Shilpa Rao is a name to reckon with in the music industry. In an exclusive interview with Sakshi Post, the Grammy-nominated Singer tells Reshmi AR about her music scene in India, reality shows, and more. Shilpa has lent her vocals to some iconic Hindi numbers like Khuda Jaane (Bachna Ae Haseeno), Manmarziyan (Lootera), Bulleya (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil), Subhanallah (Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani), and Kalank title track among others.
Here are excerpts from her interview:
Do you think anybody with a good voice can sing or some formal training is essential to become a professional singer?
- Actually, it's a combination of both, you need that kind of voice and that needs to be nurtured through the right training. One needs to have formal training to use that voice well and make a strong foundation in music.
You have rendered a number of intense songs. How difficult is it to sing an emotional song?
- Obviously, it's not something that you have to go through or some sort of experience to sing a particular song. Many situations will never happen with you but the whole point is that as an artist if you have empathy for all the situations and if you can feel like a human being for a stranger if you can have that empathy then you can emote that into the song. I think that's more important as an artist.
You have been a recipient of several awards. Do you think awards are a true recognition of one's work or a measure of one's success?
- Awards are just one part of doing music, but there are many parts to it. When you are getting an award, it is recognized amongst your fellow musicians who are a part of the music and film industry. But there are many other sides of it, there are fans whose recognization is most important because we do not exist without them. That is another part of it and there are many aspects of the work you do.
Musical concerts are a big scene abroad and musicians there earn as much as actors, do you think singers in India are paid as much?
- Obviously, it is not the same and there has been a big gap because we also have to understand that we are coming from a developing country and there are many countries that are already developed. So obviously their pay scale is much higher, so yeah we are closely reaching towards it and I hope in near future we come to the same level and that's the whole purpose.
What's your take on reality shows in India. Do they open up avenues for artists?
- If I look at it, it is a great platform to do explore new aspects of music and try something new. It also helps us interact with musicians in the current scenario. What you do with that opportunity is what matters the most. Sunidhi, Shreya, Arijit Singh; all have come from those reality shows and they all were part of the reality shows.
There are several music apps and we get to see a lot of people taking to singing because of apps like Smule or say Star Music. How much do these apps help singers?
- The app can probably help you a percentage, but it's not everything. You have to go to a teacher/guru and learn it, and then keep practicing it. These two things will never change.
Have OTT platforms opened up more opportunities for singers in India?
- OTT actually yes, has shown a different way of storytelling to the masses, even if it is for filmmaking or music or acting, etc. So I think the OTT platform is so much in changing the view of art. It's a great welcome change.
What is next on your list?
- Next, there are a lot of songs that I have recorded this year and which I hope are ready to release with music director Pritam and Vishal-Shekhar. I am quite excited and I can't wait for you guys to hear them.
Any musician you want to work with?
- There are so many talented composers whom I would love to work with and collaborate for some great songs.
What changes do you wish to see in the Indian music industry?
- Back in the days, there was a time when you couldn't hear much of the female vocalist/singers and suddenly now touchwood there are many female-driven albums, songs, and even films. This is such a beautiful change to witness and it has been possible with the rising of independent music and female-driven stories and films. In recent times, there is a lot of independent music being released by artists from different parts of the country, which is getting its true stature and people are putting in their efforts and time. I think this is a great time to be a musician and a great time to try out new ideas. It's the best time to be an innovative musician.
What genre do you enjoy singing the most?
- I like singing all genres
Tell us about your collaboration with Anoushka Shankar and the Grammy nomination.
- Well, being a part of an album that is Grammy-nominated is exciting, it's a moment that one will remember through their life. Anoushka and I met many years back at the NH7 festival while I was performing there with Karsh Kale. Anoushka was there for the festival too and we all met because of Karsh. After 2 years, I and Anoushka got in touch while I was traveling to London, it was just a break that I was taking and I met Anoushka and we shared a lot of music with each other and many other stories. Later, she sent me a new song and I completely loved it on hearing it. It was just a beautiful melody and that's how we thought of adding vocals to this song and even reached out to my writer friend Shirin. She has been my friend throughout my entire stay in Bombay and she wrote the beautiful Punjabi lyrics And that's what I sang. I felt that it needed that sound of the language. Yeah, pretty much that's how the song happened. It's not a very external journey but it is a very internal sort of journey and that was very inspiring for me to do the song.
You are trained in Hindustani music and now a much-accomplished singer in Bollywood. How much does musical training help in your career?
- Well, I have grown up listening to Hindustani classical and have been training since a young age. I was learning from Hari Haran Ji and thoroughly practiced it over the years.