In conversation with Imogen Heap

Samantha Hale says she is not a filmmaker. She admits to never having been to film school. And yet, her admissions form part of a voiceover at the beginning of her documentary titled 'Map The Music'. Part road trip, part soul search, it is an hour-long film that took Hale a little over four years to create in the wake of her father's death. Devastated by her loss, she believed it was a love of music that helped her heal, and set about trying to examine if others felt the same way.

The film (currently available at follows fans of musicians like Rachael Yamagata, Kate Havnevik, Zoe Keating and Jim Bianco. These aren't ordinary fans though; they are followers who, like Hale, walk in the shadows of their icons, trudging to as many live performances as they can in the hope of salvation. What Hale manages to tap into and draw, in the process, is an interesting parallel between music and faith: a belief system of sorts that helps keep millions sane.

At the centre of all this footage lies the force that is Imogen Heap � the Essex-born, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, Twitter-star and recent collaborator on acclaimed musical television series The Dewarists. It is to Heap's live performances that Hale, other fans, even other musicians, turn to time and again, citing the hold she has on her audience.

Those lucky enough to have seen Heap live � she played at Mumbai's blueFrog last week, following an appearance at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender festival in Pune � will testify to her manic energy that drives every performance. Surrounded by all manner of musical instruments, she flits across stage using what can only be described as microphones attached to her wrists, pulling and discarding samples at will.

When not on stage, Heap comes across as calm, measured and � as I found out when I met her at a surprisingly quiet hotel in Juhu, Mumbai � completely at ease with the status she has long enjoyed. She helpfully fiddled around with my mobile phone's audio recorder, coaxing it to life whenever it stopped (which was every five minutes). After a discussion that included everything from emerging technologies online to forthcoming projects in China, I was left with the sense that Heap is an artiste more comfortable than most with pushing boundaries. It was easy to see why fans adored her. That she intends to play here again is testament to the fact that there are enough of us interested. For that, we ought to be thankful.

Excerpts from our conversation:

Map the Music tracks a number of hardcore fans who clearly seem to immerse themselves in the music you create. Do smaller concerts, like your recent ones in India, come as a relief? Are you free to play the music you want to, as opposed to what your fans demand?

I do actually have a set of songs I have to do, because I ask fans to vote in advance. The reason is I have so many songs and often go to a city where people like a particular one. There's no way of knowing what they like in advance. This is my way of doing my best to democratise the choice of set-list and also to take the pressure off me in case they get it wrong.


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