Hours before they jam for a unique gig, Girls and Guitars, a few power girls of Indie music tell Suprita Mitter about being a woman musician in India, and the change that is sweeping across the music-scape
Being a woman musician: Since I was four, I learnt a lot of Brij Rasiyas and Krishna Bhajans and Folk songs. I also took part in singing competitions in school and college. However, it was never taken as a career option. Since I maxed in academics, I was expected to apply to be an IAS officer. In fact, I was preparing for it in my first year in college. In 2003, friends insisted that I audition for an all-India talent hunt by Channel V. Little did I know that life would change forever. It is a great scene for independent artists, male or female. The idea is to form a community of musicians who work in harmony and where gender doesn’t matter. Change for the better? Things have changed in the last decade. The Indie scene is ever growing. I took the Indie route in 2010. Since then, there’s been an explosion of artistes and bands with more opportunities and venues/festivals for them to play at. I went to Berklee for a year, and it changed my perspective towards music, and life in general. The upside of being an Indie musician (not gender-based) is to be able to express your song the way you want it to be, which is absolutely unadulterated freedom.
Being a woman musician: I don’t see the distinction with gender. At the risk of sounding sexist, the upside of being a woman musician is, if you manage to present yourself in a glamorous light, opportunities are less resistant in presenting themselves, but this is true across genders. The flip side is that our country isn’t the ideal place to rejoice being a woman, but we still do. It could be much worse. It comes down to who knows who, how good you’re with business, and how much can you push to see your vision through. Bias exists, but it’s governed by economics. Current scene: In Mumbai, there has been a marked fall in the number of venues hosting live music. So much for evolution. There’s not much reason to inspire or be inspired when you have no space to execute your learning.
Being a woman musician: After I got married at a young age into a traditional set-up, I occupied myself singing songs and playing the guitar. Learning music became the focus of my life alongside bringing up my children. At one level, it was easy because this is my passion. At another level, it was tough, as any pursuit of an artistic existence does not come with a stamp of approval if you’re from a traditional business family. In the past, a few men have told me that a pretty face opens more doors. The face is not going to continue to bring the audiences if your music cannot talk, or make people feel.
Current scene: Independent music has come a long way, but it has a much longer way to go. We need more venues and more people to invest energies and resources into it. We were all floating around in our arenas, and were following our dreams, independently. But now we know of one another and can collaborate. Technology has been partly responsible. The listeners are there, but the connect is not happening in a way that is financially viable as an industry to sustain independent music.
Being a woman musician: I grew up in Buffalo, New York. Initially, I was drawn to singing from the school choir, and my brother played guitar. I began songwriting in my teenage years, often taking poems I wrote and placing them to guitar melodies. In my college years, I sang lead vocals and played rhythm guitar in a band before moving to Los Angeles in the mid-1990s. I began performing on my own as a singer-songwriter in LA where I realised that music would be integral to my life. Music and India: India has an extraordinary music history in all its forms. My tiny glimpse of the new generation of musicians looks creative and unique. During this visit, I met Geetu and learnt of Alicia, Vasuda and Gowri. It is inspiring to be introduced to their unique voices and music.
On: Today, 9.30 pm onwards
At: blueFrog, Mathuradas Mills, Lower Parel.
Also catch Alisha Pais perform at this gig.
Ruchika Tiku, Programming Head, blueFROG
The talent was always there. The visible change is in the availability of more platforms to showcase it. More importantly, it’s not just about vocalists and songwriters anymore. An increasing number of skilled women musicians, multi-instrumentalists and music producers, are also emerging.