From Ghungroo and Tose Naina Lage to Malang and Khuda Jaane, Shilpa Rao has sung many chart-topping numbers. She even went on to earn a Grammy nomination in the ‘Best Global Music Album’ category for singer Anoushka Shankar’s album Love Letters. But despite all the laurels, the singer admits that being a vocalist requires immense effort and is no mean feat.
“It is definitely a difficult journey,” the singer, who will be performing with the winner of digital-first singing talent hunt, Hipi G.O.A.T, on the Grand Finale episode of reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, told indianexpress.com in an exclusive interaction. She also spoke about the importance of recognising one’s potential, the relevance of talent shows, and the one actor she would love to sing for. Edited excerpts:
You have been a part of the music industry for a long time. How would you say it has evolved over the years with the introduction of new formats and singers?
It is essential to understand that things change, but if you know your your strong points — or try to find them out — then despite things changing around you, you will still stand out and be yourself. That, for me, is very important — to know and realise who you are.
What do you think is the most challenging thing about being a singer?
It is often said that ‘music education is the most difficult of all’, something I feel all vocalists would agree because it takes a lot of effort to become a singer. When you are learning and practising, riyaaz and taleem, it’s not easy and requires immense dedication and effort. But when you finally get to sing and record, and people love it, it’s worth all the effort. So, yes, being a vocalist is definitely a difficult journey.
So many singers and an equal number of songs are being produced today. How challenging is it to be different from others amid the competition?
I don’t look at it as competition. The simple reason is because everyone is unique. As such, I cannot sing a song someone has already sung in some way, and similarly, someone else may not be able to sing a song the way I have. So, I definitely feel that it’s not a competition and everyone is doing their work. What is important is to find one’s footing and create songs that people will love to listen.
You are now associated with a digital-first singing talent hunt. What role do such hunts and reality shows play in helping shape an artiste’s career?
Such shows might not have a particular role to play in shaping of one’s career or the turning point of your career, but you definitely get to learn more from such experiences, including things that you must not to do. So, irrespective of the medium — digital, TV or live — talent hunts teach you a lot, and are a great learning tool.
You are an extremely versatile singer. But if you had to pick a particular genre or style of music, what would it be?
Ghazal has always been my most favourite style when it comes to singing, especially when I do riyaaz. But, in terms of listening to music, I am very open-minded; in fact, I like to hear all genres, so I love listening to new music and new artists. This is something, I believe, every musician or artiste must do.
A lot of people turned to music to ease their stress amid the pandemic. What was your experience like?
I have found all my answers in life in my music, and I don’t think there is anything that music cannot answer. I was a child when I fell in love with music, and the love keeps growing. I feel very fortunate to have music (by my side).
The last two years made digital concerts/performances quite popular. What is your take on digital vis-à-vis physical performances?
The one thing that I have learnt is that human beings like social interactions, and through performances, you can talk to somebody one on one. Also, it is very important that people interact through music and art as it helps create a very good community and is also a great communication starter. It gives a certain kind of happiness and satisfaction, something I have noticed, especially if I talk to people about music right before my virtual performances. Its very special.
What qualities do you think make for a good singer?
Learn music, and rest your voice, mind, and your uneasiness. Have empathy towards each other because in today’s world we need to remove words like competition, ego, win. I think one must pursue the kind of music that gives hope to people. That’s very important.
Your favourite song and why?
Tose naina (from Anwar) will always be close to my heart. It’s so beautifully made and written, and the love people show for it — everything put together — so it is one of my most favourite songs.
One composer you really wish to work with, and one actor you really want to lip-sync your songs on the screen — and why?
I want to work with all the composers I have already worked with, along with the fresh talent that is coming up. The one actor I would love to sing for is Tabu, I totally adore her.