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Shilpa Natarajan Is Not Your Ordinary Singer-Songwriter

The Chennai-based artist, who recently released her new song ‘Haunted,’ explores sleep paralysis, a cat companion’s passing, abuse and more in her work

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Anurag Tagat Jul 18, 2020

Chennai singer-songwriter Shilpa Natarajan. Photo: Roll on Two Studios

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In March 2019, Chennai singer-songwriter Shilpa Natarajan began writing what is perhaps her most openhearted song to date – “Oshi” – which was dedicated to the memory of a dearly departed cat she affectionately terms her “feline baby.”

Released in May with English and Tamil versions, the song was Natarajan’s way of gaining closure with the loss. “I tried recording the vocals for about six months. It was an absolute mess with a lot of tears being released instead of any notes. I had to take a break from the song and managed to re-work on the vocals and get an actual output,” she recounts.

Writing and releasing music since 2011, Natarajan has previously been a radio host, sung for Tamil and Telugu films and fronted parody music act Beef Sappad Trio. With the latter, Natarajan is Barbie Q, singing about endodontists (to the tune of pop star Enrique Iglesias’ “Hero”) and even the recent coronavirus pandemic. As a solo singer-songwriter, however, the topics are clearly more personal. Her debut EP Bubblewrap (2017) featured “Release Me,” in which she addressed her experiences of sleep paralysis. She says about putting out music in the film-centric city of Chennai, “Releasing a song today makes me as nervous as releasing a song in 2011 made me feel. The only difference is, I now have a super strong support system in my family and my workspace.”

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Watch the video for “Oshi” below. Hear the Tamil version here.

Her latest song is the aptly titled “Haunted,” which sheds light on “multiple forms of abuse – be it physical, verbal, sexual or emotional.” The artist adds, “Sexual abuse is not something I’ve spoken about in the past. I’ve never been open about it. And with this song, I feel like I’ve reached a stage in my life where I can actually speak about it.” Featuring lyrics written by Mumbai-based Biggu Chandilya, Natarajan (also a vocal teacher) cleverly uses vocal layers as well as konnakol to create an eerie earworm that’s also emotive.

For the music video, Natarajan worked with director Deepthi Govindarajan for a DIY shoot amidst lockdown. Natarajan says, “We used a cat-food box, a parchment paper and the torch light from my phone to create a light diffuser [and] we used my grandmother’s old black saree to create a backdrop.” The song is her fourth release since the lockdown started, which means it’s been a productive and prolific time for the artist. She adds, “I have two other songs scheduled to be released this year – ‘The Boat Song’ and ‘The Mer Song,’ both written in 2018, finally re-hashed thanks to the lockdown, along with a few other collaborations scheduled. I look at experimenting with more genres, more tones, and more vocal experiments!”

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Watch the video for “Haunted” below. Stream on Spotify and Apple Music. 

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