Its not always that you get to interview someone with the singing prowess, technical brilliance and soulful presentation of Shubha Mudgal Ji , and when you do it is a special feeling. I caught up with the icon to do an absolutely insightful and fun interview and for anyone who loves music , no matter what genre or place , this is one interview you cannot miss –
Hello Maam Welcome to Anylouder .
Thank you so much.
What is happening for you lately ? Tell us a bit about your initial years in Allahabad.
I was born in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, where my parents, late Skand and Jaya Gupta taught English Literature at the Allahabad University. Both of them were passionate about music and the arts and encouraged my sister Ragini and me to learn music, attend concerts and enrich our lives by engaging with the arts in general. So we grew up reading literature, listening to music, hearing discussions on poetry, literature, music and theatre.
Your parents had a deep interest in Hindustani Classical music . Was it from them that your interest grew for music as a whole ?
Yes, I am certain that I inherited my passion for Hindustani classical music from my parents. I studied music with their active and unconditional support, and it was my mother who helped me make a full time commitment to music soon after I graduated.
I must also mention here that my family continues to provide unwavering support to me to the day although my parents have passed away.
What was the contribution of Pandit Vinay Chandra Maudgalya to your initial music upbringing ? You also took dance lessons at point of time in your life . How did that turn out ?
I learnt Kathak dance as a child and my Kathak lessons started when I was four years old. Although I gave up Kathak after a few years, I think my training in dance has enriched my study of music.
I started learning from Pandit Vinaya Chandra Maudgalya only around 1982 when I moved from Allahabad to Delhi. He was a loving and generous and inspiring teacher, quite tireless when it came to teaching. Not only did he teach me with the greatest generosity possible, but I was able to hear and learn from many great musicians whom he regularly invited to the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in Delhi.
Khayali and Thumri are your favourite forms of music , as you have stated but we would be very interested to know how you got into pop music and when did the idea of fusing different genres of music came to you ?
I have been studying Khayal and Thumri for many decades now and continue to do so. But I was always an avid listener and listened avidly to not only classical music, but also popular music and non-Indian music. But in 1996, I was invited by Delhi-based composer and producer Jawahar Wattal to record an album of popular music called “Ali More Angana”. That was my first foray into popular music.
” Ab ke sawaan ” both the album and the single are regarded as classics . Take us through the music making process of it .
The invitation to be a part of “Ab Ke Sawan” came from composer Shantanu Moitra. He approached me with the idea of recording some tracks with me and we first worked on a demo track. He took the demo track (later included in the album as Dere Dere ) to Mumbai and met with Atul Churamani who worked at the time with Virgin Records India. Atul approved the track and signed us on for an album which ultimately turned out to be “Ab Ke Sawan”. Prasoon Joshi wrote all the lyrics for the album, and Shantanu, Prasoon and I became a happy team of collaborators that later worked on several other tracks and album.
Fan question –
Markand Vyas asks ” Maam is there any other singer whom you can suggest us having the same flavour as yours? “
I can suggest several much better singers and artistes although I would not say they are similar – Papon, Kalpana Patowary, Varijashree Venugopal and many others.
Khanirup Dutta asks ” Which western musician has influenced you the most ? “
I have not really studied Western Music and therefore my work is not influenced by Western Music although I listen to Western Music, and jazz in particular.
When we speak about Hindustani Classical music now , what changes have you seen taking place from the times you started out ? What is your views on incorporating technology into music ?
The use of technology in music is unavoidable in today’s world, and it may surprise you to know that I love and embrace technology. Along with my acoustic tanpuras, I also use tanpura apps when performing, I use Soundcloud and other apps for sharing music and for teaching, and one of my long cherished dreams is to learn Ableton and try and work with it 🙂
Being a musician you always travel places , meet people and see different cultures too . Have you ever met someone at a show , or in general while travelling that suprised you with his or her talent ?
I am fortunate that I travel a lot and listen to many many splendid musicians during my travels. I could give you a long list but I’d like to draw your attention to Rambhau Pawar in Satara: https://youtu.be/43QoD2R2dNQ
More details about his story were published by me in my column Music Matters for Mint: http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/dxe0o8VAN8w5AEKwj51ZSJ/Rambhaus-raga.html
You have always supported a musicians right , stood up against piracy and always took a stand for left wing causes .
I have provided support to causes including artiste’s rights, but I am not aligned with the left and definitely not with the right. I believe it is important for an artiste to have an independent voice.
When we talk about women in music business , do you think that a lot has changed now for a woman in this field, with much more freedom to express and explore and also with women really stamping an authority in the music scene in India . How was it like back when you started out ?
I grew up in a home full of strong, independent working women and among men including my father who respected women and their freedom. I am therefore, somewhat privileged when it comes to making my own decisions and living life on my own terms.
But I also believe that historically, women performers in Hindustani classical music were women of great talent, strength and commitment and their contribution to the music is invaluable.
Any plans on visiting Assam ?
Not right away, but it is certainly on my wish list.
Any advice to young girls on practice , management and doing it right in the field of music .
I am not qualified to give advice, but my humble suggestion would be to hang in there and make the kind of music they believe in, and not give in to supposed “market” pressures.
Give us a sneak peek into your future projects .
I am completing my debut book as an author. It contains short stories, to be published by Speaking Tiger, all related to the Indian music scene.
Thank you Maam for your time , Leave a message for fans and our readers .
Many thanks for giving me the opportunity to interact with your readers. I request them for their good wishes and prayers that will help me remain connected with music as long as I live.
PHOTO COURTESY :
Interview by : Ashiqur Rohman