Shibani Kashyap is a popular Indian music composer and singer who achieved fame by singing the signature tune of the AIR FM and Amul India. She is known for composing music in the Sufi-western blend and has released many hit songs in her 20 years of career. She is also a popular name in Bollywood.
How are you? And how are you keeping your spirits high in such depressing times?
Yes, you are right. These are very trying times but just remember one thing that tough times don’t last but tough people do. So, we have to be tough. We have to stay very positive. We have to keep engaging into activities at home which will keep us happy and keep our hopes up.
So, I begin my day with yoga. Yoga is a very good way of life. It’s not just an exercise but also makes you holistically very evolved. It’s very healing. I feel very blessed that I am a musician as I get to do my Riyaaz (practice my singing) everyday. But even if you are not a musician, I would suggest that you should listen to music because music has healing properties. It lights up your mood.
In this time, you can spend time with your family, bond with them. People can spend time in the kitchen and polish their cooking skills. And there’s so much else that one can do. You can do your writing, you can practice your acting, music etc. There’s so much time these days that you can focus on yourself and also focus on introspecting on your inner being that what are you really dreaming of achieving in this lifetime.
And of course, mediation helps. Even if you don’t meditate, it’s important to listen to some soothing chants and matras and maybe, some other meditation music that’s available on Youtube. It brings a positivity in your aura.
What kind of music are you listening to these days?
I am listening to every kind of music. I begin my day with some spiritual chants and mantras. When I am doing Yoga, I listen to powerful and energetic music to get the body worked out and to help me burn some calories. And when I am doing the Pranayam, then I listen to some soothing music.
In these tough days, I would recommend listening or chanting Mahamrityunjay Mantras. It is a very powerful mantra.
How much do you miss your live concerts?
A lot. Even the dreams I get at night are about me packing my bags, leaving for some other city or country, and I am on the stage just about to start my show. I miss it so much. I can’t believe that within a matter of weeks, the scenario has changed so much and we are back to being locked up at home.
You recently got vaccinated against Covid-19. How was your experience?
It was a wonderful experience. I really have to compliment the medical workers and staff of that particular hospital here in Delhi. They used all the precautions and they didn’t allow too many people to sit in that particular room where the vaccination was happening. At one time, there were just four people. And I think, that was very safe. And of course, I was taken and vaccinated in isolation. It wasn’t that I was vaccinated in front of too many people. Within 5 minutes, I was vaccinated. They observed me for 30 minutes and then I was out of that place. So, it was very safe.
And yes, there are certain after-effects. But that just shows that your antibodies are forming. So, the next day, I had high fever and lot of weakness and body ache but then I was okay after that. The after-effects lasted only for one day.
You started your singing journey two decades ago. How did it all begin?
It began with an All India Radio FM jingle. I sang the signature tune of AIR FM and I started singing a lot of jingles. And then, my first album ‘Ho Gayi Hai Mohobbat’ happened which became a huge hit. After that, I did many albums.
It’s a dream of any artist to be a part of Bollywood. And I got a lovely opportunity to sing and compose for a movie called ‘Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part 2’ in 2003. I sang ‘Sajna aa Bhi Jaa’ and two other songs in that film which was followed by other 17-18 films that I did.
I did Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘Mr Ya Mrs’ starring Aftab Shivdasani, Antara Mali and Ritesh Deshmukh. All the songs picturized on Antara Mali are in my voice. Then, I got an offer to sing and compose for Sanjay Dutt starrer film ‘Zinda’ where I did the title track ‘Zinda Hoon Main’ which became another huge hit. It was followed by many more films.
It has been a wonderful journey. Whatever said and done, the Indian film industry is popular all over the world and there’s a craze for Bollywood. So, Bollywood music reaches all over the world.
And also, I have been doing live concerts all over the world. It is my passion to perform on stage.
What were your struggles when you started?
To be honest with you, the struggles are more today. There’s a lot more competition and the existence of camps. All the production houses have their preferred people to work with. It’s very difficult to break in now.
At that time, I didn’t face any struggles. I was very blessed. My first pop song ‘Ho Gayi Hai Mohobbat’ was a huge hit. My first Bollywood song ‘Sajna Aa Bhai Jaa’ was a huge hit. I got a series of films to sing for after that. I used to be so busy. So, life was a cakewalk and a dream come true for me.
But in today’s scenario, if I have to pick up the phone and call up a music director or a production house, it’s very difficult to break in.
So, the only way to sustain as an artist is to keep making your own music and keep putting it out on all the audio and video streaming platforms. So, I don’t think artists should run after only Bollywood. They should believe in themselves and their art.
When you started, there wasn’t YouTube and social media, unlike today. So, do you see these platforms as an advantage or an added pressure and competition among the artists?
YouTube started actively in 2007. So, I have seen the transition of how digitalisation was taking over the world. So, when I started my career, there was a very traditional way of promoting music which was Television, radio, hoardings and newspapers. So, TV was a very popular medium. And when your song used to play on TV or radio, it was considered a big hit. But today, it’s the number game, which according to me, a little confusing. Because, there are a lot of people who believe in buying of views so that is not fair on the people who don’t buy the views and rely on organic views. So, at the end of the day, the best way to judge the song’s success is when a fan is making covers or Instagram reels. This means that the song is being loved everywhere. So, that is a sign of a huge hit.
Even though it is all about the number game these days, but the artist shouldn’t lose heart. They need to constantly bring out their content and keep growing their popularity. And this is the right time. We are in lockdown and everyone is looking forward to listening to music on their devices. So, it’s the right time for musicians to bring out more and more content.
Coming back to your latest song ‘Jogiya’, how was the experience working with the entire crew?
It was fantastic. I feel so lucky that we were not in a lockdown at that time. The restrictions had lifted in September 2020. We quickly shot the song in January and all the precautions were taken. It was a massive shoot with 75-80 supporting actors and crew members on the set. It was great working with actor Dheeraj Dhoopar who is very talented, handsome and popular. So, it was great to have him on board. He has gone out of his way to promote this song on his Instagram Reels, Twitter etc. Our song was trending on No. 1 the day it released.
It was great working with the entire crew. Lead actor Smriti Kalkra looks lovely in the song. We shot the song in Punjab and the makeup team was amazing. They are settled in Punjab and will make you look like a Hollywood star. I loved the make-up and hair team.
You career has been very versatile. But what is the one thing you enjoy the most?
I enjoy singing and performing live on stage. When I am performing on stage, I really come into my element. I take on the avatar of a diva and I feel like I own the world. I feel happy that I bring a smile on people’s faces when I am singing. I feel happy that I can make people sing along with me. So, that’s a very fulfilling feeling and I am really missing it.
But I have been doing lots of virtual concerts In the last lockdown, I did 60 virtual concerts and these days I am doing atleast 3 concerts in a week. So, I am trying my best to motivate people and make them happy with my music.
You have achieved so much in your life but what’s the one thing you feel that you are yet to do in your career?
I don’t think I have achieved so much in my life. I am yet to achieve a lot. I have lots of dreams which I want to fulfill. It is my dream to sing for AR Rahman Sir because I love his music. I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting him but not working with him so far. But I would love to work with him.
Who is your favourite singer?
My favourite singer is Arijit Singh. And I am very thrilled over the fact that he loves my song ‘Sajna Aa Bhi Jaa’. He always sings it in his concert.
I once attended one of his concerts because I am a huge fan. And he started singing ‘Sajna’. He didn’t know that I was there. So, I just got up and I was like ‘Oh my Gosh! That’s such a surprise’. And he saw me. He was like, ‘Oh my God! Shibani Kashyap is here, the composer and singer of this song that is one of my most favourite songs.’
So, he has this section in his concerts where he dedicates to nostalgia and the singers he is very fond of! So, it is an overwhelming fact that he loves my music. But I truly love his singing and I think he is India’s best singer.
Any plans to collaborate with him?
I would love to, actually! And I am sure, if the universe wants, it will happen. I am looking for the right opportunity. When I will come up with a great song, I will knock on his door and ask him, ‘Arijit, will you sing this song with me?’
What is your biggest takeaway from this pandemic?
I think the biggest takeaway is the fact that this pandemic has made us all realize that we are mere mortals and everyone is equal. This disease has taken the lives of the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. Everyone is equal and we are all in it together.
The other takeaway is that we must focus on building our immunity and our health. In our stressful and hectic life, we often forget to have breakfast, we skip lunch for work. We don’t focus on our wellness. So, I am focusing on my health now. Work and everything can happen only if you are well.