Watching a documentary called The Human Factor which pays tribute to the unsung heroes of Bollywood orchestras, this sound byte of an arranger called Enoch Daniels really got stuck in my head. He talks about where the ‘soul lies’ in old Hindi classics. Remembering his recording days he explains that sometimes the takes were done within 2 hours. Sometimes, it used to go on for 6-7 hours. But the end result is just the duration of the song in the film, which is 5 or 6 minutes in one take. I call that perfect take, where no one makes a mistake, the unity of time by everyone, where all the musicians commit themselves in unity to the song. That unity is experienced as the soul in a song.
That sense of discipline brought magic to the songs. Be it the lyrics, melody or the instrumentation – its simplicity and complexity put together makes it memorable. Come September 7th, Holland will witness a tribute to the best romantic classics of the Hindi cinema. This musical evening will witness the one-woman band Vasuda Sharma share the stage with British singer-songwriter and entertainer Navin Kundra. Cabaretier and comedian Rayen Panday will also make a guest appearance in the show.
Vasuda Sharma as a multi-instrumentalist has a radiant energy about her. Starting her musical journey at a talent hunt show, she’s come a long way. Days before the concert, we had a quick chat with her to chronicle her story. Here are some excerpts:
Q. How did you get introduced to music and when did you decide to take it up professionally?
I was introduced to music at a very young age, to be exact, when I was 4 years old by my aunt in Mathura. I did not have any knowledge of ragas, but I would still learn sargams from her. I learnt them like a lullaby – you keep repeating it over and over again. My childhood was full of Krishna bhajans and rasiyas and folk music. That’s how I got introduced to music.
To be honest, I never thought I would take it up professionally; it was always a hobby. In school and college, I would take part in competitions but it was understood in my family that academics would never be compromised. I never imagined myself getting into music professionally. It was by mere accident. I went for an audition in a talent hunt show called ‘Popstars’ in Delhi, without my parents’ knowledge. I was curious to know where I stood musically and how it would go. One thing led to another, and here I am today!
Q. You are very much at ease when you perform, whether it is as an indie songwriter, an electronic producer to conceptualising a concert on bhajans or now as a Hindi classics singer. How did you decide on taking different avatars for your music?
When it comes to having different avatars for my music, it was never a conscious decision. It’s my heart’s calling. The music that I have learnt has been so diverse, it was full of folk bhajans and rasiyas. My orientation in college was very different – I was introduced to the songwriting of Alanis Morissette and I ended up picking up the guitar and singing like her! I started writing very simple songs on my own in English and Hindi and that’s where writing my own music started off.
I was intrigued by production – things like live looping have come out of my curiosity to learn different things. A lot of self-learning happened and I am still learning. It was a manifestation of varied interests because I couldn’t possibly put everything in one genre. It was my need to experiment with different sounds. The different musicians I met throughout my musical journey: It started off with Aasma, then I met a lot of indie musicians in Mumbai, then Berklee happened – a whole bunch of musicians from different cultural backgrounds came together influenced my musical tastes. I was open to different kinds of music and wanted to explore more and that led to the birth of different avatars.
Q. We all have our own point of reference to Hindi classic songs. I got acquainted to classics because of DJ Aqeel remixing these really old songs in the 90s. And then I got sucked into that era. What was your first experience of listening to classics?
Yes absolutely! The first time I actually heard old classics in a big way was through remixes and what stood out were the beautiful melodies. That’s when I got more into it and dug into the classics by R.D Burman, Salil Choudhary, Madan Mohan etc. Those evergreen melodies never get old.
Q. Who were your early influences from the classics era and how have they influenced you?
I got introduced to Bollywood music a little later in life. I grew up learning and singing Krishna bhajans and brij folk music. Later, when I actually started listening to old classics and learning them, they were songs by Geeta Dutt (Jane Kahan Mera Jigar, Babuji Dheere Chalna ) and of course songs by Asha ji and Lata ji .
These old classics differ so much in their style and delivery and feel, that listening and learning them not only helped me as a vocalist, but also as a composer.
Q. You are performing with Navin Kundra for the first time. Tell us more about the programme and how are you rehearsing?
This is the first time I am performing with Navin Kundra. I have heard a lot about him. I have seen his work and he is a wonderful performer. We plan to rock the concert together, it’s going to be a lot of fun. A lot of online coordination and rehearsal recording charts have been exchanged for the concert. I have a rehearsal with him and his band once I reach Holland and we’ll make sure that it is a great concert!
Q. Grapevine tells us that you have two sweet collaborations lined up with local Dutch musicians. Tell us more about the songs and their production.
Yes, I have some really fun collaborations with two different artists from Holland. I am working on a beautiful bhajan with Prewien Pandohi – Mishre and other one is a cover version of the all time classic ‘Tumse Milke’ with renowned comedian-artist, Rayen Pandey. I had a wonderful time working with both of them.
Q. What are some of the songs that the audience can expect on the day of the concert? Are you focussing on a particular genre or an artist?
For the 7th September concert at Luxor Theatre, Hindi Cinema Classics is the theme so I have chosen songs from the 60s and the 70s. Classic evergreen melodies by RD Burman, Lakshmikant Pyarelal, Salil Choudhary etc and many others are a part of my setlist.
Q. Apart from the concert, what do you plan to do in Holland? Any special places to visit, people to meet?
Apart from the main concert, there are two bhajan concerts that are lined up and a FullMoon Babylon event where I am performing my electronic looping set. I am really looking forward to these other gigs that I will be performing at.
Holland has always been a work trip. I have never had the chance to travel around. If I get time, I do plan to take off for 2-3 days and explore the country!
Don’t miss this musical extravaganza at the Oude Luxor Theater on the 7th of September. Check out the event on Facebook.
Also read Navin Kundra’s interview on the first Hindi Cinema Classics.