The Mothers Who Rock, Literally: A Mother’s Day Special

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The independent music industry is filled with examples of individuals who have made a mark for themselves with sheer grit, talent and perseverance. On the occasion of Mother’s Day, we bring you inspiring stories of women who are rocking it, literally, both in real life and on stage!

Shruti Jakati

Vocalist, music writer and composer. Principal at Muziclub, a music academy with 1000+ students and 3 centres in Pune, Associated with bands Alif and Idanim

Q1. Did your music take a backseat when you married/decided to have children? If yes, how do you feel about that?

I got married when I was 20. I was working full time but always jumped on any opportunity to sing. I became a mother at 23 and yes my music performance took back seat for few years but not my music. At that time of course I think my son was my priority so I didn’t feel bad that I was out of music scene. But I kept on doing riyaaz and used that time to learn new genres in Music. I used to read and listen a lot in those days. I think I balanced my life and my passion well. I am turning 50 this year, still alive and thriving to do new things in life.
I would like to mention about one life changing incident of my life here. I lost my voice in 2010 due to a tumour. I couldn’t speak for many months, forget about singing. But I diligently practiced everyday and got back to my singing in one and half year. You can say this is my second inning. 
Now looking at all these breaks I feel those breaks helped me to introspect and revive myself and work on my voice technically. 

Q2. What advice do you have for young women just starting out with their music?

All those young women who want to start -My few tips would be Keep practicing persistently, learn new things, keep yourself open for all kinds of music, listen to lot of music and most importantly embrace life with full zeal. Life is a chain of events and people, so go positively for any opportunity and give your 100 %, learn and move on for next. 
Most of the times it happens that what we expect, it never happens but that should not stop us from going ahead. So keep doing what you like and what you believe in. For all those musicians I would advise to exercise regularly. Fitness is something which keeps us motivated and energised. In our field, stamina and energy are very important factors to sustain. 

Teesta Galway

Singer-songwriter, guitar player, performing professionally for 15 years. Front woman of The Teesta Galway Project, a four piece band playing blues and blues inspired music.

Q1. Did your music take a backseat when you married/decided to have children? If yes, how do you feel about that?

Being a musician and a family to look after is definitely not easy. Especially if you play full time music. And the odd hours, travelling and rehersals make it that much more difficult. Yes there was a phase when the kids were small I was unable to play too many gigs, also being married to an IAF officer made it that much more difficult as my husband’s job involved a lot of travelling as well. But instead of giving up on music I used this time to hone my skills and played fewer gigs. My husband being extremely supportive stayed home whenever he could and looked after the kids. After the kids were born, music didn’t take a backseat, gigging took a bit of a backseat but being extremely strong willed and empowered I found ways to work around it, and finding time for the kids as well.

Q2. What advice do you have for young women just starting out with their music?

First of all women starting out in music need to be really independent and strong. Their priorities need to be sorted out and they should be able to lookout for themselves because entertainment business in itself is different from other professions. They need to be able to deal with agents and venues on their own. And most importantly NEVER play for free or a small fee, there are a lot of young naïve girls out there being exploited by agents and other senior musicians as well. At the end of the day no matter how long the day has been I am extremely happy doing what I do, when asked why I picked this profession goes on to say music found me and its not the other way round.

Sunayana Sarkar

Professor of Rock Mechanics, Geotectonics/Structural Geology at NMIMS University, Mumbai. Founder and lead vocalist of blues band Melange, Music supervisor and recording artist for dubbing localization content for Walt Disney, Fox and more (Recent projects being “Jungle Book 2016”, “Lion King 2019”, “Dumbo 2018”)

Q1. Did your music take a backseat when you married/decided to have children? If yes, how do you feel about that?

No. Absolutely not. I am not trained as a singer. But an upbringing in remote tea gardens meant that listening to music was the only means of entertainment and that became my biggest musical education. I moved to Bombay after my marriage. My husband never stopped me from doing anything that I had wanted to and that was indeed a blessing. I started out by dabbling with advertisement jingles and voice overs in the beginning. Later, a chance meeting with Antara Choudhury (Salil Choudhary’s daughter) was my passport into the world of Disney, Fox and DreamWorks localization content. She called me for an audition to UTV. This was 1998. I got chosen and started with dubbing songs for a character for their series called “Hercules”and then there was no looking back. I must have sung some 3000 songs in these past years, ditties, ballads, diverse genres, alien styles and to do it in hindi and sound convincing has remained a challenge till date that I immensely enjoy. The excitement of the work has not waned and I am sure it never will. Antara taught me how to supervise these song recordings because that in itself is a specialized job. Almost overnight I taught myself how to read staff notation to tackle these projects.
My son Nino was born in 2002. So he is 18 today. I was halfway through my PhD at the Department of Earth Sciences, IIT Bombay, when I was about to deliver. Thankfully, a hassle free pregnancy let me work till the eight month. And I re-joined when he was just 3 months old! We lived in Versova then. JVLR was still on an ammonia print with the planning committee. Commuting everyday from Versova to Powai, working full time as a research scholar and then returning home via studio sessions was an exhausting but satisfying exercise. My son’s nanny was a pillar of support in the initial days. Later we would even meet up at the studios and slowly my son too became friends with the microphone and started dubbing at the age of 4! I think I was just plain lucky! 

Q2. What advice do you have for young women just starting out with their music?

I am not a trained singer. But I have learnt a LOT on the job. So I shall list a few things that I feel that young women and men should keep in mind….

  1. Patience is key. The ear is the biggest remote sensing gadget in music that we are blessed to be born inbuilt with and so, listen….listen to music…any kind of music…don’t be biased towards one kind or one genre. And if you are in the recording industry, then have the patience to listen to the director or composer before jumping into takes. I often encounter young singers these days who I may be supervising for these song recordings and I realize that the present generation just wants to enter the studio, finish off the song line by line and exit and never listen to what I have to say in the interim. What they deprive themselves of, is the sheer beauty of living through a song and enjoying every minute of recording it.
  2. I would say that even in this world of high tech recording software and equipment, it is the age old technique of singing a song in considerably large chunks that renders the rendition to a superior quality! Let the syllabilic kind of cut paste recording and auto tuning be left to those who are not quite blessed with singing ability. I do not mean to sound demeaning but that should be the truth. Singers should sing, instead of trying to be software engineers in the studio. Let us not accelerate evolution for singers.
  3. The virtual world has opened up so many possibilities for the younger generation. Collaborations are easy. The Covidian lockdown has also not stopped us from latching on to remote recording sessions. The sky is the limit. But tread with care. 
  4. Leave the cloning to scientists in the genetics world. Microphone cloning is passe. Take charge of your own voice and be yourself instead of trying to sound like someone else. The challenge should be in being able to sing a Lata ji or a Kishore Kumar song in your own style and still sound as beautiful as their superlative original versions. 
  5. Have a close connect with nature. Music was born of nature and therein it survives its purest form. If we share a close bond with nature, then music and singing automatically gets real.