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Watch: #RollingWith Women’s Special Edition, Live at Twitter Blue Room

Noted musicians Sandunes, Sona Mohapatra, Shilpa Rao and Shubhangi discuss the issue of underrepresentation of women in music


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Sanaya Ardeshir, Shilpa Rao, Shubhangi Joshi and Sona mohopatra in conversation with Rolling Stone India Executive Editor Nirmika Singh.

Sanaya Ardeshir, Shilpa Rao, Shubhangi Joshi and Sona Mohapatra in conversation with Rolling Stone India Executive Editor Nirmika Singh. Photo: Prashin Jagger

While it may seem that women (pop) singers are all over the place—topping charts, on the covers of magazines, touring the world–the same cannot be said for women musicians in general. It is high time we spoke about the underrepresentation of women in music, as producers, composers, songwriters, conductors, rock critics, and in genres like metal and electronic music.

The fourth edition of #RollingWith, held in association with Twitter India at the Blue Room, addressed all these issues and more. The discussion featured a panel comprising four renowned musicians—singer-songwriters and playback artists Sona Mohapatra and Shilpa Rao, producer/ DJ Sanaya Ardeshir aka Sandunes and singer-songwriter/guitarist Shubhangi Joshi. It was moderated by ROLLING STONE India Executive Editor Nirmika Singh.

Over 30 lucky fans, who were selected via Twitter interactions, gathered to watch their favorite artists argue for and against several points. Joshi set the tone for the debate right off the bat by presenting her views on why an all-woman panel is a need of the hour. She said, “Men have been speaking on behalf of women on a lot of issues. In this day and age, there have been panels which have been talking about women, but consist of all men.”

The panelists went on to share personal gendered experiences that threw light on how women musicians continue to be perceived in the scene. While Mohapatra narrated how she often encounters ignorant, sexist event managers (“They can’t believe that a rock band can be led by a woman too!”), Rao added that when she performs at an event, she too is asked by organizers where her non-existent male co-singer is (“I tell them that I can pull off a show by myself!”).

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Sanaya Ardeshir aka Sandunes talks about the expectations people automatically have of a female DJ. Photo: Prashin Jagger

In response to an audience question, Ardeshir shared how being a female DJ means people expect her to dress a certain way. “They see that the clothes I’ve soundchecked in are the clothes I’m going to play the gig in and they say, ‘Aren’t you going to get ready?’. I tell them ‘I’m as ready as I’m going to get. I don’t have black leather pants in my suitcase!’”

Mohapatra also touched upon covert sexism in the Bollywood recording industry, revealing how it is rare for a woman playback singer to bag a solo song that isn’t an ‘item number’. She said, “It’s always a duet and always started by the boy [male voice]. It has a lot to do with the fact that male characters in Hindi films are generally set up to succeed.”

The session also saw performances from Joshi and Rao. While Joshi’s setlist included her popular acoustic ballad  “Ode to the Moon,” Rao, who performed as part of a trio featuring keyboardist Anurag Naidu and bassist Abhinav Khokhar, wowed the crowd with her soothing vocals on tracks like “Manmarziyan,” “Bulleya” “Kamali” and more.

Watch #RollingWith Women Special edition here:

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"Tamacun" (Rodrigo y Gabriela) by Shruti Naik & Ashar Kazi


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