You were one of the two nominees from India at the 61st Grammy’s this year. How was the experience and how did you feel?
The experience was truly humbling and I was deeply honored to be nominated. I was representing every Indian globally and I was committed to representing India in its highest form. It was a proud moment for me as I was born and raised in India and felt closer to my motherland more than ever before. It was very special to have this opportunity to be a voice for upwards of 1.3 billion people.
Tell more us about your album Falu’s Bazaar.. What were your best moments from making of the album?
Falu‘s Bazaar is a family album made for both kids and parents to enjoy together. It draws from Indian and American cultures and educates children about South Asian food, experiences, and music while having fun. When my 4 year old son Nishaad came home from his preschool with questions like, “why is our food yellow?” or “why do we speak a different language at home?”, I started answering his question by writing these songs. Instead of having a block around his identity, I wanted the album to help him realize he should feel proud of his culture and be happy to speak two languages. The moment my son’s curosity at school turned into pride, I realized what a gift making this album was for me as a mother and an artist.
What are some important attributes or criteria one must keep in mind while applying to the Grammys?
Be honest in your submission and make sure you submit your music in the right category, as there are dozens of them. Your music needs to be submitted in the category that it truly belongs to.
What were some of the challenges you faced when you first started out as a musician?
When I first started I had deep culture shock. I wanted to learn the American way of doing business and music while drawing from my Indian traditions, which was truly challenging. Finding a balance while doing this was tricky because music is so subjective. I had to work odd jobs to monetarily make ends meet. I was committed to making a name for myself in the American music industry, which I found to be challenging as a minority, first-generation immigrant and brown woman. I had to get in front of the right people at the right time doing the right projects. It all took a lot of hard work and tremendous patience.
You trained under the legendary Ustad Sultan Khan. What were your biggest learnings from him?
Khan saheb taught me patience and perseverance. He showed me that if I fully believed in something and completely surrendered to that task, I can achieve it – be it riyaz and or passion for making Indian music a household name.
What does Falu’s practice routine look like?
When I was a teenager, I practiced 16 hours of riyaz everyday. Now that I have all these responsibilities of being a professional artist, wife, and mother, I have to divide my time very thoughtfully and strategically. Balancing three hats is difficult for every working woman but I always find time to practice everyday. Even if it is only for an hour. I learned from my teachers, “riyaz ke bina sona nahi”.
How was the experience performing at the White House for Michelle Obama? Were you excited?
Michelle Obama and Barack Obama are two of the most genuine, real, and generous people I know. They welcomed us to their home with such love and respect for three days. I truly loved making music with the National Symphony Orchestra and of course the legendary A. R Rahman with whom I sang at the White House.
How do you constantly improve your art form and ensure you’re abreast with the latest happenings in the industry?
Social media is a big tool to keep myself informed with any news happening in the music world. I also use it to network with industry folks on a regular basis. With regards to my art, I have to keep pushing boundaries around what I’m doing and how far I can take my music. That involves a lot of soul searching and I make sure I take certain days off just to think about all of that.
If there was one song you could pick from the album Falu’s Bazaar, which you think defines the story you had created in its purest sense, what would it be?
“Rainbow” – It’s a song in a seven-beat cycle and it is in two languages – English and Hindi. It teaches kids in fun ways about some of the beautiful things that we have on planet earth that revolve around the number 7 (Seven continents, days, colors, oceans, musical notes)
Your message to aspiring artists in your space
Dream big never give up
1. Best performance till date – At the White House
2. Dream venue to perform in – Stern Auditorium @ Carnegie Hall
3. Artists you’d love to collaborate with – Akon, Madonna, U2, Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande
4. Upcoming projects – 3 new albums
5. If you could fuse two genres of music, what would you pick to create? – Hip Hop with Indian Classical