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‘I believe in the power of music’

| | in Sunday Pioneer
‘I believe in the power of music’

Avanti Nagral, an Indian American singer who recently released her latest single, tells SHALINI SAKSENA that she draws her inspiration for songs from life

Why such a subject for a song? Treated?

The song is all about the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. It is a message to my 12-year-old self, the insecure girl with low self-esteem, who doesn’t believe in herself, and who doesn’t find respect in her relationships. The song was born from misunderstandings I’d had with various relationships in my life, about ambitions and dreams and out of stories of people facing mistreatment in much more extreme forms, including marital rape and domestic violence.

Will songs on such subjects impact the society?

I believe that the power of music and art of any form starts conversations that lead to systemic change. The conversations we have with our children — boys and girls — are about a culture of respect in society. If even a single person listening to the song starts to think about the role of respect in relationships, it would truly matter to me.

You won the META National Theatre Award. What was the play about?

I played Agnes in the 1982 Broadway Show Reproduction of Agnes of God in India, produced by Poor-Box Productions. We received seven nominations at the META National Theatre Awards and I was nominated for the Best Actress Award. The play is about the debate between faith and logic, and the role of miracles.

Why Bombay to Boston? Usually, it is just the opposite — people come to Mumbai.

My journey has actually been Boston to Bombay and now back to Boston and Bombay every few months. I was born in Boston and lived there till I was eight, at which point I moved to Bombay and lived here till I was 19. I am currently back and forth between Boston and Bombay because I am one of the first few to pursue a dual degree between Harvard University and the Berkley College of Music, but am keeping up with my career and releasing new music.

How easy or difficult is it to incorporate elements of Indian into Church/Gospel Music?

It is both unintentional and intentional. I don’t think any of us can pinpoint the role of our influences on ourselves and our identities with great accuracy, but we know that we are drawing from these vast wells of knowledge. I try to be intentional about showcasing my duality in music, both in order to reinforce my identity, as well as to present a listener with something new.

How did you get into singing?

I half-jokingly, half-seriously say ‘in-vitro. My father plays the tabla (he is a successful entrepreneur), so I would constantly be surrounded by rhythm. I grew up doing a lot of devotional music and simultaneously started playing the piano at age  five. When I moved to Mumbai, I was introduced to my present Guru, Dr Prabha Atre, a living legend of Hindustani Classical Music. Over the years, I gained experience in various styles.

How and from where do you draw your inspiration to write songs?

From life. Personal experiences can spur the greatest of songs. I also find that you don’t have to experience everything yourself to be able to empathise with a particular emotion. Every person I meet, and every new place I go to, has a story. Sometimes the melody comes first, sometimes the lyrics. Also, sometimes you just hear a song in your head.

What are the advantages of singing songs written by you as opposed to someone else?

There is an added element of relatability. Somewhere along the line, I am picturing a personal experience which I can apply to it. Perhaps, the audience relates to it more too. However, I think collaboration is the key to everything in life and I am excited to collaborate with songwriters, producers and other artistes on new projects.

 
 
 
 
 

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