In Conversation with Vasuda Sharma

It was in 2003 that the band Aasma came into existence, formed by the winners of the second edition of Channel V Popstars, the opening edition spawning the all-girl band Viva. Life has changed a lot since then for Vasuda Sharma, culminating in a very eventful 2010 when she became the first Indian artiste to perform at the POPKOMM Music Festival held as part of the Berlin Music Week. And also marked her debut as music composer with Makrand Deshpande‘s Shahrukh Bola Khoobsurat Hai Tu. Though the movie as such did not attain much success, the music has been fairly well-received. We present to you Music Aloud’s interview of Vasuda, where she talks of her past, present and future. Read on!

Let’s start with the in thing, Shahrukh Bola… How did you land up your debut movie score?

Well, I have been an ardent fan of  Makrand Deshpande as a theatrician. Regular viewer of all his plays at Prithvi. So one day I just went upto him, complimented him and told him about myself. I introduced myself as a singer. And that was the end of it. A year later I got a call from his assistant and I met him again for some acting assignment. But eventually even he figured out that it’s composing and singing that brings out the best in me. I was given just one song to start with as it was a gamble.. But his belief in me made me bag the whole score..:) I am grateful to him to give me that opportunity.

Rewinding to the start, let us hear about your musical beginnings.

My relationship with music begins when I was three. My bua (aunt) is a trained singer in Mathura. When I was really young, I used to spend a lot of time there during summer vacations and she used to teach me all the possible folk songs, Bhajans and Rasiyas and Krishna songs. I have grown up singing those songs. I remember at least a hundred of those by heart. I was never exposed to English and Bollywood film songs. But later I picked it up and started doing a variety of stuff in music, experimenting with different styles and genres. I used to regularly go for inter school and college competitions and won lots of prizes.

It all truly started for you with Aasma. Take us a bit through your Aasma days.

I never ever thought of taking up singing and composing as a career. I was in my 1st year college doing Sociology Hons in Hindu, New Delhi… All focussed to prepare myself for civil services and be an IAS officer. Everyone around, my parents and relatives and friends including myself thought I ll go for higher studies as I was really good in academics. During my summer holidays, Channel V had this Coke V Popstars 2 talent hunt in which my friends just forced me to go and give it a try. Well, honestly i didnt disclose it to my parents initially as I thought I d just do it for fun. But…. destiny had something else in store… One thing led to the other and I was in final 8. I finished my graduation while being in Popstars in 2005, it was fun juggling between shows and exams. Aasma for me has been a wonderful experience, a great beginning, a wonderful journey. The amount I have grown in these seven years being together as an artist, a musician and a performer…is insane… It’s been an incredible exposure, performing and working with great artists, getting to learn so much from them. And I have truly enjoyed every bit of it.:)

So was composing always your first love, or did you just chance upon it while singing?

I have always been writing my own songs, composing and collecting material but making music for a Bollywood flick was never in my agenda. I never pitched to get a film score. I discovered it a few years back honestly. I would write songs but keep them to myself. I think you become a little confident about something new if it’s received well the 1st time you show it to somebody. Makrand was kind enough to hear me out and really encouraged me to go forward with the same. Although I simply love singing, the best would be to sing my own songs, because that brings out the best in me.

You never pursued playback singing?

I must say I have had a very laid back attitude or to be precise I have not been actively involved in giving out my demo cds, trying to meet music directors and stuff. I know one needs to do that hard work to get that 1st break and once you’re on and appreciated, then you do really well in the industry. But surpisingly that hasn’t been the case with me. Also probably the kind of music that has been popular in the last few years didn’t really make me go all out and try to lend my voice to. But with artists like the evergreen Rahman sir and Amit Trivedi it will be an honour.

How was the experience of being the first Indian artiste to perform at the Berlin Music Festival?

Honestly speaking, when I applied I didn’t know the magnitude of it. Also the kind of bands that had participated, have been performing for years in the music circuit. When I was one of the 6 finalists, I was taken aback a bit coz I never took it seriously. Snd winning it and going to Berlin and performing, representing our country was a dream come true. I performed twice there and had so much to learn from other artists. Had a great response at the Popkomm Fest where bands from all over the world come and perform. Made a lot of friends, met a lot of business people.. Lot of developments in the pipeline.. 🙂

Any chance of an Aasma reunion, all of you being individually busy these days, Neeti with AR Rahman et al?

As opposed to what all think, it’s been 7 years Aasma has been together… and is still going strong.. We all do corporate and college gigs together as a band, travel all over India and abroad. It’s true that we all are doing our solo bit as well, while Jimmy is busy doing playback and individual gigs, Sangeet composing music for Bollywood movies along with his brother, Siddharth, Neeti busy With Rahman Sir, but we still manage our stuff and find time for the band because we are all aware of the fact that Aasma got us where we are today. Also we all are very dear to each other and great friends apart from being band members. I think thats what keeps us going.We are also jamming and coming up with a new Aasma single along with a video shortly. So watch out for the come back! 🙂

How has the response for Shahrukh Bola.. been?

Till now I have been getting all positive reviews not just from family, friends and acquaintances but people from the industry and the audience. I have been getting a lot of mails of people congratulating me for my debut. I am overwhelmed by the response, can’t thank God and them enough. I am not too sure about the album sales as everything is easily available online these days. The response has been thankfully positive

Was the acappella song Hasna Hasana a deliberate nod to Bobby McFerrin? The lyrics and the arrangement seemed to be along the same lines.

I have been performing live as a one woman band where I do vocal arrangements myself, make the whole music in a loop and then sing the main song over it. I have always been in love with the concept of acappella, where there are only voices and no instruments at all not even a hand percussion. This wasn’t made as a part of the movie, but i made Makrand listen to it just for his knowledge, explaining him what accapella is… And he instantly liked it… He told me to write something related to the situation in the movie and that’s how the song was made. As for the similarity well it’s a co incidence and I am flattered that it reminds one of that song.. 🙂

Could you tell us a bit about your upcoming projects?

Currently I am working on the score for Mr Govind Nihalani’s animation film. Its title is still not decided but it’s about a little camel in the hot deserts of Rajasthan. It’s a lot of fun composing for it.. Another one… a musical.. Will start working on it by next year… So yeah.. lots to look forward to.