As a six-year old, she would conjure up poems during showers. Eventually, she started keeping a diary and a pen in the bathroom. As years rolled by, poet Rochelle D’silva (32) started penning down verses at odd hours of the day. Sometimes, she says, she records voice notes in the middle of the night and listens to them in the morning. More recently, she has found herself writing poetry during her commute on packed Mumbai locals.
She is now ready with six spoken word pieces based on her life experiences, for her debut EP, Best Apology Face. “There’s no process to my writing. My work is largely autobiographical,” she says, adding, “The album is my response to how rough 2016 was for me at a personal level. While my relationship with poetry was flourishing, my relationship with self and love was failing miserably. If you know my poetry, you know me.”
D’silva’s experiences of growing up around the world — Mumbai, Dubai, Bengaluru and Melbourne — project themselves in her spoken word pieces. Interestingly, the writer didn’t pursue poetry or literature academically. After completing her graduation in journalism in Bengaluru, she moved to Melbourne for a masters degree in mass media. That’s when she found her true calling, frequenting performances by the poetry circles of Melbourne.
“After attending a series of poetry slams, I started attending poetry workshops. I knew I wanted to pursue it seriously; it was more than just a hobby,” says D’silva.
She relocated to Mumbai in 2013, and continued exploring the poetry scene in the city, but was disappointed. So, she took it upon herself to establish a platform for young aspiring poets. She started a monthly property, Words Tell Stories (WTS), an open mic platform for poet to share their works.
Yet, three years after she launched WTS, she still feels the lack of passion for the medium among young writers. The reason, she says, is the lack of spoken word albums in India. For instance, D’silva points out that all of her that her favourite poets — Gil Scott-Heron, Luka Lesson, Sean Whalen and Joel McKerrow — all have released their own EPs. And that fact, in turn, inspired her to create her own.
“The concept of EPs for poets is popular in the west, as well as in Australia,” says D’silva. Before working on the EP, she collaborated with multiple jazz artists and fiddlers in Australia, until she decided to record her poetry with her friend, music-producer Meena Shamaly. Once the verses were finalised, D’silva says it took them only a day to record the album.
“Meena played the grand piano, and the process was spontaneous. There was a lot of improvisation too. I feel if I perform the same poems with another artist, they will be different,” she says.
And while the launch event will see a host of spoken word performances — by artists such as Harnidh Kaur, Aranya Johar and Dan Husain, to name a few — D’silva feels there’s a long way to go if the poetry community has to flourish in India. “Writing poetry seems to be a hobby for all, but nobody has the will to make it a profession,” she says.
The EP will be launched on March 25, at The Barking Deer Brewpub And Restaurant, Lower Parel, 7 pm onward.