A songstress of many hues: Rasika Shekar

Since her first arrival in 2011 as an accompanist to Ghulam Ali saab and later with the famous SEL trio, Rasika’s voice as a singer and as a flautist has been very distinct and quite rare. It was always intriguing to see her challenge herself and toy with the idea of being a female flautist whilst the rest are usually content being the “female lead.”

Rasika has had a sizable discography to her credit with SEL on projects like 2 States, Kill Dil, Katti Batti, etc. besides being on their Coke Studio episode for ‘Man Patang’. What’s interesting beyond this is how despite having her share of fame, tours, acclaim, and niche in Bollywood, she recently decided to further her musical horizons by attending the Master’s program at The Berklee College of Music in Valencia in performance. An “intellectual” is always tempted to ask if it was conscious to move away from the clutter of B-town and Rasika countered saying, “Rather than a conscious choice or anything, I look at it all as a part of a journey. I’ve always had this passion to continue to explore different forms of music and cultures. More pressingly though, I was drawn towards grasping more harmonic concepts, jazz, arrangement, and additionally wanted to expand my technique especially as a flautist. I’ve realized that there are just so many beautiful dimensions you get to appreciate and assimilate from every style of music.”

Talking about her time in Europe, “I did a concert titled “Roots and Origins of India to Valencia” where I was invited to feature in and curate this concept that was specifically bringing together Indian music, Flamenco and western classical music to an audience Spain. It was quite an exciting one because speaking of flamenco, historically, it has some of its roots in India which was actually really interesting to study further and witness. That being said, it was really nice to interact and express back using our classical music forms, its rhythmic aspects, Tamil folk music and Sufi music. The interesting thing also was that I was working with traditional flamenco musicians who didn’t speak English but we did all of the beautiful conversations through our music. And of course, the most special one being a performance with the legendary John McLaughlin at Berklee’s finale concert. It was something I had never even dreamt of and was just surreal,” sighs Rasika. Off lately, it’s not just Europe or Spain for her, the singer was recently in Tunisia too where, “I was invited to perform and judge the Istikhbar music festival. I had the opportunity to perform in collaboration with Tunisian musicians on my compositions. Their traditional system of the maqam, is definitely something that resonated so strongly with me in terms of its aesthetics. Amongst others, there were small performances with traditional flamenco singer, some recordings with jazz artists, a project on music from the Basque region and one that was a tribute to a Chilean folk singer,” she added.

After being many international musician’s pick across the world more particularly in Europe and USA, Rasika is comping up with her single next month in November featuring an international ensemble of musicians. “It’s an original piece of mine that I composed sometime back. I had the pleasure of having some incredible musicians from different parts of the world (UK, US, Korea) play with me on it. It is an amalgamation of various influences of mine ranging from Carnatic to folk to jazz,” she summarized. In an era of turntable hungover millennials, Rasika has emerged to be a spearhead of Indian music to foreign audiences. As her achievements speak volumes about her envious talent, Rasika continues to focus on exploring multiple dimensions of music and where her voice and Flute takes her.