Jacqueline edeling

Grammy-nominated singer Shilpa Rao’s musical journey


Weaving magic into words, Grammy-nominated singer Shilpa Rao is on the global radar for her unique voice and choice of music. Rao beams with hope of making Indian classical music more popular and shares his most musical memories.

Imagine this. It’s 2007, and you listen to the radio on your way home from a long day at work. You hear a poignant and classical voice hum the lyrics, “Tose naina lage piyaa saaware”, and you immediately fall in love with the voice you hear for the first time. You don’t know who the singer is, but thanks to this song, you discovered her melody. Shilpa Rao may have officially made his debut in music with “Stranger On The Prowl” by Ek Ajnabee, but that same song (“Tose Naina Laage (Javeda Zindagi)”) from Anwar made people notice her fresh, conventional and quiet voice. Credit is due – music director Mithoon introduced the world to Rao’s talent. The two worked together on the song “Woh Ajnabi” by The train, and that was just the start of an effective journey that also saw Rao land a Grammy nomination recently.

With over 25 songs to his credit including “Khuda Jaane”, “Subhanallah”, “Manmarziyan”, “Bulleya”, “Ghungroo”, Rao collaborated with the famous sitar player, Anoushka Shankar, for a song called “Those Words “from Shankar’s Album Love letter Last year. The album was nominated for the prestigious 63rd Grammy Awards 2021, adding another huge achievement to Rao’s impressive roster. Rao remembers it was half past midnight when she read a short story that featured her name in the Grammy nominations. The next thought that followed was, “I’m going to have to work even harder, make better music, and put in more effort and practice.” I felt I had to do even better than what I’ve done so far, ”says Rao.

So how did this Grammy-nominated collaboration go? Rao recalls, “Shankar and I met many years ago at the NH7 festival and kept in touch after the event. One fine day, we met over lunch where we talked about each other’s work. It was then that Shankar suggested that we work together. She sent me this song last year and when I heard it I felt it was just beautiful. We thought about adding vocals to this song and I asked my friend, Shirin Anandita for help. She then wrote the lyrics to this song in Punjabi, and that’s how the song happened.

While “Those Words” brought Rao to the global market, this is not the first independent song she has worked on. The singer has been juggling singing for Bollywood films and making independent music for some time, and says she enjoys working on both types of projects as well. “I don’t differentiate between the music. For a given project, I put everything without considering where it comes from, if it’s for a film or if it’s independent. The pleasure of being a musician comes from creating something new and having fun in the studio with other musicians. Therefore, I never miss a chance to do it, ”she said.

Rao adds that she is very focused on doing a good job and enjoying it, and that may be the very secret behind her popularity among musicophiles. The singer has been in the music industry long enough to understand how it works, and to be able to see it evolve. She shares: “Lately there is a lot of independent music released by artists from different parts of the country, which is taking its true stature. I think it’s the perfect time to be a musician.

But was there something she wished the music industry had done when she first entered the business? Rao says, “Back then, there was a time when you couldn’t hear a lot of female artists, and all of a sudden now there are a lot of albums and songs directed by women. Knock on wood. It’s such a beautiful change to see, and it has been possible with the rise of independent music and female-led stories. “

Unfortunately, with good comes evil. Rao believes the industry needs more educated and trained artists. She says, “When we talk about music these days, we don’t have a lot of people who are well trained in music. If we can make this change, then we can shine stronger than before on a global level. “

When it comes to expanding the reach of traditional Indian music globally, Rao places high hopes on young people. She says, “Indian music, including Hindustani classical music and other forms of traditional music, is highly regarded around the world. Everyone knows Zakir Hussain, Ravi Shankar ji, Sultan Khan Saheb, Bismillah Khan Saheb. It’s only because we’ve brought our rich music to a global stage and enjoyed it. I think we need to do the same now. I really say this with a lot of hope that our young people will make it bigger for us globally. “

It was during the pandemic when Rao’s song, “Hardum Humdum” by Ludo freed, again leaving everyone in awe of her voice. Rao released another song titled “Roz Roz” in conjunction with The Yellow Diary during the lockdown, establishing that she has adapted very well to the new normal. Speaking about how the pandemic has changed the way she works, the singer said, “I think we as musicians have the capacity to work from home. Now I just make sure I take all the necessary precautions for myself and the people around me. She followed that up with a request for everyone to get vaccinated as she, like everyone else, is anxious to get back to a normal, non-pandemic life.

However, new normal or not, Rao can’t wait to collaborate with The Yellow Diary again. She says she has quite a few independent singles that she’s recorded and that she’s ready to release. “There is a lot of film music that I have recorded and I hope you all like it too, so a lot of music is coming this year and 2022. I look forward to it,” she concludes.