Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Studying both Indian and Western music has opened my mind: Sonam Kalra

Trained in both Hindustani classical and Western traditions of music including Gospel, Jazz, and Opera, Sonam Kalra, who is all set for HCL’s ‘Friday’s Sufi Magic’ and ‘Songs of the Sacred’ at the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) on October 8, feels studying both traditions of music has been instrumental in ‘opening’ her mind and helping her approach music with a wider perspective.

“It has also allowed me to add the learnings from varied styles to what I present. The same gives me the freedom to use the different colours and projections of my voice, phrase a song to my personal liking or interpret a piece differently using influences of both traditions,” she tells IANS.

For the HCL concert, she will present a more traditional Sufi set with the poetry of well-known poets like Bulleh Shah and Amir Khusrau in her own style and understanding of the kalaams.

The performance at NMACC will be a collection of well and lesser-known poetry of mystic poets as well as people who wrote about inclusion and finding faith, and God within.

“It is a prestigious venue and I am looking forward to performing there,” she adds.

Someone who was invited in 2022 to join the US Grammy Recording Academy as a voting member and has performed in over 30 countries at festivals and venues across the world including Sydney Opera House and Pyramids of Gaza, Kalra, she is known for constantly experimenting and incorporating elements from multiple genres in her music — like adding the recitation of Tagore’s ‘Where the Mind is Without Fear’ in her version of ‘Hum Dekhenge’.

Kalra smiles she would not have achieved in her journey what she has if she cared too much about what purists thought.

Stressing that art is a personal journey and the minute one lets voices from the outside colour personal judgment or tell what should or should not be done, one stops being true to yourself, she adds, “ For me, the only way to create art is to be true to yourself. We have to push the boundaries, experiment, make mistakes, and face the struggle to get to an end — which feels right.”

Admitting that despite multiple festivals and streaming platforms, things have not really improved for independent musicians, the musician feels what is really needed is an ecosystem that encourages artists, and that means involvement from both the private sector and governments.

“Of course, there are corporates like HCL that have been giving consistent patronage to the arts for the past 25 years.”

However, the singer, who has done theatre, worked in advertising, hosted car and travel shows on BBC to eventually come back to music adds that more corporates need to come forward to support the arts.

“Sadly, there is not as much support as is needed. They mostly want to go with the popular options of Bollywood or stand-up comedy. It is high time corporates widen their perspective and show support to theatre and music that is off the beaten path too. In fact, I have always found it quite easy to work with the government be it ICCR or other government organisations as they have their systems in place.”

Known for the ‘Sufi Gospel Project’ and ‘Partition: Stories of Separation’ which witnessed music, installation, video, theatre, and performance, she says her process is different for each piece.

“I obsess, deep-dive, live, eat, and breathe a piece or a performance to really create it well. Sometimes this happens quickly and sometimes a piece can take months, even years. ‘Fine’ is never enough for me. So, it is all immersive, exhausting but in the end exhilarating.”

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