Tunes of triumphs

On the heels of receiving her first award for a Tamil song for Kaavaalaa, Shilpa echoes her journey and her profound love for music.
Shilpa Rao
Shilpa Rao

CHENNAI: The resounding success of ‘Kaavaalaa’, with its staggering 185 million views on YouTube, underscores not only its melody but also the vocals of Shilpa Rao. Beyond the numbers lies a tale of unwavering commitment. Shilpa is popular for her unique voice that effortlessly merges passion and talent. On the heels of receiving her first award for a Tamil song for Kaavaalaa, Shilpa echoes her journey and her profound love for music.

Creative collaborations

Shilpa’s foray into Tamil music was inspired by maestros like AR Rahman. She says, “My first experience of listening to any Tamil music was from Rahman sir. Since then I have been following all his albums. Once you keep hearing that language, more than anything else, you catch the sound and the expression of it which is important to sing a song. I have also had the good fortune of working with Raja sir for Paa. There are so many Tamil indie artistes that I listen to. It is so amazing to hear them use the language in interesting ways.”

As the craze for Jailer was catching on, the tunes of Kaavaala had the whole nation dancing. Describing the experience of making the song, she says, “It started when Anirudh had sent me the scratch of the song. When I heard the song initially, I was a bit doubtful. I just trusted his vision and came to Chennai to record the song.

The way Anirudh records is very convenient and helpful. It’s more like a jam. It is not like a recording. He tells me some idea and then we execute it, then and there. It is a very focused approach — taking everything word by word, pronunciations, and the expression on it. All the credit goes to Anirudh for envisioning me in the song and then recording me like that. It was a fantastic recording experience with him.”

In her 17th year in the industry, Shilpa acknowledges her musical inspirations. Her influences range from classical greats like Ustad Amir Khan Sahab to contemporary icons like Sting. “Growing up in Jaipur, I was learning classical music and my brother was learning Western classical music. I listened to Ustad Amir Khan sahab and Bismillah Khan sahab, and also to Mozart, Bach, Frédéric Chopin.

There are a lot of jazz artistes I follow. I am also enamoured by the poetry, expression, how the words sound and the phonetics of Ghazal. Listening to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sahab, I fell in love with that art form,” she says. Now, she remains optimistic about the evolving music industry. “As long as we find joy in creating music, we’re on the right path,” she asserts.

Amid her busy schedule, Shilpa cherishes the idea of performing in Chennai. She says, “I can’t wait to sing Kaavaala in Chennai. I am looking forward to it and I hope we can do it this year.”

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