Shilpa Rao, the soulful songstress

Neeru Saluja - Shilpa Raosmall
By Neeru Saluja

Singer Shilpa Rao is on a high note. Her latest song ‘Meherbaan’ from ‘Bang Bang’ is topping the music charts. She has struck the right chord once again with her soulful voice. The girl who became an overnight singing sensation with ‘Khuda Jaane’ is now becoming Bollywood’s most sought after singer.

Whether it was the high energetic track ‘Malang’ from ‘Dhoom 3’, ‘Ishq Shava’ from Jab Tak hai Jaan or the soulful ‘Manmarziyaan’ from ‘Lootera’, Shilpa Rao sings every song from her heart. Despite tasting success at a very young age, she has her feet firm on the ground. She moved to Mumbai from Jamshedpur to make a career in singing and has found her niche with starting from singing jingles to forming her own band.

The Indian Down Under interviewed the singer where she leisurely tells us about her journey, working with Rahman, style of singing and what sets her apart from others.

You came to Mumbai from Jamshedpur – all away from the stardom of Bollywood. How did you get your first break?

Jamshedpur is a small town but it’s full of enterprising people. I grew up learning music from my dad. Music was always a part of our home and he used to take me to concerts. Music didn’t become a part of my life but became me. I never thought I’ll become a musician! I met Hariharan uncle and my life got reconfigured. I got my break with musician Shankar Mahadevan. He mentored me and guided me on how to start off. After singing advertising jingles for three years, he gave me a song for Salaam e-ishq.

You’ve been in the news for singing ‘Malang’ from Dhoom 3 which is a very high energy track. What inspired you to bring out that kind of energy?

Malang was quite a combination. It’s got a Sufi grip and is very energetic. The whole energy of the song has an emotion attached to it. I felt a direct connection to the pace and energy of the song which inspired to bring out the best in me. Hats off to Pritam for Malang, it was fantastic working with him.

Besides working with Pritam, you have also worked with the music maestro AR Rahman. How was the experience?

It was real fun working with Rahman. I used to hear that he is very quiet. When I met him I was surprised to find him chatty and engaging. It was quite a memorable picture, once I entered the room, it was Rahman, Yash Chopra, Gulzar, Aditya Chopra all sitting together. I thought these guys are legends, but they were still working so hard on this song. I took back so much from the room. It was not only the song Ishq shava from Jab Tak hai jaan!

How do you define your style of singing? What’s your USP?

It’s actually quite simple. I take the song over me. Once you understand the song, you emote it accordingly. As long as you understand the song and it’s got good lyrics, it’s easy to sing. My USP – I have never sung for myself, I always sing for someone; each song is very personal for me.

What’s your riyaaz regime like?

I used to do more riyaaz when I was learning. Now it’s more of adapting. So much is happening with the vocal and production that you need to keep yourself updated. We have to travel, record, perform ”“ we need to keep our vocals preserved.

So do you think the way music is created has changed now?

Music has changed the same way people and movies have changed. There is a change in the music, genre and a big shift in the type of movies being released. You have to talk to the director about his conception; you have to stretch your imagination and relate yourself to the song. The human emotions are the same, the difference lies in the production and packaging of the song these days.

Tell us about your band cloud nine. How does it differ from Bollywood singing?  

I started my band, Cloud Nine, years ago. I have also featured in MTV Unplugged and coke studio. This is beyond my Bollywood work. I’m happy with the response from people. You can’t compare as both of them have a different reaction from fans. Both are overwhelming. It’s different when you are singing for Bollywood. When you are doing work on your own it has to inspire you.

In your seven year career of playback singing what would you term your highs?

The best part about my work is I don’t even feel as it’s my work. I’ve done 2-3 songs a year and have received more than what I dreamt of. Thanks to social media you can get your fans’ messages and that’s what keeps you motivated. You suddenly feel as someone is expecting something from you. I have definitely received more than what I ever imagined. I have worked with a lot of people I have ever dreamt of.

Would you like to say anything to your fans in Australia?

I love Australia and would love to perform there one day. I want to thank all my fans. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been where I am.

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