend with them, I come out learning more with joy.
Q: What do you have for our dear music loving Michigan audience? In one word – madness! The beginning of madness. I am excited as this is the first time I am doing something like this. I have brought the best of the musicians. There will be a mix of my own songs with that of the older era. The whole momentum will be like a time machine. This concert will stay true to its original arrangements owing to my Music Arranger – Prakash Peters. He has been there since my Devdas days. He understands Indian music and has been excellent in capturing both my newer songs with western sounds and treatments and older numbers. In other words, the concert will be a perfect blend of two worlds. I am very excited as Detroit is my first stop in this 12-city tour. With 40 musicians, the musical grandeur will unveil. I promise everyone a symphony concert filled with lots of beautiful moments. This is going to be amazing!
Q: How about something special for Michigan?
Michigan audience! Do not miss the electrifying enchantress of the Indian Music Industry, the one and only Shreya Ghoshal in Live Concert with 40 musicians from India. Miindia.com thanks the National Promoter Mr. Rahim Paracha of Paracha Entertainment giving Michigan the honor to listen to the lilting hits of Shreya Ghoshal along with yesteryear melodies. Thank you to local promoter Nandan Shah for coordinating the event.