Notes from the ’90s

Anjali Jhangiani
Monday, 8 October 2018

Just like the genre she popularised — indipop , Shubha Mudgal too has survived the test of time.

In the ’90s, when MTV played music videos all day and YouTube wasn’t around, indipop was the ‘in thing’. Yes, the genre is still flourishing, but that was the era of Suneeta Rao, Alisha Chinai, Euphoria and Shubha Mudgal, who gave us such timeless hits that they sound fresh even today. 

Shubha Mudgal, the vocal powerhouse, will be making her debut at the stage at Bacardi NH7 Weekender in the city this December. “I have actually performed at the festival in Pune a few years ago when I was a featured artist in a performance by Indian Ocean. This time, I will be performing with a band of fabulous musicians with whom I have had the fortune to work for several years now. I have Srijan Mahajan on drums, Gaurav Balani on the bass guitar, Aditya Balani on the guitar, Aneesh Pradhan on the tabla, Sudhir Nayak on the harmonium and Anil Chawla on keyboards. Many of my colleagues, who will be on stage with me, are freelancers and work with multiple bands and almost all of them have performed with other bands at various editions of NH7. However, this is the first time we will be featured as a band at Bacardi NH7 Weekender in the city,” says Shubha. 

Her popular track — Ab Ke Sawan Aise Barse — is synonymous with Indian monsoon. Whenever it’s pouring outside, and the skies are gloomy, the dancey beats and her commanding voice compels you to shake off all the melancholy and get lost in the rhythm. This sempiternal track apart, how has she planned to connect with the diverse audience at the festival? “It’s always difficult to predict and certainly not advisable to take audiences for granted, but I am still inextricably associated with Ab Ke Sawan which people seem to enjoy even today. I’m hoping this will be true at Weekender too. Some of the other tracks that a lot of music lovers seem to enjoy are Dholna and Mann Ke Manjeere. But I also hope to present some recent tracks that are unpublished or not so familiar,” she says.
While millennials would consider Shubha a pioneer of fusion music in India, she believes that the trend started about two centuries ago. “Thank you for the compliment but I really cannot claim to be a pioneer of fusion music in India. The fact is that there are several documented examples of attempts to blend together Indian and Western music. Take the example of Sophia Plowden, wife of an officer in the East India Company who collected several songs from a Kashmiri singer called Khanum Jan in the 18th century, notated them and then adapted them for the harpsichord. These compositions were published as Hindustani Airs and are one of several early examples of fusion music,” she says, adding, that her personal involvement with fusion music started only in about 1995, and has continued since then. 

The Hindustani classical vocalist has recorded albums with music directors like Shantanu Moitra, Sandesh Shandilya and others, and has collaborated with older bands like Indian Ocean as well as younger ones like Swarathma. 

“I feel that fusion music in India has largely been restricted to collaborations between folk musicians and classical musicians from India working with musicians who play jazz, rock, pop and even Western classical music. Often the initiative to collaborate is taken up by non Indian musicians. There have been relatively fewer attempts by Indian musicians to collaborate with musicians and musical systems outside India, particularly with other music systems from Asia and Africa,” says she. 

With the dawn of EDM came a lull in the indipop genre. But now even commercial artists are working on indipop singles and albums to satisfy their creative hunger. “I think internet technology has made a huge difference in encouraging self-publishing by musicians across the world. No longer does an artist need to be tethered to a label to either record, produce or distribute music. This has made independent publishing and independent music making flourish in India as well as in other parts of the world. I too am part of this parallel music industry as it were, and continue to record, produce and distribute albums independently on digital platforms,” says Shubha, pointing out that she is not a social media addict but like most musicians, she too posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc, and enjoys the ease of communication and networking that these platforms offer. “And of course, I get trolled too now and again, when the troll armies lying in wait don’t like something I have to say,” she quips. 

The singer turns author with her first collection of short stories on music in India. “I have recently submitted it to my publishers and am both nervous and excited about my debut as an author,” she says, adding, “I am looking forward to the launch of a new album called Bridge of Dreams with saxophonist Sandy Evans from Australia, Aneesh Pradhan, Sirens Big Band (also from Australia), Bobby Singh and Sudhir Nayak.”

ST Reader Service
Shubha Mudgal will be performing at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Pune from Dec 7-9, and at the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa from Dec 15-22

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