You’ve trained under two phenomenal female musicians- Late Girija Devi and Late Kamala Bose. Could you share what distinct learnings you received from both these masters?
I feel that the backbone of what I sing today is purely Kama Bose Ji’s training. She was the one who taught me what Hindustani classical music was all about and she helped me ignite what that form of music was all about. For me, it was all Kamala Ji.
Afterwards, I went on to learn from Girija Devi Ji from whom I understood what the entire Guru-Shishya Parampara was.
Do you remember any instances that has stuck with you from your training days with them?
I think it’s the stage exposure. Kamala Ji made it a point that I was very comfortable on stage and performed extensively especially for competitions. That really helped to motivate me. I have about 102 trophies at home and every time I won a competition, it really set a parameter for me wherein I knew that if I won, I did not have the right to lose but then if I lose, she would make it a point to tell me why I lost.
All that helped me and keeps me grounded at the end of the day. Once you have got so much stage exposure and have so many people who appreciate your work, it doesn’t get to your head.
There are so many instances where reality show winners are not able to capitalise their win into successful music careers, and other participants from the same show emerge as juggernauts in their profession. What do you think about that?
I think it has got its pros and cons. I can talk from personal experience only. When I was growing up, I participated in a lot of competitions and it really helped me in one way which was the confidence that I required to carry forth. But again, it’s a combination of a lot of things. It’s also about how you are being groomed at home and how your Guru is grooming you and how your parents are taking the success or the popularity that you are attracting from these shows. When you are at a really young age and seeing that glamour, it’s about people being around you who would say that there is a lot more out there. I think people who have been successful in achieving in maintaining being grounded have gone on (this is apart from being talented) and carved a niche for themselves.
It’s incredible that you won National Award for a song that isn’t in your native language. In fact, you’re now singing in 12 different languages. Is it safe to say that language becomes advantageous more than a barrier when the musical foundations are strong?
I don’t see why it shouldn’t be (laughs) because I adore languages and have always loved and had an affinity for them. It has been such that when I was growing up, I used to rent out books on Italian, Cantonese, German and I would sit home and learning them. I ended up learning a lot and even learnt reading and writing Urdu and Punjabi on my own.
It definitely adds to your personality to parts of the brain that we are generally not acquainted to so I think learning in itself is a great tool and now singing in different languages is amazing. People say that I am blessed and also think that I am quick in grasping languages. I contribute that completely to what I used to do while I was growing up.
When you sing in different languages, there is also one more thing. Every language has its tone, and attitude and you get to acquaint yourself to various attitudes.
How was growing up with parents who are music fanatics themselves like?
I barely used to see my parents! When I hit around 9-10 years old, my parents made sure I was involved in a lot of things. It ranged from anywhere between swimming, ice-skating, martial arts, music, various instruments etc. I used to organize lot of charity events and did a lot of volunteering work around my community and because of that I was just going from one spot to another. I remember there were times when I would forget what my parents actually looked like because I wouldn’t see their faces for like months (laughs). Later on, I went on to win seven scholarships to university and because of that there was a minimum GPA that I had to maintain to retain my scholarship and I also had to be involved in community work as well. So, all my time went in school, my academics, community service, music and athletics. It was really difficult for me to spend time with my parents. Then, I went on to move to India and wanted to achieve everything on my own.
My family has been incredibly supportive and have been a backbone. My dad is my biggest critic, and I’m petrified of my father hearing my songs. My brothers are my biggest fans!
Who were your biggest musical influences while growing up?
It will have to absolutely be AR Rahman sir, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Saab, and Norah Jones.
Living in Canada, did you have any influence of western music in your singing at all?
Actually no! My parents never encouraged western music at home. Whatever I learnt was in school and then I was also in Church choir and used to sing gospel. Since my parents only encouraged Hindustani Classical music and old film classics, I actually know songs from 20s and 30s that even they wouldn’t know.
You were exposed to singing on radio at the age of six and by ten you were training with professional classical musicians. Would it be accurate if we said that music those you rather than vice versa?
Music chooses everyone! Music itself is such a pure entity and you need to be really blessed to be a musician.
You left your pre-med scholarship to come back and start a musical career in India? What was going through your mind at the time? Did you at any point fear failure?
I thought I was going to be a star in like a year! I used to keep my phone right by my ear and wait to be called at any time because I thought I was going to be a star overnight but it doesn’t happen that way. I was just 19 then and it took me 3 years to get my first break which was a flop. In fact, I had 25 consistent flop after that.
I just kept going and didn’t lose hope. My turning point in my career was my break with AR Rahman sir who trusted me!
You’re now producing your own album. When is it going to be out? What can we expect from the album?
I’m composing my own songs and I am not confined to any genre in particular. It’s basically different moods, expressions and human emotions and at the same time there are certain songs which have a spiritual connect with them. I’ve written most of them, done the arrangement myself. I am getting a lot of support from people in the industry who understand how Independent music is and how it’s not your typical commercial music. I’m hoping to release a single every month.
What are your thoughts on the current trend in the music industry of recreating old hits into pop remixes?
I think it’s like old wine in a new bottle. A lot of the current generation may not go and log on to a website to listen to old songs of Lata Ji and Rafi Saab but if you re-create it, it might just give them the interest to go back and wonder what the original one sounded like. You should look at this very positively! People are making original music and remakes and all that matters is that they are all good music.
What is a usual day in the life of Shashaa Tirupati like?
I think I’m like the most confused person in life! I’m also very temperamental and moody. So, I wake up in the morning and have to drink my cup of coffee, and then everything else is just dependent on how I feel.
If I feel like picking up my guitar, jamming and creating a new tune, I’d sit and do that. If I feel like writing a song, I’ll do that or if I feel like binge watching on Netflix, I’ll probably do that. Obviously, because of the gigs, recordings etc., it’s sometimes difficult to find time to do what you want to do.
What is your advice to young musicians who want to pursue music?
Well, I would say first of all finish your Education. It’s so important, I could not stress enough and then do whatever you want to do. But at the same time keep working on your art and don’t lose hope! Be consistent! There was a time I used to practise ten hours a day because there were certain things I wanted to achieve and I am very stubborn (typical Capricorn) and that makes me work my butt off for that. I think that helps you achieve things!
Golden words from me: What next? You achieve something today, forget about that and think about what you are going to do next and upping your game.
Shashaa has a phobia of crossing the road to an extent where she would ask the rikshawala to help her cross. She is extremely petrified!
All her savings are spent on Perfumes, Chocolates and Goggles and she has about 56 pairs of them and is thinking of what next?
Water makes her very happy, in any form.
Hit songs list:-
1) Kochadaiiyaan (2014)- Vaada Vaada
2) OK Kanmani (2015) – Paranthu Sella Vaa
3) Mohenjo Daro (2016) – Sarsariya
4) OK Jaanu (2017) – Humma Humma
5) Kaatru Veliyidai (2017) – Vaan Varuvaan
6) Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (2017)- The Kanha Song
7) Tumhari Sulu (2017) – Hawa Hawai with Kavita Krishnamurthy
8) Gold (2018) – Mono Beena
9) Lust Stories (2018) (Webseries) – Motorcycle
10) MOM (2017)- Chal Kahin Door