My music is very experimental
Vasuda Sharma’s tryst with music started when she was barely three years old. She shot to fame with Channel V’s pop band ‘Aasma’. From there on the Singer-Composer has gone on to experiment with various forms of music and carved a niche for herself in the indie music space. She recently composed the background score for The Path of Zarathustra, a film centered around the Parsi community. We caught up with the talented artist to learn about her musical journey, inspirations, the experience of being part of The Path of Zarathustra and more.
After Aasma, while most of your band mates chose the commercial route, you took the lesser-tried road. What was the reason?
I wanted to create my own music and be my own boss, I think that’s why I got into the indie zone where I could have my own audience, even if it was niche. And I would have the liberty and freedom and creative expression to create the kind of music I wanted to create. Most of the times when you are singing for other people you end up singing songs that you might not necessarily resonate with or actually don’t believe in. When it comes to musical ideas, I think I’m way too stubborn and that’s the reason I chose to do things independently rather than going after Bollywood or playback singing.
You composed the music for just one Hindi film, Shahrukh Bola ‘Khoobsurat Hai Tu’. How did this one-off film venture happen?
I wasn’t really looking out for work in the film industry. I used to regularly watch plays of Makarand Deshpande at Prithvi Theatre and was a fan of his work. One of the days when he was sitting at the coffee shop at Prithvi, I went up to him and told him how much I admired his work. I also told him that if there were ever a musical that he’s working on, I’d love to compose music for it because that is something that really fascinates me. I don’t even remember exchanging numbers but after about a year I got a call from his production house about this film where they wanted me to act. I met him and told him that I had no interest in acting but I would love to create music and if there were an opportunity for me to compose a song or two, I would love to give it a shot. At that time he was conceptualizing Shahrukh Bola ‘Khoobsurat Hai Tu’. He gave me a sequence and asked me to create something and make him hear it. I created one song and that got me the full film, it wasn’t a planned thing. Mr. Govind Nihalani heard about my work in Shahrukh Bola… and that got me his animation film. So it was basically word of mouth and one thing led to the other.
How was the experience of learning music at the Berklee College of Music?
It was great. I didn’t have much knowledge of western music and was playing Hindustani classical. I had basic knowledge of ragas etc. and would create around that. But a lot of times when you are creating a fusion, you want to create ideas with western influences so you need to be able to communicate better. And that’s what I was lacking. I didn’t know how to write music or pen down stuff if I wanted to create my own scores. It was for that very reason that I needed academic training and needed to be in a school environment rather than learning online. That’s why I decided to take a sabbatical and went to Berklee. I was also offered a scholarship so that too fell into place. It was a completely different experience there because everything is music. It was a beautiful environment and I interacted with a lot of musicians from all over the world. The faculty, the classes, it has all helped me immensely, not just in terms of learning music, but understanding music as a whole spectrum because it’s not just limited to the things that we know of here in India. It’s global. That’s where the collaborations and the album came into being. I was collaborating with musicians from all across the world who were studying at Berklee. It was a very enriching experience; I didn’t have any plans of recording an album but just wanted a memory to go by with me from there. So I recorded all my songs with the band and somehow it just came out in the form of an album.
You’re a big hit in the indie music scene. How would you define your style of music?
My first solo album, ‘Attuned Spirits’ is on fusion lines. I would say pop fusion because it has influences of Jazz and Blues as well. I don’t really want to put my music in a particular genre because when you think of fusion you think of Carnatic music with Jazz or folk music with Reggae, that’s the usual definition of fusion that people think. Some of my songs have Hindi and English lyrics. It can be a very confusing thing but I feel that if I am able to blend both together seamlessly, it would be beautiful. My fusion would not ideally be like a Tabla with a Sitar and Guitar and Drums; that is not my idea of fusion. If you listen to the song ‘Jaagi Jaagi Raina’, it doesn’t have Sitar or Tabla, it’s a complete jazz song but the composition is very traditional, semi-classical. I don’t know if I can put my music in any category because I’m ever exploring. My music is very experimental. I also do live looping, which is very different from the fusion act and I’m exploring the electronic side of things now, so that’s also going to be very different from what I’ve done earlier. I’m still learning so I would not want to put my music in any bracket.
How did your association with The Path of Zarathustra happen? What made you say yes to this film?
Oorvazi (Irani, Director) got in touch with me through someone. She had heard my songs and was looking at something where we would combine a lot of western classical with Hindustani and a lot of Persian music. Just the whole idea of putting together all of these elements is very challenging. I loved the idea but I told her that I needed to be more thorough with Persian music since I had no knowledge of it. I did a lot of research on it and we had a few sessions where we discussed things to see if we were on the same wavelength. Oorvazi is very clear about what she wants and how she wants it. Initially we figured the character sketches of all the characters we had and I created a theme for every character. Once the film was done, we got the edit and I worked on the theme of the film as well. Oorvazi is very organized and when someone is clear about what they want, it just saves a lot of time and you know which direction you’re going into. Although this music was quite experimental, it was very open. Oorvazi was open to interpretation and I always love when you get self-expression. I really enjoyed working on this, it was a slightly longer process because initially they were shooting for 2-3 months and then we worked on the music. It was challenging but a great experience overall.
Tell us about the background score that you have composed. What was your inspiration behind it?
I heard a lot of Persian music and did a lot of research on the instruments that were used during those times. We were trying to get a lot of instruments like the ‘Persian Ney’, which is a flute. That was one very different instrument that you don’t get here. So I got that recorded from someone in New York over a Skype Session. There were certain things that were very specific and you could not produce that sound through programming, you have to actually record it. We recorded certain instruments that were imperative. I had to track down musicians who could play that and then we had the Skype sessions.
How different is the music of The Path Of Zarathustra as compared to that of other films?
I would say that it’s not the usual background score because the film itself is very different. If we look at the usual background score, during a dramatic scene or a sudden change, the music accompanies it with full throttle. There will be very loud noise and so on. But here, Oorvazi believes in subtlety. So I was also happy with some changes that happen seamlessly, things that were very dramatic were not treated that way musically. When you watch the film you will understand that it’s not the typical way of how background score is done, it’s very experimental and very different. It still goes seamlessly with the movie because the film is very different from the usual pace at which regular movies flow.
What are your views on the current music scene – indie and commercial?
The indie scene is definitely growing rapidly. I wouldn’t say that we have a lot of money in it but we definitely have a lot of opportunities, venues that have opened up and an appreciative audience also. The audience would be more appreciative if they pay for a concert or a gig and not come in free. I think that would really help a lot of indie musicians who are coming in, especially the new ones who are doing really small gigs here and there. I feel that support is needed from the people. Of course all the indie films that have sprung up over the last few years are also a great platform.
Bollywood has no comparison; it has always been at a different level. The reach that Bollywood has is tremendous. And there are all sorts of music in Bollywood, it has the greatest fusion music, the genres of music that are being mixed together and things that are being done are unbelievable. I don’t think I need to analyze the progress that Bollywood has made. Recently some of the music that has come out (of Bollywood) is really good and I enjoy listening to it. As long as people don’t take it lightly and give time to the music, we can maintain the standard and let Bollywood be at a higher level.
What other projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on a lot of collaborations and writing new material with my band. I’m also recording 3-4 songs and might come out with an EP towards the end of the year (with my band). There are few more collaborations with a musician friend from Serbia. A lot of indie collaborations are also happening right now. I might travel to USA for some concerts around November. So a lot of exciting things that I’m looking forward to.