Reproducing on the blog the interview that I conducted with Shibani Kashyap way back in 2013 for the newspaper that I used to work for, The Independent and which appeared on March 25, of the same year. It’s been four years now and thought of sharing the full interview with minor changes as well as a slight update in the end. Hope you will enjoy the interview with the wonderful Shibani as much as I did conducting it with her back then. A blog throw back.
Singer, music composer, model, performer and now actor: The chubby girl who traipsed her way in the Indie-pop industry in 1998 with the super hit song, “Ho Gayi Hai Mohabbat” and famous for the song that stirred a wave in the Hindi film industry, “Sajna aa bhi jaa” from the flick ‘Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part 2’ (‘WBHH-2’) and Sanjay Gupta’s ‘Zinda’ was strumming with her guitar when I met her in 2013.
Draped in a beautiful red lehenga suit adorned with gold sequins, Shibani can easily be mistaken for an actress. She recalls with a smile the song that she composed and sent ripples across the entire nation. The year was 2003 when Shibani was nominated as the new singing sensation of the year for “Sajna aa bhi jaa”. “As a musician, I do not just sing but attempt to create something which any artiste would like to. It is important to find my style and signature to communicate with the audience,” she said.
As an artist, she felt that the song was special which she presented to good friend and director of ‘WBHH2’, Shashank Ghosh. “I presented the song to Shashank and told him to listen to Sajna aa bhi jaa, which he loved instantly and decided to include in the film,” she said. The singer-composer who appeared in the music video mostly sings her own composition.
The artist who forayed in the industry as a pop singer at a time when pop was flourishing in the ‘90s attributes the dip of this genre to mainstream Hindi movies. “Films are known to borrow pop songs that became such an overnight sensation and larger in any part of the world. Also, the media should have promoted pop and believed in the artist,” she said in reference to the diminishing interest of the genre. Shibani always wanted to become a singer. “I trained and learned music in my quest to become an accomplished artist. One thing led to another and I started to sing jingles in my own voice.”
She loves performing live at the famous pubs, Not Just Jazz by the Bay and Blue Frog in Mumbai and Delhi: “Performing live for a big audience gives me an immense high and feeling of power. It is an instant exchange of energy with the crowd.” How different is performing live and being in a recording studio? “As an artist, recording in a studio bears its own charm where everything has to be controlled to reach the level of perfection,” she said. Shibani is also part of a new independent venture, artistaloud.com that regroups artistes and she believes that such a platform is empowering to satisfy one’s creative urge.
For her, it is important to give a choice to the audience who do not tune in to ‘Bollywood’. “All playback singers devise new ways to express themselves through music and the audience is waiting for a product which is not ‘Bollywood’.” She admitted that there is no revenue per download in that segment as yet. “It’s not monetising for the time being and if it catches up in terms of popularity, revenue can be garnered per download.” The artist has several albums to her credit such as the Sufi ‘Nagmagee’, and ‘Nazaakat’, for which she bagged the Sangeet Award at San Fransico in 2005 despite contenders such as Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghosal.
Talking of her album ‘My Free Spirit’ which has already been released, she said, “The album topped the Indian chartbuster where I was nominated in the category of best singer. There is a new one in the pipeline where I am teaming up with singer Mika Singh, and of course, I am crooning for several films.” The singer is gung-ho about the Raveena Tandon starrer ‘Shobhna Seven Nights’ for which she has composed the theme song and in which she will appear in a music video with the main heroine.
And, of course, there is an acting debut on the anvil as well. “The movie is called ‘Ranveer the Marshall’ where I play an action heroine. I also walked the ramp at the request of Shashi and Anu Ranjan for the NGO Beti where my costume was designed by ace designer Neeta Lulla. I walked for a social cause,” said the singer who also performed at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. She was a sitting judge for the music reality show, ‘Bathroom Singer’.
How does she juggle acting, TV judge, modeling, and music? “See, Singing is my prime activity and judging the show was an offshoot of my profession as a musician. The director of the show wanted a popular and known face on TV and I relented,” the 33-year-old singer said.
She also travelled from Mumbai to Delhi to present social crusader Anna Hazare the song, “Anna Hazare Deep Hamare” during the latter’s fight against corruption. Is this a way for celebrities to contribute to a social cause to make the society better? “Anna has taken a huge step in fighting corruption where our hard-earned money is at stake. It is so easy to say politicians are at fault. It’s high time for us, the people, to come together and shoulder our share of responsibility as citizens. Anna wanted to make it the official anthem and I sat with him during the strike.” Shibani feels that as a musician, she has the creative space to spread awareness and contribute to social causes. She has done quite a bit of social awareness earlier too.
“I lost a friend in the 26/11 Mumbai bomb blast and came up with the song, ‘Alvida’. It speaks of the need for people to be vigilant and take responsibility in the wake of terror.” Then there is “I’m a Woman, I’m a Girl”, which she composed and sung, to celebrate the 50 golden years of the beauty pageant Femina Miss India. “It is a song that celebrates women who represent different cities and I will perform live at all the Femina Miss India pageants across India,” she revealed.
Meanwhile, the newly married Shibani is reveling in wedded bliss. The singer tied the knot to actor Rajiv Roda in February this year (2013). “I am more than happy and settled now. I always felt that ‘ek aur ek gyara hota hai’ (One plus one equals eleven). We both have the same aim and targets in the world of entertainment and we are looking to collaborate in the future.”
Shibani has also been hit with social networking bugs such as Facebook and Twitter where she is regularly seen interacting with fans. So what is her take on social networks? “As celebrities, we have our responsibilities and social media such as Facebook , Twitter and blogs makes for interesting changes where we can interact with fans , tweet and share our candid thoughts.” As a parting gift, the artiste who is also a Sufi singer, broke into an impromptu rendition of “Sajna aa bhi ja”, the title track of ‘Zinda’, and the Sufi number “Nagmagee”.
I met Shibani as a journalist and became a fan, clicking pictures with her, giving me her autograph and of course gifting me her album, My Free Spirit that I cherish in my music collection. Of course, we are still in touch on Facebook and always a pleasure to read the updates from this down-to-earth soul.
You know where to find Shibani who is present on social media and she has supported the cause of women in sports, performing live at the Sparkles & Hope event 2017 as well as performing for the ongoing All Women Cricket League.