Singer, songwriter and producer Tanvi Shah talks about her upcoming EP, A R Rahman and her international collaborations
The first Indian woman to have won the Grammy, Tanvi Shah, has become a global name, thanks to her international collaborations. The singer, songwriter and producer is currently working on her latest EP, which, she says, is inspired by bits and pieces of her life. “Since February, I have been working on the EP, which will be launched in Hindi, English and other languages,” she says.
What makes this EP unique is that it’s not a particular genre but a blend. “I am not following any particular genre. There’s a mix of them and I am doing it from scratch. I have written the lyrics, selected the beats and have also collaborated with a few international musicians like Jeremy Hawkins and others,” says Tanvi who, along with Gulzar and A R Rahman, penned the lyrics for the international hit Jai How, which won them a Grammy in 2010. Rahman composed the music for the Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire.
She has worked with Rahman on several other projects including Mani Ratnam’s latest Telugu film Kaatru Veliyidai. She says, “My collaborations with Rahman sir have been amazing. I think, I am blessed and lucky to work with such a great musician. I have learnt a lot from him.”
She adds that Rahman has made her realise so many nuances about her voice. “He is very encouraging. He never says, ‘How to do this or that’. He always says, ‘Sing the way you want and then we will see’. Let’s create a song together’. I like the fact that it’s always team work because he takes everyone into consideration and then decides the final outcome.”
Tanvi has also collaborated with Amit Trivedi, Snoop Dogg, among others. She says that the best part about collaborating with such diverse artists is that one gets to learn constantly. “You get to work on different genres and techniques. You take it from scratch and make it gel with your voice,” she says, adding, “Different musicians have different styles of working, like Jeremy comes with a beat and we sing. Snoop Dogg has the topic and idea in mind and then we make things fall into place.”
Other than English and Hindi, Tanvi has sung in Spanish, Portuguese, Afro-Cuban, Arabic, Tamil, Rajasthani, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati and Telugu. “Let me clear this: I cannot speak all these languages but I can sing and have small conversations,” she says, adding, “It’s challenging but the effort is to make the product sound good. For that, I work hard. But before I sing, I have the song and lyrics explained to me and I also learn the right pronunciation. I pick up the words by observing people and body language.”
But why don’t we get to hear about her incredible work? Quips Tanvi, “That’s because I am a quiet person and do not like talking about my work.” However, she is trying to change as she realises that it’s important to promote one’s work. “I am still learning the nuances of the business. It’s difficult for me to talk about my work but I am trying to change,” says the Chennai-based singer.
Ask her if she is choosy about her projects and she says, “I am not exactly choosy, but I travel a lot and if a music director approaches me when I am travelling, then I miss out on that project. But I have never refused any music director,” says Tanvi who is known for songs like Fanaa, Pappu Can’t Dance Saala, Rehna Tu (Delhi 6).
The singer says that she likes taking risks in her career because she wants to keep doing something new every time. She further adds that she is pursuing music because it makes her happy. “I enjoy my work and live on my own terms,” she says.
And a lot has changed post her Grammy win. “More people know me now and as I travel to different places, I realise that Indian music is out there. In fact, we have only limited its deep and rich heritage,” she says before signing off.