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On The Record: Attuned Spirits by Vasuda Sharma

The Mumbai-based singer-songwriter takes us through the 11 tracks on her crowdfunded solo debut, Attuned Spirits, which releases October 10th

Rolling Stone India
Rolling Stone India Oct 07, 2013
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Vasuda Sharma on the sets of 'Laagi Lagan'. Photo: Prashin Jagger

Vasuda Sharma. Photo: Prashin Jagger

At 18, Vasuda Sharma was already a touring musician with the Channel [V] pop band Aasma. Thankfully for her, unlike most reality TV stars, even a decade later, Sharma’s name is not a fuzzy memory. After a year-long course in Contemporary Writing and Production from Berklee School of Music, the singer- songwriter returned on stage last year to debut her folksy-pop sound. Starkly different from Aasma’s tracks such as “Chandu Ke Chacha,” the Berklee grad found collaborators in her classmates at the music school, many of whom feature on the her upcoming album, Attuned Spirits. “I never really thought about how they all belong to different parts of the world. We just got together and started jamming. Over the months, we all got very comfortable together and thought why not recorded all this as a memory of this time,” says Sharma, “So we booked the studio for 12 hours and ended up recording five songs there.”

Sharma’s debut solo album, which is partly recorded in Boston and partly in India, has been crowdfunded. Taking her cue from Amanda Palmer, Sharma prepared a quirky YouTube video in January as a plea to fans to contribute for Attuned Spirits via crowdfunding site, Wishberry. The results have been more than satisfactory, making her the biggest crowdfunding success story for Indian alternative music so far [She raised over Rs 5,72,000]. For the album launch, the Mumbai-based singer-songwriter will be joined by her band comprising Bhayanak Maut’s Rahul Hariharan on drums, Chirayu Vedekar on bass, violinist Jose Neil Gomes, Andrew Ferrao on keys and Zohran Miranda on guitars. Guest artists at the launch will include Dhruv Ghanekar, Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy, Rhys Sebastial D’Souza, Sankarshan Kini and Sangeet Haldipur. Sharma has produced and arranged nine of the 11 tracks on the album, and two that feature her compositions and arrangement have been produced by Ghanekar and recorded at his Wah Wah studios in Mumbai. The 28-year-old singer adds, “The album is world music, with western music mixed with my knowledge of Indian raagas that I’ve learnt and a lot of folk music that I’ve been brought up listening to.”

Here, she discusses the album track by track.

 

1. “Maajhi”:  This is the first track from the album. The video talks about the gist of the song. The song is alternatively called “Go With The Flow” and the whole idea is probably about the kind of person I am. I like to set my own pace and take it slow and not rush after things and “Maajhi” is mostly about that. The video shows that everyone these days is moving so fast, but you can hold on and get out of this rut. Once you watch it from a distance, you will see how crazy the world is. I don’t think you need to be in this rush or be so crazy, running around everyday like a machine”¦ you can take a breather and look at it as an outsider. Then you will realize there are many things in life [sometimes really the simplest things] that are worth your attention. 

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I was driving around in bad traffic when I came up for the melody of this song. A lot of my compositions happen because I travel for hours in Mumbai and I hate the traffic here, so what keeps me sane is humming some tune, composing or listening to music. 

2. “Giridhar”: It’s a Meera bhajan but the way I’ve treated it is by altering the melody.  It was already a known bhajan so I’ve rearranged it by adding electric guitars, drums and saxophone”¦ something I wanted to experiment with.

3. “Barsan Lage Nayan”:  I’ve performed this song at Blue Frog previously and a few others from this album. I think it is based on Raag Brindavani, but I’m not sure because I composed the melody. Though it’s a raga-based composition, I’ve used a lot of drums and electric guitar, violin and saxophone.  I also really wanted to use a tabla in this song, so that’s there too.

4. “Laagi Lagan”: It’s based on another raag called Hamsadhvani. I’ve gone away from the basic raga because I wanted to make it a little jazzy and use certain chords in this. I’m shooting a music video for this song with Srinivas Sunderrajan [filmmaker and Scribe bassist], so if it’s ready by the launch gig, I’ll promo it there.

5. “Jaagi Jaagi Raina”: I shot this video last September with a basic video of the whole process of recording it and all the musicians involved in it. It was also shortlisted for the MTV VMA, India and aired on MTV Roots [and most recently on SoundTrek on Fox Traveller]. Once again, it’s a raga based song. It came to me while I was jogging in the morning. I just happened to hum something and had some words in my head. I don’t really have an emotion attached to every song. In fact, a lot of time, it is a borrowed emotion. So if I have written a heartbreak song it doesn’t mean that I’ve been through one. I just borrow an emotion and write about it.

6. “Calling Out To You”: This is a Hinglish song where I’ve tried using the Spanish Cajon. There is also a lot of violin and cello arrangement here. I like certain lush sounds like that of the cello and violin. I wrote a certain string section for this song. There’s not really a story behind the song, it’s just a composition that I love.

7. “Maula”: I’ve tried to use Kabir dohas in this song –  about two or three of them that I really associated with and those that inspire me. I’ve got them [dohas] all together and made a composition around it and also fit in two-three lines of my own in this song. I’ve given a very old school treatment to the song in general, but towards the end it gets drum n bass heavy. So it gives musicians a chance to have a great jam and freak out to it. I think the song’s open to a lot of interpretations by musicians.

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8. “Dhola”: It’s a fun Rajasthani folk song with lots of dhol-dhamaka to help you let your hair down. When I say it’s got a dance feel, it’s more of that garba dance than a club number. But it’s quite groovy. It’s a song with a simple melody and many will find it easy to hum. It’s not a musician-friendly song, but a people-friendly one. 

9. “Keep The Faith”: It’s a song that came out of me after a lot of contemplation and thought. Pre-Berklee, I was very lost in terms of which direction to take. I hadn’t arranged it [this song] until I went to college, but I had written the words to it. I’m often scribbling a lot of stuff out of which a composition might come only a year later, but it’s just a thought that I’ve written down. This song was written when I was going through a major transition and it eventually led to me opting for Berklee. With Aasma [reality TV pop band formed in 2002] I was doing a lot of corporate and college gigs, so money was never a problem and I was just 18. But as a musician I felt that I was completely lost. I knew that the stuff that I had written could not be part of Aasma and I never wanted to impose my ideas, direction or thoughts onto the band. It wouldn’t have been right. So I was looking out for that space. When I wrote this song, I told myself that I had carry on and do my work. 

I would go for gigs but not socialize. I didn’t know people from the music scene and no one knew me apart from being that girl from Aasma, but I wanted to do something for myself. So one night, I ordered a loop station online and figured my way around it. It’s completely missing from the album: all instruments are live now. I didn’t know any musicians at that time, so a loop station was the only accompaniment I had. It gave me direction and later when I started hanging out with musicians, we began jamming together,  so I’m happy where I am now.

10. “Cruel World”: Dhruv Ghanekar plays the guitar and bass on this. The song also features Debashish Banerjee, so I got a lot of musicians whom I’ve really admired. I like their music and I’ve asked them to be part of this album. I really look up to Dhruv, he was one of the first people who gave me that boost to go up and be an independent musician and do live looping. It was because of this push only that I got the first opportunity to play Blue Frog.

Listen to “Never Lose Heart” here:

11. “Never Lose Heart”:  This one is a bonus track. Vishwesh [Krishnamoorthy] from Scribe also features in this a capella pop song. I asked Dhruv to feature on these two bonus tracks [ “Cruel World” and “Never Lose Heart”]. Unlike the other songs on the album, these two are not in the world music/ fusion space. 

 

Vasuda Sharma launches Attuned Spirits on October 10th at Blue Frog, Mumbai. Entry: Free. For details, click here 

 

 

 

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