I have sung it all, from bhajans to Bollywood: Shubha Mudgal
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I have sung it all, from bhajans to Bollywood: Shubha Mudgal

8 years since she sang that song, she still remains the Ab Ke Sawan songstress. Shubha Mudgal tells Priya Pathiyan why the rain evokes so much passion.

entertainment Updated: Jul 02, 2007 11:15 IST
Priya Pathiyan
Priya Pathiyan

She sings mostly classical but has won the favour of the masses with her zesty pop songs. She researches lyrics from past centuries, but uses podcasts to bring them to young enthusiasts. She and her husband, tabla maestro Aneesh Pradhan , have homes in both Mumbai and Delhi and travel all over the world too.

Straddling many universes, she reinterprets cool. We caught Shubha Mudgal , working on two new albums and on the verge of launching her first classical DVD with a concert tour in Australia…

Why Australia? Why aren't you launching the DVD here?
The producer is Australian but of Indian origin. Besides, no record company in India would want a DVD on Hindustani music! Except ours and a few other exceptions. But Aneesh and I will be marketing it here through Underscore Records Pvt Ltd, our own record label, too.

<b1>When was it conceptualized and shot?
It was shot at the Track Down Studio in Sydney about a year ago, with a very professional set up. There are interviews with me as well as with Aneesh and Sudhir Nayak and even two solos of them on the tabla and harmonium respectively.

The idea of shooting and producing it was Asheesh Kalmath's. In fact, he wants to produce more work with other artistes too and I think it's a telling comment on the state of the music industry in India that someone from overseas is doing this.

You seem to be having a finger in every pie. I believe you are promoting music a lot these days..
Yes, we are involved in work that doesn't concern or affect just us as individual musicians. Earlier this month, Aneesh and I did our first workshop on 'Experimentation in Indian and Western Musical Traditions' in Ahmedabad earlier this month with a group of musicians – Niladri Kumar, Dr Ashok Ranade, Bickram Ghosh and Chitravina Ravikiran and the discussions were really great.

We started Underscore three years ago. It's an independent label that was set up for Indian musicians who wished to share their music or music-related work with music lovers across the world without having to go through the many twists and turns that conventional channels make you experience.

So how does it work? Do you launch new music?

We only distribute music through our site and Aneesh and I exercise editorial control. Any musician can sell his/her CDs, books, singles, downloads through our site non-exclusively, at their own terms and for as long as they want to.

The music remains their property, they price it as they want to, we just distribute it for them and return 80% of all sales to them. They can take it off the site when they want to, sell it through other channels too. It's theirs.

The general public still associates you with Ab Ke Sawan. How does that make you feel?
I see people — strangers on a street, or people driving by—waving to me and singing Ab Ke Sawan very often, and that's always very, very flattering. You know what, for most Indi-pop listeners, I remain the singer of Ab Ke Sawan even when it's a freezing four degrees in Delhi or blazing 44 degrees in Mumbai!

Do you ever wish that people would move on to other songs sung by you?
Yes and no! No because it's great to know that people remember a song you sang even eight years after its release. And yes, because I do have a humungous collection of monsoon-related songs, from other pop albums, as well as from my khayal, thumri-dadra-kajri-jhoola repertoire.

Because you see, an Ab Ke Sawan is a happy song with a sense of abandon, but it doesn't have the majesty of a Miyan ki Malhar or Megh , and neither does it have the romance of a piece which describes Radha and Krishna in a wooded glade, with the rains breaking all of a sudden...

How come you never got bitten by the Bollywood bug?
I have sung everything from bhajans to Bollywood. I guess the experimental streak comes from the fact that I was exposed to all kinds of music as a child—from Beatles to Kishoreda. But I figured early on that you might try to sing like Lataji or Ashaji, but even if you are good, you’d be a good copy at best…

What is it about you and the rain?
Look, the rain symbolises fertility in a way, doesn't it? And fertility, not just of the land but of creative ideas too. Which is perhaps why there are countless songs, raags, verses, odes, etc, to the rains.

First Published: Jun 30, 2007 17:30 IST