Perseverance paid

Perseverance paid

destinys child

dedicated Akriti Kakkar

Growing up in a Delhi household where mornings began with a cup of tea and songs sung by  to K L Saigal and Bhimsen Joshi, Akriti Kakkar took to music from a very young age. While her mother, a post graduate in Hindustani classical music, and her guru, Byomkesh Banerjee, introduced her to classical maestros like Ali Akbar Khan, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ravi Shankar, Bhimsen Joshi and Amjad Ali Khan when she just five, Akriti wasn’t satiated. Soon enough, she discovered Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Arif Lohar, Whitney Houston and Frank Sinatra, and was mesmerised.

Often, cynics say that with young age comes conceit and a bemused state of mind. Akriti proved otherwise. Her first stage performance was when she was just five. Later, she joined Little Star, a musical troupe created by music directors Kalyanji-Anandji, and travelled the world. “I used to travel for 40 days at a stretch, away from my family, but I never felt lost or alone. Especially because the decision to learn music and perform on stage wasn’t forced upon me. My parents had made it clear to me that I should pursue music only if I was passionate about it.” It is a little puzzling when you expect a five-year-old to understand the meaning of passion but Akriti believes, “The proverbial fame that comes with being associated with shows or singing didn’t attract me; it was the happiness I felt when I was on stage, performing live.”

Her first brush with fame was when she won the Sa Re Ga Ma (junior talent hunt) in 1998, followed by an award by the Sangam Kala Group in New Delhi. And six years later, Akriti was in a recording studio, singing Chham se vo aa jaye from Dus. Steadily, industrywaalahs stood up and took notice of her singing prowess. Akriti started getting offers and lent her voice to songs like Dil vich lagiya ve (Chup chup ke), Shakalaka boom boom (Shakalaka Boom Boom), Aanan fanan (Namastey London), Insha Allah (Welcome), Marjani (Billu) and of course, her most beautiful rendition till date — Hey Johnny (Johnny Gaddar). She even went ahead and released two non-film albums — Akriti, and a compilation of remix numbers titled A Teen. Akriti also lent her voice to popular pop tracks like the remix number, Rangeela re.

But success didn’t come easy. “I remember my mother updating my notebooks and classwork for school while I was out on a tour. I had to come back and put in extra hours at school to ensure that I achieved good grades,” reminisces Akriti. Although she has never had a normal childhood, Akriti never regrets it. “I never missed playing outdoors with friends or attending birthday parties. Music was and still is my food for life,” she avers. After completing class 12, Akriti did her graduation through correspondence and simultaneously put her heart and soul into learning music. It has been six years since she has moved to Mumbai and she has done fairly well as a playback singer, especially because she has no ‘Bollywood connections’ or isn’t a ‘reality show star’.

According to Akriti, musical reality shows prove to be a crash course in singing and getting an insight into the music industry. “For struggling singers, to get an appointment with a successful music director takes more than three years! Therefore, for many aspiring voices, reality shows prove to be the best bet.” She adds, “In such shows, you are expected to groom yourself well, you have judges to critique your singing and if you do click with the audience, it might just give you that much coveted break. But it does not end there. After all the attention you receive on television, once you are on your own, you have to survive purely on your talent,” she points out.

At just 26, and the nascent stage of her career, Akriti considers herself to be lucky to have worked with music directors like Shankar Mahadeven, Pritam, Himesh Reshammiya and Monty Sharma. All because today, new singers are being discovered, unique voices are appreciated and welcomed. It’s such a progressive shift in Hindi film music unlike earlier, when just a few playback singers monopolised the industry, feels Akriti. Music buffs have been gifted with unconventional yet soulful voices like Shruti Pathak, Benny Dayal, Ram Sampath and Anusha Mani. “Jassi isn’t your conventional playback singer but he was offered to sing Laung da lashkara; Mika too started off his career with pop music and was criticised for having a nasal tone to his voice but now his songs — Mauja hi mauja or Jugni jugni — are extremely popular!” says a thrilled Akriti.

The only cause of concern for Akriti is the already dead genre of pop music in India. Made in India by Alisha Chinai, Loveology by Shaan and Sagarika, the memorable Pari hoon main by Sunita Rao or the thumping sounds of Johnny joker by Shweta Shetty seem to be lost in oblivion. “It was after I released my own non-film album that I realised how difficult it is to market your own album. There are absolutely no takers for your songs when you have to compete with a Dabangg or any other Hindi film soundtrack.” But Akriti is still hopeful. She is now a part of Coke Studio and is busy with several Bollywood offers. She also plans to release yet another non-film album and says, “In my own little way, I am trying to keep pop alive.”

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