Despite her Jazz and Blues background, singer-songwriter Rachel Varghese has already made waves with her vocals in the recent films, NH10 and Margarita With A Straw. Suprita Mitter listens in on her journey
Q. Tell us about your first break in Bollywood playback?
A. I first did playback for 'NH10' starring Anushka Sharma and Neil Bhoopalam. It was a song called Kya Karein. I have no formal training in music. I am a musician, I have been singing since school. A friend's friend was doing two songs for NH10. The film didn't have any lip sync songs. The director and music director wanted a particular song for a scene in the movie, after which, Anushka kills everyone. They thought I fit the bill. So I recorded for it; I wasn't sure because in Bollywood a lot of singers dub a song and then one voice is chosen. Here, it was very close between me and another singer. Finally, the director and music director chose to go with mine. Then, Choone Chali Aasman from 'Margarita With A Straw' came soon after.
Q.What kind of music do you like?
A. I love Blues, Rock, and Western sounds. I had a band in college called Zphyr. We also won the Channel V Launchpad. I was about 16 then. At 22-23 years, I took to music seriously. In 2012, I played with a lot of bands. Mikey (McCleary) spotted me at one of these gigs.
Q.What are some of the biggest challenges that Western musicians face if they wish to work for Bollywood?
A. There are many talented Western musicians who don't get heard. In my case, I met the right people at the right time. Networking is a problem. The industry for Western musicians is very different. I never imagined that Bollywood would happen. I am not much of a Hindi singer. It was a big deal for me that Bollywood music directors liked my work. If you notice, none of my songs are typical Bollywood songs. I worked with Mikey on his project Bartenders too. Bollywood commercial music doesn't have much Western influence. Of late, this is changing with music directors like Pritam, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Amit Trivedi and Mikey. A lot is in the hands of a producer.
Q. Your advice to new entrants who are keen to be commercially successful.
A. I made an effort to be seen. I worked hard and performed for five years and then got spotted. I struggled for work in those five years. If you love what you do, it's worth it.
>> What do you enjoy doing the most? I love performing live as that is who I am. I am an entertainer first and then a singer. The energy of the person at a live gig and live music is what keeps
>> What's next? I would love to do Bollywood. There are a few offers. A track I did might feature in the
>> Recent Bollywood song that you liked and are currently listening to: Mohabat Badi Beemari (Bombay Velvet)
>> An actress that you would like to do playback for: I have already done songs for Anushka Sharma; she is my current favourite.
>> Music directors you want to work with: Pritam and Amit Trivedi