New is usual: Singer Shilpa Rao’s constant search for novel

To have an open mind towards life, and not just music. To listen to new rhythms constantly…She says she has never been averse to the peculiar. “I am always excited about the possibilities that the new promises, there is this magnetism towards being part of things divorced from the routine, towards the unfamiliar. Perhaps that is the reason you hear me cutting across genres and styles,” singer Shilpa Rao tells IANS.

This Jamshedpur-raised singer who made her Hindi film debut with ‘Javeda Zindagi’ from ‘Anwar’ in 2007 was exposed to classical music early on by her father and trained under Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan. Later, when she shifted to Mumbai, she was succoured by Hariharan and Shankar Mahadevan whom she considers as a “constant source of inspiration.”

Stressing that being trained in classical has been instrumental in making her the singer she is, Rao adds, “Sadly, we have many uneducated musicians. Formal training gives you more vocabulary, thoughts, and ideas. It opens the mind in multiple ways. When you hear more music, your mind starts identifying things related to music — the beats, the ragas, etc. So, I still learn music and sit with my gurus. The process of training never ends.”

For someone who has sung tracks in major films including ‘Ek Ajnabee’, ‘Dev D’, ‘Hijack’, ‘Paa’, ‘Bachna Ae Hassseno’ and became the second Indian singer after Sharmistha Chatterjee, to sing in the critically acclaimed and popular Coke Studio Pakistan, Rao, who will be part of the upcoming Jashn-e-Rekhta, says one gravitates towards the music she/he has a personal connection with. “For me, something about the music must connect at a deeper level.”

It is her first reaction to the potential song that is crucial — post that it is about the gut. “But let us not forget that It also comes with a lot of history, and on a daily basis you need to keep listening and keep the senses alert. In order to express in the studio, a lot of homework is indispensable, after all, you have to feel during whatever you’re doing.”

Lamenting that one does not witness many music albums featuring solo women singers, she says that it has a lot to do with the makers and when one takes only the male perspective, it is just half the story. ” You need to complete it. Are we not living in times when we need diverse viewpoints?”

Considering all the controversies surrounding remixes, she feels if someone has remade a song, it demonstrates the artist’s fascination with it. “After all, we always learn from copying, and then you make it yourself. But each era has had people creating original stuff. Otherwise, we would just be stuck in one era. It is important to understand that there will be people who will be looking back at our time. I am a big believer in original music,” concludes the singer who is back on the road, recording for films and doing independent music.

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