Saturday, April 16, 2011
Vidya Shah: Singing for women: The Republica, Kathmandu
KATHMANDU, April 12: She’s a classically trained singer, researcher, writer, and a social activist. Her talents are many, but she says, “Singing is closest to my heart. It’s the way I express myself best. All the other things I do are to support my singing, broaden my knowledge on the subject.”
Vidya Shah, the talented Delhi-based artist, was here as a performer for the Melba Devi Mahotsav on April 11 and 12.
She gave a multimedia presentation about her project, “Women on Record” and enthralled the audience with her powerful voice at the Army Officers’ Club in Kathmandu on Monday.
Talking about her project, Shah explained, “During one of my musical performances, I was asked by an elderly gentleman to listen to some women singers of the early 20th century in India. Then I was introduced to a whole new world of music.”
This started her research to unearth the gramophone records of South Asian women singers of the early 20th century.
“Those were the times when the Indian Subcontinent was one musically. There were many women in that era who sang beautifully, but their talents were restricted to their homes.
“But the invention of the gramophone was a boon for them. Women didn’t have to be seen; they could follow their passion by recording their music and not have to come out in the limelight,” she added.
Shah performs those age-old renditions in her concerts along with her own compositions.
Trained initially in Karnatic music, Shah’s teachers include singer Subha Mudgal and Shanti Hiranand.
Secure in her career as a classical singer, Shah discerns popular music derived from classical music.
“Film music has always been popular. There’s no use in comparing it with, or complaining about the devaluation of, classical music.” According to her, classical music has its own audience, “its own niche.” “The audience I sing or play to may not be counted in thousands but I connect with each one of them in person.”
Having performed in prestigious events like the India Festival at Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, Assilah International Festival, Morocco, and the Bode Museum in Berlin, the singer likes to interact with her audience.
“The audience in the West and the East are different, but as an artist, I’m exposed to newer reactions.” She exemplifies her recent performance at Patan Musuem where the audience sang bhajans along with her.
“I wouldn’t be able to get that reaction from the audience in Europe but they are good listeners. I’m often applauded for the way eastern classical music treats the abstract.”
Hugely inspired by the works of poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, she enjoys singing to his lines. In a concert one month ago in Bangladesh, she was particularly touched by the reaction of one of the listeners. She had sung Faiz’s lines as recorded by a Bangladeshi female artist during the gramophone era.
The artist’s brother happened to attend the concert and expressed his gratitude to her for having revived his sister’s legacy.
She came across the works of Melba Devi Gurung while working on her project and mentions that her life and work is a testimony of women empowerment.
“Having come from the Gurung community and traveled so far to fuel her passion, she’s a great source of inspiration.”
The multifaceted singer has penned numerous articles on music, gender and other social issues. Currently, Vidya Shah works as the Program Director of the Centre for Media and Alternative Communication (CMAC).
Published on 2011-04-12 11:57:18