By Surangya Kaur:
It’s a non-working weekday and Shubhangi is making the most of it away from work, trying to figure out the lyrics for a new song. She is twenty five and has released her first extended play (Talking Away The Night) as well as her first book of poetry (To Stir Up an Ornate Nest) not too long ago. Her EP is a collection of four songs with varying themes and influences; from acoustic, soft rock to jazz and her poetry is a reflection of her routine encounters questioning variegated social issues. (Source)
Her journey as a musician started when she stumbled across her elder sister’s guitar at the age of twelve. Enthralled by the sounds of the haphazardly plucked strings, she decided she wanted to learn as well. Her lessons could only last for a couple of months after which the family had to move, so Shubhangi decided to take the plethora of resources on the Internet as her guru.
Being a self taught musician, I have relied upon my ear a great deal more than theory to create songs and construct melody. I tend to rely on my gut and what sounds strange and beautiful to my ear and what does not. But I do realize that I need to keep working on theory if I have to evolve and better myself, and I am working on that.
Her philosophy as a solo musician is simple: ‘Create songs that make you curious, that give you room to relate to it, and with interesting lyrics.‘ She draws her inspiration and strength from artists of the likes of Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Vai, Paco De Lucia and Tomatito. In her words: They are the Gods – just listening to their music affects one very deeply. I love the way they emote through their music. John Mayer and Nick Drake have influenced my music with their song writing style. I am also a big fan of Norah Jones and Eva Cassidy for their unique vocal style.
Often it isn’t just the music but the lives and the adversities our idols face which rejuvenates our sinews under the hardest strains.
The way both Vai and Satriani put in everything they had to pursue music professionally; Vai’s father had to sell off his life insurance to get him into Berklee School of Music. Satriani took a huge loan to record his first album, with no guarantee of how he would pay it back. Nick Drake and Hendrix were both way ahead of their time. Drake’s singer- songwriter style of music is catching on now, but he composed in his unique style back then, even when no one around him was playing that kind of music. Yngwie Malmsteen was locked up in his room creating the unique genre of Neo Classical Metal when all of Sweden was favouring Abba. All these musicians were intensely passionate about music and they put everything on the line for this one love. It has given me courage to have a little faith in myself and push on.
Her music can be called off beat when compared to the melodies being synthesized in mainstream Bollywood; the dominant and trendsetting music in India which can be fickle in its quality, stirring mild frissons at times or spine chillingly moving at others. What place does she think her genre has right now and how is the stage set for her future?
It’s slowly making inroads. I hear traces of it now and then and it thrills me. Like the title song of Jaane tu ya jaane na by Rahman – It has classic Jazz written all over it. The chords of ‘Ab mujhe koi intezar kahan’ from Ishqiya are drawn from Jazz. The contemporary music in Bollywood is slowly opening up to experimenting with other genres, which is great. But there is still a long way to go. This experimenting has given opportunities to singers with a western bent – which is a good thing. It’s a positive change.
Asking her about her writing, she lists out names of a diverse array of writers who have moved her and influenced her over the years to pen down her poems in the style that she has.
I read works of poets such as Gieve Patel, Eunice de Souza, Maya Angelou, Faiz, and Jayanta Mahapatra. What impacted me most was the raw way in which they put across their message. They did not follow a pre defined protocol of writing poetry; they used powerful words brought out in their truest form. I remember the poems ‘Marriages are made’ ‘When Autumn came’, ‘Killing a tree’. These were the words that influenced my decision to use poetry as a medium to get my message across.
Her poems, in a nutshell, strongly advocate feminism and challenge the patriarchal mindset of the society.
From patriarchy stems the notion that women do not belong. They are strangers – first in their own home, then in their homes post marriage. A lot of my poems deal with various facets of this issue and how it affects both men and women in our daily lives. I wish my words affect the readers in some way, at least to make them realize that things don’t have to be the way they are.
Juggling between her job, music and writing, Shubhangi is constantly working on new material and plans to release it as soon as they amass a sizable volume. She also intends to focus on performing both her music and poetry on public platforms to connect with people and reach a larger audience. Well, let’s hope that happens soon!