Expo 2020 Dubai: Singer Shibani Kashyap excited to perform on global platform

The music artist is thrilled to be playing a live gig at the world fair on March 30.


Enid Grace Parker

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Tue 29 Mar 2022, 5:24 PM

Last updated: Tue 29 Mar 2022, 6:01 PM

Indian singer Shibani Kashyap, famous for hits like Sajna Aa Bhi Ja and Ho Gayi Hai Mohabbat Tumse, is excited to be performing at the India Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai on Wednesday, March 30.

The vibrant artist, who is known not only for her memorable Bollywood and indie tunes but compelling live performances as well, last performed in Dubai in December 2019 and is grateful to be able to bring her music to the city again through such a global platform as Expo 2020 Dubai.

Shibani, who shot to fame in the 90s with her sparkling debut album Ho Gayi Hai Mohabbat, has dabbled in different genres of music. One of her recent releases is the melodious Buhe Bariya, a ‘modern rock’ version of the original Punjabi romantic track by Hadiqa Kiani.

She promises to light up the Expo stage with this as well as many other hit songs from her repertoire. In a Zoom interview with City Times ahead of her gig, she weighed in on her connect with Dubai, the honour of performing at Expo 2020 Dubai, the evolution of Bollywood and independent Indian music, and more.

What can fans expect from your Expo 2020 Dubai performance?

I’ve come to Dubai after two years. My last performance was in December 2019. In these two years I have come up with lots of new songs like Jogiya, Buhe Bariya, and Lakk Shake; I’ll be singing all my new hit songs, and of course my evergreen hit songs like Sajna Aa Bhi Jaa, Ho Gayi Hai Mohabbat and Zinda Hoon Main. Also Bollywood songs that everyone loves, like R.D. Burman hits and some Sufi, Punjabi (tracks) which I am really known for.

How do you feel about bringing your music to such a global platform as Expo 2020 Dubai?

I think it’s a fantastic opportunity! I really feel very blessed that I am a part of this. I’m very excited, really thrilled and looking forward to it!

People have been talking about Expo 2020 Dubai the world over. It’s a really global platform, one of the largest today, as we speak. Amazing artists like A.R. Rahman, Lucky Ali, Alicia Keys, Strings, and Euphoria have recently performed, so I would say I feel very honoured!

As a music artist, how important is performing live to you?

It’s my oxygen; it’s my life. The stage is my second home, actually! As we all know, because of the Covid pandemic, live shows had shut down for almost one-and-a-half to two years. Now that they’re coming back, and Expo 2020 Dubai marks that in a very strong way, that live shows and these kind of global platforms for artists to perform live from all over the world are back, I think it’s fantastic and a great message that things are back to normal.

What are some of your favourite places to visit, and things to do in Dubai?

Of course the malls (laughs). I just love them and Dubai Mall is my favourite. There is something about the vibe and the energy here (in Dubai); you just never feel tired! You can go on and on, apart from shopping, eating, meeting friends…

And I think there is a veritable India in Dubai also; I have lots of friends who live here now; singers, RJs and so many friends who have moved to Dubai, so it’s like a comfort zone for all of us.

It’s a place which spells class, grandeur and lifestyle… there’s something about the place as a vibe which makes me feel very grand all the time. It’s full of action… Dubai is never boring! It’s the most interesting and fun place that one can come to.

What is your special connect with Dubai and the UAE?

I was a judge on a very beautiful reality show called The One UAE, which started in 2018 and ran for two seasons. I was a judge alongside singers from Nepal and Kenya. It was a very global platform, so I got a taste of a global reality show at that time and I realised, this is what a reality show is all about! My last Dubai show in December 2019 was at the India Pavilion at Global Village, and it was again a fantastic experience. It was super-packed — I had come to judge the show and perform at the end of it.

You’ve also judged reality shows like Bathroom Singer. What is your opinion on these kind of shows — while earlier they had a simpler format, there is a lot of melodrama involved now. Do these shows really do much for the participants involved?

Bathroom Singer was ages ago and that was the first or second reality show that I judged. After that I was a guest judge on Indian Idol and a grand jury on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs, so I got a nice overview, a taste of what music reality shows are all about.

Indeed there is a lot of melodrama involved in reality shows which evokes people’s emotions. People actually like to feed on emotions more than anything else. I personally feel: Cut the drama. Whenever I am judging a reality show I want to come to the point. Sing, perform, show us your ‘X’ factor.

In fact, Bathroom Singer was all about pulling out singers who were not really trained. So there were singers who were actually comfortable singing in their bathrooms, and we auditioned those singers, we picked them up, we mentored, groomed and trained them and turned them into sizzling performers! I think it is one of the best formats, because it actually helps you to groom someone from being a raw singer to being an amazing performer. That was really exciting for me.

Of course the singers who come on Indian Idol, the contestants on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa especially L’il Champs, are phenomenal and supremely talented. They are highly competitive in nature, and very dedicated to their art and skill; they keep practicing and practicing. It’s not about copying a particular song or a singer — my whole endeavor is always to bring out the uniqueness and unusual factor in what they are doing. And I think currently whatever is happening on Indian Idol and even Sa Re Ga Ma Pa is fantastic. They just perform with so much aplomb.

So it’s (the reality show scene) coming of age, evolving by the minute. The shows serve their purpose, but the challenge, from being the contestant of that particular season or the winner, is to actually sustain yourself for years together.

How will they evolve and what will they do to keep themselves going is the question, because what really plummets them into fame and makes them huge is the television appearance, as exposure. But the idea is to keep your songs and your music going. Your music should be rocking all the time!

Apart from being a popular singer, you’re also a composer. What inspires you to compose songs?

It could be a situation, or a social cause. I compose a lot of songs with social messages, like a song for women empowerment; one for anti-drunk driving which is called Don’t Drink and Drive; I’ve done a song against terrorism called Alvida.

Recently I collaborated with Grammy-Award winning singer and composer Ricky Kej and we did a peace anthem. As we all know, the world is in trouble; there is a war situation going on, so maybe music and the messages through music can actually help to bring about a big change or even a minor change. So that’s what really inspires me to compose music.

How has Bollywood and independent music evolved?

I think over the past two years the independent music scene has really evolved because there was an opportunity for a lot of artists to create a lot of music; films were not being shot, so music had to happen.

So I think right now independent music is moving; it’s doing really well. Artists are emerging, music awards are happening in India at the moment.

Five years ago this was not the scenario. Everything was very Bollywood centric; if you have a song in a Bollywood film, then you’re a singer, then you are accepted! But if you don’t, then (it was like) please, nobody even wants to listen to that song. But the scenario has really changed.

After Expo 2020 Dubai, what is next for you? What are your plans for 2022?

By God’s grace since live shows have started, I was in Agra the day before, I had a show there; now I am in Dubai and after Expo 2020, I head straight to Chandigarh for India’s biggest cultural platform called Hunar Haat; I am performing at the closing ceremony on April 3 with singer Sudesh Bhosle.

I am looking forward to my new release with Saregama (HMV) on April 7 — it’s a remake of a song called Mere Mehboob. So there’s a good amount of action and events coming up.

Shibani Kashyap will perform at the India Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai, from 7pm onwards.

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