Shreya Ghoshal debuted her music career in Bollywood with Devdas in 2002. Since then, it’s only been a rollercoaster that has only been going up. All the big tentpole albums, from Bajirao Mastani to Dil Bechara have her.
She teams up with her brother, Soumyadeep Ghoshal to compose and produce her single ‘Angana Morey’. Ghoshal also wrote the lyrics for it. She chats with Sneha Menon Desai about the changes she’d like to see in the music industry, why there isn’t a female Arijit Singh and the paid marketing push that is making the music scene ‘delusional’.
I want you to talk a little bit about the freedom of not being bound by a label. What does that do for a singer?
Music labels for all these years have been basically supporting film music. Of course, nowadays they are also getting into independent, non-film music. But then it’s still completely based on numbers, and what is your relation with the artist, and have you signed on with the label. There are so many things and I have been very wary about all of these things, so I’ve always stayed away.
I think I enjoy my life when I am working through films; there is a music label anyway attached to it. But I want to do something which is not driven by stats, analytics, and who is going to listen. I think I am beyond that stage now. I really want to do the kind of music that gives me happiness and I feel my immediate fans also are waiting to hear my voice. Not just my voice, but my mental voice, what I want to do. So, that’s what independent music is doing for me.
But, like you said not everyone is as lucky or blessed to have the naseeb of being Shreya Ghoshal. In a time of so much content, do you think about things like what is the shelf-life of an Indian playback singer? How does that work?
I entered the industry in the year 2000. My first song ‘Bairi Piya’ released in 2002. That was a very different time, there were no smartphones, we didn’t have apps, we used to listen to music from CD’s and cassettes, at the most MP3. Piracy was very high that time. There was no YouTube. So I came at a time when genuinely a song or a voice had to go through a lot of processes to get out to the public. It was not so easy to reach the audience. There was a lot of filtration processes, and you had to be really good to get to be on the mic in a studio and be singing for a big film. But now, it is accessible to anyone. In a way it’s good, but at the same time it is very unfiltered. So there’s good, bad, mediocre, average, outstanding, all in the same basket. How does an audience choose what they want to listen to when they are bombarded with content? It is also so delusional right now. You see a very random kind of a melody or song touching 500 million views, but the back-story is that the person has a backing, a funding of money pushing on all kinds of promotional tools to get likes and views. So, the audience is fully lost. I don’t know if the new age sincere musician can have a shelf life. All I can request is just keep doing good music, believe in yourself and don’t let go and don’t get carried away by the whole chaos that’s surrounding you in the eco-system right now. Because somehow genuine music touches the heart and it gets appreciated, no matter what. So, my idea of shelf life is this, always stick to your roots and to your true self and be a good artist, everything else will follow.
But after having spent so long in the industry if there’s one thing you say that the music industry, we can do better, what is it that you’d like to change?
At this, at this moment lot of things. Firstly, having some trust in the creators. I wish there was a single composer for a film; one composer composing the whole sound-scape of a film, so there’s a continuity of thought, and there is some kind of semblance to the idea of being attached to a script.
It’s so essential, I feel I miss it. It’s very discordant right now, so I wish that comes back. Having a good voice casting is also important when it comes to films. Again, another very big thing is that views are not everything because it’s just throwing peoples judgement off a lot. A lot of fake pushing has happened behind a song which makes you feel that it’s a very loved song, but there’s no longevity.
You speak of longevity and that makes me want to ask you what would be you know top 5 albums over the last 5 years?
Okay let me talk about films from 2010 onwards, because it’s two different decades and two different zamaanas. Aashiqui 2 was an album which really did something, it changed the game. Everything stopped, everyone fell in love with each and every song. ‘Sunn Raha Hai Na Tu’ or ‘Tum Hi Ho’, aaj bhi woh gaana bajtaa hai and you remember it. Kitney saal ho gaye usko, sochiye aap, 7 years.
I think Bajirao Mastani, in my opinion was a fantastic album, a hardcore Indian, big sounding film music album. Every song has a story and it still feels like a part of the same album, everything about it, visual to audio. I feel Dil Bechara was a really nice album. I genuinely feel that it was absolutely perfect. I can hear the whole album in one go and want to repeat it again. Kalank was a fabulous album, from the Kalank title track, what a melody and then ‘Ghar Morey Pardesiya’, ‘Tabaah Ho Gaye’. Commercial bhi hai, sensitive bhi hai and musically enriching bhi hai, so yeh sab magic chahiye ek album se, I think there’ll be more coming soon.