Melodious to the hilt

Shibani Kashyap

It’s a first of a different kind. Singer Shibani Kashyap recently released her single, ‘Wanna Be Free’, to campaign against our rampant addiction to social media, and it has met with a resounding response. “Call it absolutely incredible and pretty overwhelming, the kind of feedback I have been getting,” she exults as she performs the song across colleges, clubs and public concerts across the country, screening the video first to ensure the audience grasps the essence, and then following it up with a live rendition.

“People simply love the line ‘Wanna be free’ as it is very liberating and even celebratory — so they dance with abandon,” she says. But isn’t it a double-edged sword since, as a celebrity singer, Shibani is able to reach out to millions of fans through social media, and yet she speaks of the shackles...“It is,” she confesses. “I am not against social media, it offers a fantastic reach, but it must be used sensibly and responsibly. We should not become slaves to it. I believe there has to be a balance. You can’t be texting while driving. The number of bizarre selfie deaths also shed light on the alarming danger of online addiction. We air our thoughts on social media because it is the best platform, but that does not mean we get carried away.”

Shibani sprung to fame with her debut album ‘Ho Gayi Hai Mohabbat’ and then went on to croon the signature tune of the All India Radio (AIR) FM channel. Then, she anchored a singer hunt show on the telly, Bathroom Singer. Though she has been experimenting with several genres of music, the impact of Sufi music on her renditions is unmistakable. “My friend Muraad Ali introduced me to Sufi poetry. I would just sit and listen to Parveenji who used to visit their house often. I would go to Nizamuddin Dargah on Thursdays and listen to the qawals performing the soulful qawalis with such emotion that it moved me at some level. I came out with an album, ‘Nagmagi’, where I was singing ‘Nagmagi’ and Muraad was doing shayari on it: my influences are Bulleh Shah, Amir Khusrow... and poets like Majaz, Firaaq, and of course, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan,” she says.

It has been an organic growth for Shibani, soaking and cultivating changes in her own style of singing. In India, the biggest challenge for a singer, she feels, is the short shelf life of the profession. “But I am still evolving by experimenting with
different genres. I recently did a jazz version of the item number ‘Sheila Ki Jawaani’. Then, I have recently started a new setup called ‘Jashn Ek Shaam’, where I have combined qawali with jazz: I collaborated with the qawaals, the Nizami brothers, and sung English songs like ‘Strangers in the Night’, which would blend beautifully with ‘Yeh Jo Halka Halka Suroor Hai’.

Shibani’s beautiful song ‘Raanjhan’ happened when she and Arko Pravo Mukherjee were jamming together. “I think when artistes are singing together, they can actually create ripples with their individual fan base,” she confesses. Shibani counts Sting as her biggest influence. “I think he is a musician extraordinaire, a great singer, songwriter, guitarist and poet. As a person, it is my mother, because she is a homemaker, a dynamic career woman, and an amazing human being. Of course, my biggest support is my husband, as he is always there for me,” she adds.

As for that one thing that she simply cannot do without? “My guitar. If I have it with me, I can simply pick it up and strum, sing and hum along. My guitar is my best companion. I like doing my rehearsal every day, so having my electric tanpura around is important too. These days, we have an application on the phone which is very convenient and handy. I tend to break into my rehearsal anytime, anywhere, in the flight, in my car, at home!”

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Melodious to the hilt

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