After establishing herself as a Khayal singer for almost a decade, Smita Bellur has now started blending it with Classical Sufiana Qawwali. “I was trained in Hindustani Classical Vocal Khayal by doyens like Late PR Bhagwat and Late Pandit Arjunsa Nakod during my childhood,” shares Smita, adding that she picked up an interest in Sufi a few years ago. She is now training in sufiana Qalaam under Ustad Nazeer Ahmed Warsi and Ustad Naasir Ahmed Warsi of Hyderabad, grandsons of legendary Qawwal of yesteryear’s Padmashri Late Ustad Aziz Ahmed Warsi.
The result of this blend is that Smita’s performances, like the one at Hyderabad Heritage Festival on Friday, are soulful renditions of Khayal mixed with Sufi, which she presents in the form of a Qawwali, without the help of back-up singers. “Khayal and Sufi have always been connected, it is just that it has not become evident,” she says hoping to create awareness about it through her music.
Elaborating further on the driving factors for this shift, Smita says that she had always dreamt of immersing herself in worshipping the almighty through music.
An engineer by profession, Smita had never imagined that she would become one. Her dreams were filled with Lord Krishna and she thought of herself as the perfect devotee. “I always envisioned myself as a reverent bhakt of Krishna. Worshipping the almighty with a Tambura in my hand, like poetess Meerabai, was my first vision for the future,” she shares with a radiant smile.
Such atypical ambitions along with an innate ability to sing without training didn’t go unnoticed and her father enrolled her in the formal system of learning music. Even though, she started her training when she was 9, Smita confesses that she had her own fears about pursuing singing as a profession.
“Being a first generation artist, there was always the doubt whether music would provide me sustenance,” explains Smita who pursued MS from Bits Pilani in order to secure her future.
Until August 2013, she was working as an engineer at SAP, the German software giant. She says she has no regrets about having deviated from music.
Although she started music as a vocation, Smitha says she has now dedicated her entire time to music. Apart from performing at various concerts across the country, she is now concentrating on teaching music. She teaches in both face-to-face and online mediums.
Speaking about her experience as a teacher, she says a lot has changed in the guru - shishya relationship. “My guru expected me to be someone hardworking, dedicated, sacrifices and most importantly, the will to overcome desire of earning quick wins. Times have changed and we cannot expect these things now,” she shares.
Nevertheless I will continue to play my part, she says adding, “I just want to dedicate myself to spread hope through music, which was God’s gift to me,” she adds.