Kathak exponent-cum-singer Shefali Saxena recently released her single Ghoomar- A Royal Folk. The song is composed by Sitarist Singer Suhel Rais Khan, son of legendary Sitarist Ustad Rais Khan, and co-sung and written by Rajasthani artist Rekha Rao.
Delhi girl Saxena trained in classical Hindustani Vocal Music and Kathak from childhood, but since most members of her family belonged to academic fields, her family didn’t like the idea of her taking up music as profession. So, after completing studies, she secured the job of lecturer in college but was soon awakened to the idea of following her inherent passion. She then moved to Mumbai to create her own space in Bollywood.
“So far, my biggest recent achievement has been hosting a National Event with Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji at Rashtrapati Bhawan in the presence of President Ram Nath Kovind ji and other ministers. Post that I received a Gold award from my fraternity as the performer of the year,” says an elated Saxena.
An avid traveller and a fitness freak, Saxena practices for an hour-and-a-half everyday. In a free-wheeling interview with Life & More, she tells more about her life and times:
Tell us about the making of your new song Ghoomar.
Ghoomar – a Royal Folk has given me wings not only as an artist but also as a Creative Director, launching my production house officially. I have beautiful memories of Ghoomar, right from its audio creation with eminent Sitarist Singer Composer Suhel Rais Khan to pitching video project to Chomu Palace, a 300 year old heritage property showcasing the rustic, royal canvas, which I always desired for my aesthetic video unveiling the glory of Rajasthan, India. Followed by the heart-stealing choreography with props to my stupendous looks of a queen. I had a wonderful team and every aspect of Ghoomar is nurtured with abundant love and aesthetic sense.
You majorly work in the folk arena. Any special reason?
I feel fortunate and proud of our rich cultural heritage and like to do more of Indian music, which takes us back to the roots and looked up to with so much of respect and fondness worldwide. Not much work is done in this arena and as an independent artist I take this as a responsibility, to revive the folk music, support musicians and make majority of our youth listeners of the digital platforms (from 18-25 years) aware about the Indian legacy.
What is it in folk that you find so fascinating?
It is so pure, soulful and in abundance. Almost everyone can relate to a folk song, which narrate stories of life forgotten or on the verge of disappearing. As the name suggests, folk is the music of the people. Folk never eliminates people and culture from its lyrics and rhythms. It keeps the people connected to their past and their culture.
What is the response of the public to folk – do they embrace it wholeheartedly?
Folk music has broad appeal and extensive influence. It has been used for decades for protests and by musicians to tell simple, relatable stories. So, definitely as of today also, public gets extremely intrigued with folk music as it holds the mystery and storytelling. And they do embrace it wholeheartedly when we fuse it with other genres, unique sounds and beautiful video.
What more are you doing to promote folk songs/ music?
As it’s important to create an impactful content, furthermore the call of time is to make your content available and promoted well. For which we have to design a marketing strategy with the team of professionals, understand our digital fan base, run media and radio campaigns, pitch our content for playlist, blogs and press outlets, broadcasting our interviews on networking and social media platforms, etc.
What more songs are in the making?
We have another Rajasthani Folk coming up, “Mharo Meet” shot at Chomu Palace, Rajasthan, showcasing true raw culture, followed by 02 more traditional classic wedding songs. Since, I believe an artist has to be versatile and also to unite borders. So going forward later in this year, you shall hear me in lots of different genres like Arabic, EDM, etc. too.
You are also a Kathak dancer. From who did you draw inspiration?
There are many…. I believe in taking inspiration from whomsoever is there around. There are so many skilled, talented and hardworking people, we come across in our lives daily. But, when it comes to legends, I remember in childhood I used learn classical dance steps from watching films of Vajyantimala, Waheeda Rehman and Madhuri Dixit. I still get goose bumps when I remember how I practised with Logaan (fire) in my hands for Ghoomar which Deepika Padukone performed so flawlessly and fiercelessly in Padmavat. In Music, its Michael Jackson, I look up to as someone so mighty, full of power, kindness and learning.
What do you like doing the most – kathak or sing? And why.
Though both are close to my heart but performing arts is always my first love because I can emote and express with every part of my body and not only my voice. That can be seen in my latest video song, Ghoomar too and the next one coming up around Holi. Both are traditional with Rajasthani flavour, while this one is royal and the next one is folk. I would like to add that I have been also from Shaimak davar’s troupe from where I have learnt the art of being an ace performer apart from a complete entertainer.
Who do you consider as your ideal?
As I said above, that I believe in taking inspiration from whomsoever I can, around. I love Sunidhi Chauhan’s magnetic variations of songs in her live performances. I get inspired, realising what was the learning source for Lata Mangeshshkar ji’s soulful singing and Asha Bhonsale ji’s versatility in golden era. I wonder from where Pancham da used get magical sound ideas when the technology was not so advanced in India. So, no such ideal but yes, I wish to become like my mother in every way, who is so intelligent, skilled and balanced in life.