Lowest temperature today is expected to drop to 11ºC in some parts of the country
No one in my family is a musician or and we didn't have any connections in music industry. But, I guess, my foray music world was a natural progression. since childhood, I have been drawn to remember when I was 3-4 years old, I used to go to temples with my parents and was fascinated
by priests singing 'bhajans' and would singing devotional songs with them. when I discovered my love for music. Even at home, my parents used to play a lot of classical music and just listening to it would make me feel happy. Seeing my interest, my parents encouraged me and sent me to learn singing. I would also take part in singing competitions in school and college. But singing was just a hobby for me then, I never imagined it would grow on me and I would take it up as a career.
And when did you turn professional?
It happened when I took part in the music reality show Popstars on Channel V in 2003. I won that show. Then, I joined the pop group Aasma. The band was formed after a nationwide hunt. Two girls and two boys were chosen and I qualified from Delhi. Soon I moved to Mumbai and my musical journey began. I performed with Aasma for about two-three years. It was a wonderful experience singing pop music. Then I joined Bollywood and was singing for composers Vishal-Shekhar, Salim-Sulieman, AR Rahman, Amaal Malik and others.
These days, when singers perform on stage, they come out in designer wear and also dance to choreographed moves like actors. Do you think that in future, singers will be doing both roles - singing and acting?
Why not? Why can't singer be like actors? In the past, we have had singers who were also great actors like Kishore Kumar. Even in Hollywood, you will find actors who are good singers and dancers. Singers nowadays are very aware and willing to go that extra mile to provide a better show on stage! In the past, singers would just go on stage and belt out song after song, but nowadays, they have to enact each and every song with choreographed moves and costumes to enhance the audience experience. I am already doing that in AR Rahman's concerts.
How important is fitness in your industry?
We should all strive for fitness. It not only applies to us in showbiz, even a person doing a 9-5 job should endeavour to be fit, maintain good looks and present themselves well. In our business, we have thousands of people coming out to watch us on stage and we have a responsibility towards them. We should be able to inspire them through our music and our stage presence - be it our fitness or our outfits. It's very important to be disciplined. You have chosen a life that requires you be disciplined and dedicated to what you are doing. So, you have to faithfully do your riyaz (practice), do regular workouts and also keep a watch on what you eat. That's the key!
How much time do you spend practising?
It depends on my shows. You know, I travel a lot, and I also spend a lot of time in the recording studio, so at times, it becomes tough to maintain my routine. But, if time permits, I spend an hour in the morning doing riyaz - that's the most important time of the day for me because I can concentrate on my vocals. I first rehearse songs for my concerts or recordings. Once that's done, I work on designing my vocals (workout different ways of singing a line in a song like classical, semi-classical, gazal, folk, or pop). You have to better yourself to keep growing.
How did you perfect your singing?
Listening is the key. I spend a lot of time listening to a style or genre before attempting to sing any song. I repeatedly practice a line again and again until it's perfect. It's much like kids learning to read or write ABCD, going over and over the same lines.
You have a lot of jazz, pop influence in your voice...
Actually, as a child, I did not hear much Western music. I only got exposed to pop after joining Aasma. Then I sang for the movie Bombay Velvet where I got a chance to experiment with jazz - I had to study old jazz music for the movie. Composer Amit Trivedi made me listen to different styles of music. I think the more different genres of music you listen to, the more influences you can bring to your song.
And what about your eating habits?
I am a vegetarian. I stick to a simple diet and always try to eat home cooked food. Nothing better than my mum's cooking. I avoid cold stuff because that's not good for my vocal cords, so I drink a lot of ginger tea to keep the throat hydrated and in peak condition. I also love eating healthy stuff - it could be soup, salad, or anything else that's good for me and makes me feel light and energetic on stage.
How much of an involvement to you have in your stage costumers? Do you have a say in the designing of your clothes?
I love dressing for my stage shows. As much attention as I pay to music, I give to my costumes. Actually, I have a stylist who takes care of my outfits. My stage costumes are designed by Manish Malhotra, Sabyasachi, Neeta Lulla etc for particular events. You know, I was chosen as Hindustan Times' most stylish singer of the year.
How was the audience response for AR Rahman's show in Dubai?
Amazing. In the Bollywood Parks concert, every song was like watching a music video and the audience responded well. People in Dubai love music, especially AR's music. Most of them have grown up on his songs. It was a nostalgic moment for them as we did all their favourite songs. We did songs they could sing along to. The response was especially overwhelming in the last 45 minutes of the show.
It happened in 2007 when AR Rahman was touring America and was looking for a singer. Chitra, Sukhwinder and Hariharan were already selected for the tour, but he was on the lookout for a fresh, young voice. He had heard my band (Aasma) and had liked what I was doing with them. So he called me for an audition. He liked my voice and that's how I jumped on the bandwagon and started touring with him. I have been part of his band for almost 10 years now.
How did it feel getting selected for Rahman's band?
It was like a dream come true. Since childhood, his music has played a very important role in my life. All his songs have inspired me to excel. In fact, it made me take up learning music seriously. After joining his band, I also got a chance to learn Western music.
And how is it working with the maestro?
Oh, AR Rahman is a perfectionist. He wants everyone in his band to perform his live music as close to his studio music. I feel privileged to get a chance to sing his songs, in different languages and genres. AR likes his presentation on stage to be grand. The audience should feel like they are watching a grand movie live on stage.
So how much artistic freedom does he give his singers?
A lot. He likes to 'fly'. He tells us to 'be yourself' and ' bring your personality to the song'. In this way, he makes us feel that we own the song, and that's what brings out the best in us. It's a great feeling to be part of AR Rahman's band.
It was incredible. This was the first time I was working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali. It was a dream come true. It was a privilege to sing the beautiful romantic song, Nainowale Ne. You know, my sister Shakti choreographed the song. Bhansali is not only a filmmaker and music director, he is also an encyclopedia of music, especially Hindi music. When I met SLB, he only told me that the melody should have an old world charm - it had to be contemporary and modern as well. So I had to incorporate the best of both worlds into the song."
Yes, of course, I have friends and family here and love to visit and spend time with them.
What's the best thing you like about the city?
I love the shopping! The Dubai Mall is among my favourite places.
Your favourite food in the city...
I like the local cuisine. It's amazing - especially falafel, I just love to eat falafel, it's a great choice for vegetarians like me.
Do you listen to Arabic music?
Whenever I am in Dubai, I only listen to Arabic radio, nothing else. It gives me a good opportunity to learn Arabic music.
Who are your favourite composers?
AR Rahman, Amit Trivedi, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Shankar Ehsan Loy, Vishal, Shankar, Mithun, Amaal Malik
Best male singers (for duets).
Arijit Singh, Benny Dayal, Armaan Malik and Zubin.
Your Best old-time singers.
Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. They are great teachers and I have learnt a lot listening to them.
And your best concert venue.
O2 London, Wembley are amazing venues, so are the venues in the US. The Kakinada Beach Festival in Vishakapatnam, India was memorable. Nearly 200,000 music lovers turned up for the event. For me, it's the audience that matters most. Not the venue!
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