Meet Nexa Music Top 24 Artist: Nisa Shetty
The New Delhi singer-songwriter has been on the climb since her stint on reality show ‘The Stage’
Singer-songwriter Nisa Shetty is no stranger to the arts. She began singing at the age of five, taking to music and theater in the tradition of her grandparents who set up the Akshara Theatre in New Delhi. The budding artist then performed with bands first in school and later when she went to Hindu College in the capital.
Her 2016 single “Infinity” was an acoustic-pop love ballad, with Shetty’s powerhouse vocals making each strum emotive and memorable. She was also a contestant on season three of music reality show The Stage (2017), making it to the top eight. Having experimented with voice over acting and advertisements too, one could say that the singer-songwriter has been around the block and she’s not hitting the breaks anytime soon.
Now, Shetty is a part of Nexa Music’s Top 24 — a countrywide search for emerging English-language musicians in the country. “I had two goals: one was to somehow meet A.R. Rahman sir before 2020 and to someday be on the cover of Rolling Stone. It is absolutely unreal that both these dreams came true on the same day thanks to Nexa!,” she says.
The singer-songwriter doesn’t see a platform for English-language original music in India even though there is an immensity of talent and an audience for it. “People love listening to English-language music in India. The performers from the west see India as a big market and they have big packed shows here. But it is almost impossible for a musician to get producers or a record label to produce their songs,” she says. Citing reservations from promoters and label executives, Shetty thinks that the music industry’s gatekeepers tend to make entry to the business available exclusively to artists from privileged backgrounds.
The singer-songwriter recently returned to India after spending some time in the U.S. performing gigs in New York and L.A., collaborating with artists there. “I got amazing feedback about my music which was in English. I was taken aback by the reaction,” she says. This in turn motivated her to write and perform more. “This is in a country where there are thousands of singer-songwriters who make music in English. They have a truly supportive audience, an audience which appreciates good music without discrimination. And this is because the American music industry and the people running it, support it,” she said.
It was easier for Shetty to book gigs in New York than it has been back home in New Delhi. “One platform refused to give me gigs saying ‘But you’ve never performed with us before,’” she relays. She sees a dire need for platforms and spaces to take a chance with new artists, for them to vest faith in upcoming artists and Indian audiences, letting them decide on what kind of art they want to put out and consume. “Indian musicians have the ability to incorporate their roots into their music whether it’s English or Hindi. And that is what makes the music different. We do not need to emulate the west but instead need to make music that is true and good,” she says.
About learning from and working with Nexa mentors Rahman and Clinton Cerejo, Shetty says that she’s looking forward to their time together. “He’s so down to earth but he also has this amazing aura about him! He’s truly a musical genius. I’m just stoked to be in the same room as him!” she says about Rahman while sharing her experience with Cerejo, “I was actually so touched that Clinton sir actually took time out to speak to me about my track and the production process. It would be such an honour to work with them, definitely something I would cherish for the rest of my life!,” she said.
The contemporary Indian sound is the global sound according to Nisa — Punjabi, hip-hop, latin, reggae and even Ganesha beats converge to form a track everyone loves listening to. “I want to learn how to make all these different elements work in a song. Music really doesn’t have a language and some Indian music really shows that. I think this is going to be a really exciting platform to be a part of!,” she says.