Playback singer Shilpa Rao has had a dream run in Bollywood so far. Having worked with greats like AR Rahman, Hariharan, Shankar Mahadevan and Amit Trivedi, she has in her kitty songs like ‘Khuda Jaane’ (Bachna Ae Haseeno), ‘Mudi Mudi’ (Paa), ‘Meherbaan’ (Bang Bang) and ‘Bulleya’ (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil).
She was the first musician from India to get a chance to sing in Coke Studio Pakistan with the song ‘Paar Chanaa De’ in 2016.
She recently teamed with international popstar and sitar player Anoushka Shankar and British composer, singer and cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson for the former’s new single ‘Those Words’. The track is taken from Anoushka’s upcoming EP ‘Love Letters’. Metrolife finds out more...
Tell us more about ‘Those Words’...
It is a song about a woman’s journey; a woman who has just been separated and is remembering someone who was close to her. But this song does not speak about regret; it is more about going on a self journey.
What made you decide to take up the project?
What actually attracted me to the song was its beauty; it sounded really intimate. When I said yes, I did not know what the words were going to be like but I found the tune to be quite moving. It was also amazing to work with Anoushka and Ayaana and everybody else.
It is the first time I have recorded in London; the recording took place at Guild Hall, a music school which has many students and a beautiful recording space.
You have been trained in Indian classical singing by your father S Venkat Rao, and in ghazals by Hariharan. What has your journey been like that?
I have grown up listening to ghazals, learning about them and singing them. I learnt from both Hariharanji and Ustad Ghulam Huswa Kha Saab. Ghazals are a very important part of my life and for the past two years, I have been singing in the proper baithak style all over India. My style is very similar to those of the ghazal performers in the olden days.
From ‘Ghungroo’to ‘Meherbaan’, your repertoire is vast. Do you have a personal favourite when it comes to genres?
I think it would be ‘Ghungroo’. All credit to Vishal-Shekhar, Kumar, Siddharth Anand and even YRF for enabling the song to become the rage it did.
When I was recording the song, I was very involved in it; I was literally dancing inside the recording booth because it was such a funky song. I totally
enjoyed myself during that time.
However, once a song is done and when I start performing another one, I try to involve myself fully with that one.
I prefer to live in the moment and focus on what I am doing right then.
‘I love the combination of our sounds’
When asked about working with Shilpa Rao, Anoushka Shankar said, “I first heard Shilpa singing with my friend Karsh Kale and was immediately struck by her unusual
vocal tone and expressive delivery. It was in my mind from then to work with her. We stayed in touch and finally connected in London last summer when I was working on ‘Love Letters’.
Ayanna (Witter-Johnson) and I were working on the
song ‘Those Words’ and I suddenly wondered if we could turn it into a vocal song. When Shilpa was finally in the studio, I was so impressed by how instinctively she matched my sitar lines. I love the combination of our sounds together.”