The power of Imogen-ation

English singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Imogen Heap is completely at ease with her iconic status, as we found out when we caught up with the Grammy Award-winning artiste, who performed in the city last week

Samantha Hale says she is not a filmmaker. And yet, her admission forms 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 over four years to create in the wake of her father's death. Devastated, she believed music helped her heal, and set about trying to examine if others felt the same Rachael Yamagata, 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 draw, in the process, is a 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 musical television series The Dewarists. It is to her performances that Hale and others turn to time and again, citing the hold she has on her audience.

Pics/ Nimesh Dave

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. Surrounded by instruments, she flits across stage with microphones attached to her wrists, deploying samples at will. When not on stage though, she comes across as calm, measured and -- as we found out when we met her at a surprisingly quiet hotel in Juhu -- completely at ease with her iconic status.

We began our conversation by asking if shows in India came as a relief from the West, where her set-lists changed according to demands made by hardcore fans. "I do have a set of songs I have to do," Heap admitted, "because I ask fans to vote in advance. It's my way of democratising the choice of set-list."

When asked why her music isn't available in India, she replied, "I'm upset that people can't go out and buy it, but I think we are in a transitional phase. The technology to download music exists, but we haven't caught up with it."

That situation may change though, if the response to Minds Without Fear (her collaboration with musician Vishal Dadlani) is anything to set store by. "He's great to work with," Heap said. "We had just four days to record, but there was no argument; it just felt right."

After a discussion that includes everything from emerging technologies online to forthcoming projects, we are left with the sense that Heap is an artiste more comfortable than most with pushing boundaries. It's easy to see why fans adore 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.

Heap, in pieces
On March 9, 2009 Imogen invited fans, via her YouTube vBlog, to write her biography in not more than 140 characters, using micro-blogging site Twitter. Edited snippets from that experiment:
> Imogen Heap is an English artist whose songs transcend time and place to conjure digital dreamscapes of love, loss and hopefulness.
> A Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist, who began writing music by her 13th birthday.
> At age 5, she crept downstairs in the middle of the night, carved her name in BIG letters on the grand piano lid and swore it wasn't her.
> 2002 saw a new side to Imogen as she embarked on a short collaborative journey with Guy Sigsworth, forming electronica duo Frou Frou.
> Frou Frou also recorded a version of Bonnie Tyler's 'Holding Out For A Hero' for the closing credits of Shrek 2.
> Heaps' fans include chat show hosts David Letterman and Jay Leno, as well celebrity blogger and TV personality Perez Hilton.
> She was one of the first artistes to bring her music to a new audience via MySpace, iTunes, YouTube and her blog.
> In 2007, Imogen was nominated for Best New Artist and Best Song Written For Motion Picture for 'Can't Take It In' at the 49th Grammy Awards.
> With new confidence and determined to have complete creative control, Imogen remortgaged her flat to fund her second solo album.
> Avant-garde. Otherworldly. Comforting.Tantalising. Heaven on a disc.

Caught on camera
Map the Music is an independent film that traces filmmaker and music lover Samantha Hale's quest to understand the healing power of music, post the death of her father.

Hale follows some of her favourite artistes, including Imogen Heap, Rachael Yamagata and Jim Bianco from concert to concert around America, interviewing devoted fans, as well as the source(s) for their devotion.

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