Sona Mohaptra talks all things music in this latest, exclusive interview. Read on to know more about her new song Naina from Sonam Kapoor starrer Khoobsurat and her views on the present condition of the country's pop industry.What's the song Naina, your new song, all about? How did you come about it?
Its a love ballad that appears at the turning point of the movie I was given to believe. To experience a young 23-year-old composer like Amaal Malik come up with a composition like Naina re-affirms my belief in timeless, soulful music and that every generation will give birth to those who value, celebrate and cherish such music.
The current musical landscape might be full of trend and fashion based 'me-too' creations, some of which even I like dancing to, but a song like Naina is a privilege to interpret. There is a graph to be travelled, an emotional story to be told in the song and I really enjoyed the whole process.
Naina was in fact pretty much a last minute entry into the soundtrack and included a lot of stress of making sure we crossed the finishing line just in time.
Regarding, 'getting' a song from the producers, I am the wrong person to ask. I have hardly sung any songs outside of my set up, Omgrown Music. I've stopped speculating as to what the various reasons for this could be. In this case, I have shared a very warm camaraderie with Sonam Kapoor everytime I've met her at various events and she has always complimented me on my unique style of singing.
Considering Khoobsurat is amongst the few films in the testosterone heavy landscape, that showcases a feminine perspective and character, I was happy to have received a call from the producer Rhea Kapoor to come over and check if I would like to sing this song and bring something special to the mix.
It helped that the whole team of Khoobsurat is very young and have no pre conceived notions and are willing to try something new. The label T-Series and Bhushan Kumar have released my songs Ambarsariya and Jiya Laage Na from Fukrey and Talaash last year apart from some very successful music in Satyamev Jayate like Mujhe Kya Bechega Rupaiya, and the success of those would have helped lower any concerns they might've had earlier. To be honest, its a very organic process and there is no big science or art to it. The key for any artiste is to persevere and last it out and keep the Riyaaz going !
Also read: Do not play it safe: Sona Mohapatra
You are one of the few Indian musicians who have collaborated with western bands/singers (David bowie, INXS post Michael Hutchence). Is there anything different in western musicians that we, Indians don't have/ or should perhaps strive to do?
I think the biggest difference is the sheer amount of music we put out and the speed of it. Musicians, composers and singers in the west can afford to work on one thing at a time and we just don't have that luxury. They have a concept of residuals and royalties that make them secure enough to focus and enjoy the creative process I would think.
There's also a commitment to your own personality and unique style in the West and I try to incorporate that aspect in my music. I think versatility is overrated. I cant understand why, we in India pay a lot of emphasis to being 'versatile' and count it as a big virtue. I have no intention of becoming one of those chameleons who changes colour on will. Every song that I sing has to pass through the Sona 'filter', pompous as this might sound.
This filter has evolved on the basis of my life experiences, choices and taste buds and also carries the spirit of stories and history read, characters, art, places seen, artists that I admire, my travels, so much as it is! To incorporate all this into my singing is what I aspire to do.
Censor Board's chairperson, Leela Samson, recently said that the quality of lyrics is dropping and they are becoming worse and 'dirty', day by day. Do you think that's the case?
I think language constantly changes with society. That's the beauty of it and the more we accept it, the easier it will be for different generations to talk to one another. There's only good and bad music, so let the audience decide what they like 'cos we plenty of both at the moment! We have too many moral watchdogs who believe they know what's best for the rest of us and they're wrong. The 'niyat' and context of the song needs to be kept in mind before we judge it and even so, its for parents to watch over what their children are upto and consuming.
Also read: I want to go beyond singing: Sona Mahapatra
You must remember the time when we had a thriving pop industry. Completely independent on its own, we used to see videos of you, Ram, and other pop acts (like Aryans, Alisha, Falguni Pathak etc) on television. For a few years that was completely missing. Now thanks to music festivals, independent music is coming up again. Do you think, there will be a time in future, when independent music will be (again) independent from Bollywood music? Is Bollywood to blame for this industry's decline?
Bollywood's not to blame for the Indian Pop music industry's decline. It's the myopic vision of the record companies and the greed of artists that really hurt it the most. Singers would rather hog all the returns of a successful record while the the songwriter, composer and music producer barely got any returns. Case in point is a story from my home, Tanha Dil was a song and album that defined Shaan's career and as the singer of the album he receives 'royalty' from the music company EMI till this date, apart from receiving key visibility and love from the audience that resulted in live gigs and other opportunities and revenue.
The person who spent the most backbreaking time on the album's of the singer and created, produced, composed and mixed the songs, Ram Sampath, barely broke even, infact lost money and had all his rights taken away and does not get a cent from the music label and there are several such cases from that era.
How would any one feel motivated to be be a song-writer and composer in such a scenario? Without good songs, there can be no good records or any kind of industry. It had to die. Having said that, I must add that I do believe in the next generation of Indian artists, creators and musicians will make their mark as they are really passionate about creating their own original ideas and I see films as only one colour of the Great Indian cultural rainbow and not the be all and end all.