“It Was An Hon­our To Work With A Hum­ble Hu­man Be­ing Like A. R. Rah­man”

Stardust (English) - - COVER STORY -

Mu­sic lovers def­i­nitely re­mem­ber her soul­ful voice of ‘ PhirDekhiye’ of Rockon!! and her peppy num­ber ‘ Tumse HiTumse’ from An­jaana-An­jaani and for her beau­ti­ful ren­di­tion of ‘ Nash­esichad­hgayi’ from Be­fikre. She is also un­doubt­edly the undis­puted jin­gle queen of the in­dus­try. She is CARALISA MON­TEIRO. In a can­did in­ter­view with Ankit Shah, the melody queen talks about her mu­si­cal jour­ney, her NGO ‘An­gel in dis­guise’, her fu­ture am­bi­tions as a play­back singer and more…

You have been in the mu­sic in­dus­try for the last 19 years now, how did your jour­ney start?

My sis­ter was a mu­si­cian and in her short span of life, she (she died at 26) had al­ready start­ing do­ing a fair bit of work. Post her pass­ing away, I ap­proached a few of the mu­sic di­rec­tors who she con­sid­ered friends and gave them my demo tape. My first com­mer­cial was with Eh­saan and Loy for a cof­fee ad and I sung to the tune of ‘Morn­ing has bro­ken ‘ and that’s how it all be­gan.

Who was your in­spi­ra­tion for tak­ing up mu­sic?

Let me be very hon­est. I was al­ways an av­er­age stu­dent and I wasn’t re­ally good at any­thing else! All I re­ally knew was how to sing, the ob­jec­tive was to earn a liv­ing do­ing some­thing I knew and more im­por­tantly, knew how to con­tinue to do. The ca­reer was not some­thing I could have imag­ined. I came

All I re­ally knew was how to sing, the ob­jec­tive was to earn a liv­ing do­ing some­thing I knew and more im­por­tantly knew how to con­tinue to do.”

from a lower mid­dle class fam­ily where the only thing in abun­dance was love. So, this is a dream!

You made your de­but as a play­back singer in 2001 with DilChah­taHai. How was your ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing on the film?

I had worked on a few ads with Eh­saan and Loy by then and when they called me, it wasn’t for a song but for parts of the song Janekyun and they asked me to hit an alaap and I did. They liked what I did and I guess that in a way was the start of my as­so­ci­a­tion with Shankar-Eh­saan-Loy and Farhan Akhtar, whom I’m for­tu­nate to call friends and peo­ple I like and re­spect.

You are con­sid­ered as ‘the Jin­gle Queen of In­dia’. How does it feel when peo­ple call you this?

I don’t re­mem­ber where but very re­cently I was asked the same ques­tion. I don’t re­ally know how and where this term was coined. But like I said then and I shall re­peat my­self here! If you’re rea­son­ably good at what you do and do it for long enough, at some point you will be known for it and I’ve been do­ing this for 1718 years now. I think it hap­pened pri­mar­ily be­cause of the num­ber of ads I’ve done.

You de­buted with your in­de­pen­dent al­bum ‘ Il­lu­sion’ in 2015. Why did it take so long for you to come out with your de­but al­bum?

I ask my­self the same ques­tion. So all the songs I have writ­ten were penned by me in school and col­lege! And then I started work­ing and hon­estly never re­ally had too much time. I also wanted the al­bum to be some­thing more than just about mu­sic as I was grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity to have made it so far and be around for so long. I fi­nally thought of a start­ing my NGO and cu­rat­ing the al­bum for the launch of the NGO.

What is more sat­is­fy­ing for you, singing jin­gles or play­back?

Singing for ad com­mer­cials is dif­fer­ent from singing for films and that is dif­fer­ent from back­ground mu­sic and al­bums. Com­mer­cials re­quire to cre­ate char­ac­ter and magic in 30 sec­onds, you can sing a word but it has to be son­i­cally res­o­nant of the brand it­self. So the at­ti­tude, feel and tone has to come to­gether to rep­re­sent what the

Singing for ad com­mer­cials is dif­fer­ent from singing for films.”

film is vi­su­al­is­ing. Hav­ing said that it has to be done swiftly with fi­nesse and skills. Singing for film songs is all about the feel and it isn’t as time bound as a jin­gle but has to ren­der the feel of the song the way the di­rec­tor sees it. I per­son­ally find both spa­ces ex­cit­ing.

With which mu­sic com­poser did you en­joy work­ing the most?

Each com­poser I work with has a unique style of com­pos­ing so they all bring their bril­liance to the ta­ble. And be­ing the per­son I am, I love vari­a­tion and ex­per­i­ment­ing with styles and tech­nique. So it’s a bonus to work with all of them.

Which is the one song you are the clos­est to?

In jin­gles, it is prob­a­bly the Limca jin­gle which Sushama Reddy fea­tured in and in films, it would be Phirdekhiye from Rock On!! Both changed my life for the bet­ter and brought “fame”.

Did you ever re­gret work­ing on a jin­gle or a song?

I can’t re­ally say I re­gret singing any­thing but there have been times that I’ve not re­ally liked the melodies. As a record­ing artiste, I have suc­cess­fully man­aged to block out my per­sonal opin­ion and en­sure the clients are happy and gets what they want.

Who is your favourite mu­sic di­rec­tor and with whom would you want to work in the fu­ture?

I’m per­son­ally very fond of Shankar- Eh­saan-Loy and over the time I’ve learnt to like and re­spect the man Vishal Dad­lani a lot more and have al­ways been a fan of his and Shekhar’s work. I like the soul Amit Trivedi brings out in his songs. Work­ing with AR Rah­man was an ex­pe­ri­ence in it­self. I’ve done lots of scores with Salim as well. They’re all good and dif­fer­ent.

If you would not be a singer, what would have been your ca­reer op­tion?

I re­ally don’t know. Def­i­nitely not a 9-5 though! Prob­a­bly a yoga teacher or a make-up artist.

Of late there is a trend of re­vamp­ing old clas­sic melodies. Do you feel it is good for mu­sic?

Per­son­ally, I think to each his own, some songs have been done well and some haven’t. I think you can cre­ate some­thing as long as you do jus­tice to it. If you don’t think you can, you should be able to say ‘no’.

Do you feel that the fresh­ness and cre­ativ­ity in mu­sic is quickly de­grad­ing?

I’ll say this, with the in­flu­ence of tech­nol­ogy in mu­sic, hu­man skills have re­duced. While the new gen­er­a­tion are bet­ter pro­gram­mers and bet­ter at us­ing soft­wares etc. Mu­sic has al­ways been about the soul. I know I can walk into a booth and sing a note/song in pitch. And if auto tune didn’t ex­ist, I would still sur­vive!

Who are your favourite singers apart from your­self?

My idol is Whit­ney Hous­ton. She didn’t need to dance or do any the­atrics when she per­formed live, her voice did the job. That to me is the essence of a pow­er­house vo­cal­ist. It’s all I ever wanted to be - a vo­cal­ist. Grow­ing up, I heard a lot of the Bea­tles, Michael Jack­son, Queen, Bar­bara Streisand and zil­lions of other bril­liant singers who are now all iconic in their styles. It meant that I was in­flu­enced by al­most all styles of mu­sic and

With the in­flu­ence of tech­nol­ogy in mu­sic, hu­man skills have re­duced.”

I never could choose just one pure genre. I am a be­liever of good songs and I’m cer­tainly not bi­ased or judge­men­tal to­wards any one as I look for ’soul’ in ev­ery song. Soul is what gives me a new high and en­ables me to step up and in­spire oth­ers. Af­ter all, what is pure tech­nique when you can’t feel a thing?

Can you share some anec­dotes from be­hind the record­ing of any song?

I was in Chen­nai for A R Rah­man’s film ‘Silunu oru kaad­hal’ in which I sang “Maaricham”. I re­mem­ber wait­ing in the stu­dio from 8 pm to 4 am to sing the song. I was so sleepy that when I went in to sing I was scared that I’d fall asleep in the booth but I fin­ished in an hour and Rah­man loved it. It was an hon­our to work with a hum­ble hu­man be­ing like AR Rah­man. And of course work­ing with Il­yaraaja in Shamitabh where I sang ‘Shashamimi’ was a unique ex­pe­ri­ence firstly be­cause he is such a ge­nius and I’ve been a fan of his mu­sic, es­pe­cially his com­plex clas­si­cal or­ches­tra­tions.

Why have you not sang more for Bol­ly­wood?

Well, I’ve sung for over 50 films and over 5000 ads till a few years ago and I didn’t give a sin­gle in­ter­view. I think PR is im­por­tant and I ac­cept it’s some­thing I’m very bad at. In these times, one needs to be so­cially rel­e­vant in the dig­i­tal age.

What are the chal­lenges you’ve faced as a play­back singer?

The chal­lenge was just get­ting into the in­dus­try. I got in by virtue of ad­ver­tis­ing. I didn’t know any­one. Also, there was the ini­tial stereo­typ­ing or be­lief that be­ing a Catholic girl from Bom­bay and ap­pre­hen­sions of whether would she’d be ‘okay’ singing in Hindi. While I don’t speak Hindi flu­ently, I’m born and raised in Dadar, Mum­bai. I have no is­sues singing in Hindi. Other than that I was lucky to come in at a time when the qual­ity of mu­sic in Bol­ly­wood was chang­ing and with ShankarEh­saan-Loy, Pritam and Vishal Shekhar, for­tu­nately I got to work with all of them and my voice fit­ted in. If the in­dus­try was still stuck with only Hin­dus­tani Clas­si­cal, I would not have been as for­tu­nate.

What are your fu­ture as­pi­ra­tions in terms of play­back singing and as an in­di­vid­ual?

I would love to work on songs that have range and soul al­ways but I love dance mu­sic too as long as they have a bal­anced mix of or­ganic and elec­tronic sounds. I’m cur­rently work­ing on songs of my own which will be fun to pro­duce and record. Per­son­ally, I want to do a lot more through my NGO, ‘An­gel in Dis­guise’ and help women suf­fer­ing from cancer, do­mes­tic abuse and rape vic­tims.

In these times, one needs to be so­cially rel­e­vant in the dig­i­tal age.”

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