“My music teacher was Radio Ceylon”, says Asmita Mankad

Kersi Meher-Homji interviews the talented Ghazal singer

In Tuesday’s e-TIDU I had reviewed the recent Mehfil-e-Suror orchestrated by Vinod Rajput and presented by Aasha Foundation for Indian seniors with disabilities. All the singers were outstanding as they poetically brought “ishq” (love and passion) in the concert hall.

However, two Ghazals (“Yun hasroaton ke” and “Aaj jane ki zidd na karo”) and one Qawwali (“Nigaahen mila ne ko jee chahta hai”) enthralled me the most.

The singer of those divine songs was the lively Asmita Mankaddressed elegantly in blue and gold that evening. It was a pleasure interviewing her exclusively for The Indian Down Under.

It surprised me that it was her first appearance in front of a large audience.

“Although I have sung in close family parties over the years, this is the first time that I have been formally exposed to a wider audience, hence was a bundle of nerves on stage. But that got better as the evening progressed, thanks to an army of supporters I had in the back of the room”, she told me.

The Q & A went on as below:

KMH: Who inspired you to sing? At what age did you start singing?

Asmita: I have been singing ever since I can remember! Not sure how old I was then but singing at school events is my earliest memory of when I started. 

KMH: Is there music in your family?

Asmita: I grew up listening to Radio Ceylon and Vividh Bharti. Mum and Dad had a keen interest in listening to the songs from the 50s, 60s and 70s. The radio was on almost all the time at home. So unwittingly the songs I heard inspired me.

KMH: Were you taught music at school or when you grew up? Or did you learn it yourself?

Asmita: To be honest, my teacher was the radio. I have learnt all the various nuances of songs unintentionally just by virtue of repetition, of them being played in the background on the radio. My parents must have recognised I had the knack for singing and would encourage me to sing at family/friends get-togethers. We did have music as one of the subjects in primary school. From memory, Miss Suman was our teacher.

But I haven’t had the opportunity to learn music formally. I knew I wasn’t going to take it up as a career and then life got in the way, so didn’t have the time to pursue it as a hobby either. So what you heard on Sunday is a result of years of singing to myself in the bathroom and in the kitchen while cooking or in the car while driving.

KMH:Were you born in India?

Asmita: Yes, I grew up in Mumbai but was born in Nagpur as it was my Mum’s maika.

KMH: When did you arrive in Sydney?

Asmita: We have been in Sydney since 1997, before which we were in Dubai for a few years.

KMH: Married? If yes, are your husband and children also interested in music?

Asmita: Married, yes, with two boys, aged 22 and 17. My boys have a natural aptitude for music and singing but are shy to sing in public. They do sing in close family functions if need be, and when I force them to!  

After many years of marriage I have now been able to influence my husband Harshendu to take more interest in music. He has a good voice and a good stage presence. He calls me his guru

My boys have played representative cricket and my husband is a cricket tragic too, but much to my chagrin, supports the Aussies over the Indians!

KMH: Is Harshendu related to India’s legendary cricketer Vinoo Mankad?

I am told Mankads are a small community, and if we dig deeper there may be some connection somewhere. But to answer your question, no, we are not directly related to Vinoo Mankad. I believe his grandson Rahul is in Melbourne?

KMH: Your profession in Sydney?

Asmita: I have a building industry background. Studied Interior Design in Mumbai and now managing a small sales and customer service team for an insulation company in Sydney.

KMH: Any other hobby?

Asmita: I like to read and watch movies to relax. I am handy around the house and like to take up small do-it-yourself projects as and when something comes up. Love to travel too as and when time and money permits.

KMH: Your favourite singer(s)?

Asmita: I am in total awe of Lata Mangeshkar but prefer to sing Asha Bhosle and Geeta Dutt songs as these suit my voice better. In the current lot of singers Shreya Ghoshal is very good and believe it or not, Alia Bhatt is growing on me. I like her voice. I also love listening to and singing along to The Carpenters, The Beatles, ABBA, Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, the list goes on…

KMH: Anything else you may like to add?

Asmita: I believe music is a divine gift. It lifts up my spirit and gives me immense pleasure and I enjoy sharing this joy. ‘So I say…thank you for the music…for giving it to me…’

Thank you Asmita for sharing your story with me and the readers of The Indian Down Under. It was a divine pleasure listening to you and other singers in Vinod’s Band Bajaa on Sunday and a privilege interviewing you.

 

 

 

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Posted by on Sep 8 2017. Filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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