The jazz, RnB and Soul singer on why we have to change the escape-type of running into a triumphant, strong, open, self-reliant running
One of the foremost soul singers in India, Vasundhara Vee has come out with a powerful video single ‘Run’.
After a 15-year-long journey as a live performer, vocal trainer and author, her ‘Run’, produced by composer-producer Dhruv Ghanekar signals the debut of the Mumbai-based singer as a solo artiste.
“I wanted to express myself in a new way and was also feeling renewed as a person. So it was a good time to write music. I wanted to launch solo and the stars aligned,” says Vasundhara who feels having Dhruv on board was a blessing. “Dhruv is one of the most complete artistes that I know; I want to be like him someday,” she adds.
Vasundhara and Dhruv started working on ‘Run’ in 2019 and were looking at cracking a sound that would stay true to Vasundhara ‘as a person, as a woman and as a soul singer’.
‘Run’ is the first of a trail of songs. “Dhruv’s stylistic palette is so vast. A composer becomes a sonic extension of your mind and your musical personality. Every element in a song is crafted to generate a specific feeling in the listener,” says Vasundhara.
Vasundhara describes ‘Run’, as ‘notes to self’. Elaborating on its lyrical essence she says, “It is about having the guts to be yourself; taking all parts of you and moving towards your authenticity — your love, your peace. It is about being your own soulmate. We have to change the running from that of an escape to a triumphant, open, self-reliant running. Journeys of healing are gradual and not always the easiest but to quote the song, ‘every step forth will build my way back’.”
With roots in Assam, an upbringing in Delhi and a singing career in Mumbai, Vasundhara was exposed to a western music culture that’s not just international but contemporary Indian.
More than a decade of experience as a jazz, blues and soul performer saw her playing the role of a mentor who shaped many singers’ voices and styles through her school The School of Voice. “My purpose is to be a model to new singers; you can survive and thrive in this space without making a musical compromise. I love it when singers expand into other styles. I love that for myself too. Only, it should be out of curiosity and love, not out of fear or compulsion.”
The responsibility of a western music artiste in India goes beyond performing; one has to ensure it is reaching a discerning audience.
“Our work is to unify and organise audiences with similar tastes and this is best done as a community. Soul and RnB are now everywhere, but when I started, mine was one of the few bands,” says Vasundhara.
The pandemic demanded more than raising awareness about music. While it created opportunities for indie artists to upskill and become visible, many were left behind.
“Many musicians, DJs, wedding procession musicians and artists were facing starvation. My friend, Prince Mulla began Artists for Artists, a helpline and rescue initiative to send food and grain to these artistes’ families. As many as 430 artiste volunteers gave 10,800 grocery kits (over 1 million meals) over the last two years. This number itself shows the scale of the struggle,” says Vasundhara who emphasises the need to start using tickets as votes. “Every ticket, trinket or merch we buy is a vote for an artiste to stay viable. As an audience member, this is an inexpensive gesture but it will go a long way in supporting the art. If 100,000 people do this, platforms will find Indie viable.”
As a performer with an electrifying stage presence, Vasundhara is aware of how packaging is essential.
She has devoted a section in her book Big Dreams Bold Choices to stress how communication is the real packaging. Says Vasundhara, “The packaging doesn’t mean sexualisation or dilution of your art. Adele’s packaging and Ed Sheeran’s packaging are different from Prince or Sting or Nicki Minaj’s. By having clear visual communication, an artiste sets up a flavour and an expectation in the audience and also complements her music fittingly. Women artistes do not have to sexualise themselves to sell. Nor does a good musician have to dumb down his music assuming that audiences will not follow. AR Rahman’s music is intelligent and is produced like gold. So there’s no scope for musicians to assume that great music has no takers.”
On her future projects, Vasundhara says, she and Dhruv are already on it. “We will explore pop soul in diverse ways. We will look at different aspects of the human experience and push our creative limits. I love how observant one becomes when one has to write about a chosen topic and I look forward to evolving as a person and as a singer as I look around and write songs.”
Explaining her rather unusual second name, she says, ‘Vee is my pet name. My friends call me either Vasu or Vee. I chose this because I feel that in the arts, you are your own child. An artiste creates himself into a being who is much more than his surroundings. We have the opportunity to lose and re-create.”