It was almost a year back (just 4 days short in fact) that we interviewed singer/songwriter Vasuda Sharma. And now we present our conversations with her bandmate from Aasma – currently riding high on her performances in JTHJ, SOTY and MTV Unplugged alongside A R Rahman – Neeti Mohan. Really happy to be posting this on Neeti’s birthday! We wish her a year filled with a lot of wonderful music. Read on then.
Starting with the musical beginnings as usual..
Musical journey began at a very young age when I used to frequently travel with my parents from Delhi to Iskcon temple Vrindavan. I used to get mesmerized by Lord Krishna devotees dressed up wearing garlands, saris, playing mridangam and singing and dancing in front of the God. They used to look so happy and lost in their own world. So I started dressing up in my mom’s sari, did make up ,wore garlands and started singing bhajans with them. That’s what i used look forward to every visit. And I started performing like that in my house and school.
I also used to copy all Lata ji’s semi classical songs and bhajans from films and private albums. Then I went to a Boarding school in Pilani Rajasthan where i repeatedly heard AR Rahman sir’s Roja,Bombay etc and singing became a serious hobby. Started winning prizes in school and inter school singing competitions. Being in Rajasthan for 6 years helped me pick up local folk and traditional music as well.
Aasma was the first major break for you I suppose? Tell us a bit about how you got there? And the experience? How life changed with Aasma?
Aasma was a turning point in my life, In 2003 my family almost forced me to audition for Popstars contest on Channel V, more so coz they had seen the success of the former band Viva. And they had faith in me that I would win and I did.
3 albums, overnight fame, Chandu ke chacha, hecame part of one of the most famous bands of India, moved to Mumbai for good etc. A lot happened due to Aasma. Singing in a band introduced me to western music. I learnt how to sing harmonies, parts, duets, all 4 together… Learnt a lot from the talented Jimmy, Sangeet and Vasudha. And formed a family with them in Mumbai away from my own.
Remember Vasuda telling me in her interview with us in late 2010 that Aasma is working on a single. Still happening?
Looking forward to it but not sure when it would finally happen.
So from Aasma, how did you end up in the troupe of your idol A R Rahman?
I had sent my demo for AR Sir’s US-Canada tour in 2007. As they were looking for a fresh voice and I made it through. It was again a life changing experience for me. And Since then i have been part of almost all his concerts world over. In all I must have done about 40 −50 concerts with him so far.
Cant be without asking this – how has the experience of working with the man been? Any memorable incidents?
Dream come true. Coz when I was in my boarding school I used to listen to his music a lot. And all I ever wanted to do was quietly sneak into AR Sir’s studio and just keep listening to his music. My friends used to tell me that I was mad. So totally a dream come true.
Well I was shivering when I met him the first time and I still shiver when I meet him
I really regard him as my mentor. Knowingly or unknowingly he has taught me that music is beyond sur taal and lyrics. It’s a way of life; you feel the music from the purest form of your own self, or in other words Sir has taught me how to live . He is divine. I can go on writing so I better stop here.
Bittoo Boss, SOTY and now the biggie JTHJ. Why so long to get into B Town? Is it that you gave playback singing a skip due to gigs? Or did the right opportunity evade you?
For me music is a journey and I am on it since my childhood. I have had no control over the opportunities that came my way. All I did was give my best in whatever did. Also since I don’t belong to a musical family, it took me time to find people of my interest. I am still in the process of meeting more like minded musicians.
Ishq wala love and Jiya Re have come at the same time in big films thats why they have been noticed. So it feels great that people are appreciating my voice, singing and versatility. Gigs came very naturally to me coz I had done a lot of stage work since childhood. And when you are a good performer gigs happen faster. So no complaints. Now I am doing recording and gigging both together.
Now that you have made a start, can we expect more playback from you?
You came out with your first private single recently. A complete album is in the works too, I would assume?
My First single – Ja Ja – just happened and I want more singles and albums to happen. Coz music just happens. My second single is ready. Video needs to be shot . It’s again composed by me and co-written by me and my father.
Was this your first experience at composing/writing or were you involved in that even while at Aasma?
With Aasma i was learning from Vasudha , Sangeet and Jimmy how to write and compose coz I had never done that before. Ja Ja is my first song writing experience and my family encouraged me to make a video. And now it’s gonna play on MTV Roots. For any artist it’s a wish to have their song play on MTV.
So what do you like the most among singing, composing and lyrics writing? Why?
I like singing the most coz that’s how i express myself best. I haven’t done composing or writing as much, So I would say that I am exploring!
You were also part of the recent MTV Unplugged episode. A bit about the experience?
MTV unplugged was totally a new experience for me. Live audience and a new version of “Jaane tu” created by Ranjit Barot Sir, singing with AR sir, choir, amazing musicians. Lived it and Loved it.
In fact I get to feature on MTV Unplugged multi artist episode again with Jiya Re’s new version. So thankful to AR sir that I got to feature twice.