How does one start explaining music that transcends this realm? That infiltrates your brain and tunes you to the sound of Earth? Of the human consciousness as ONE? Because THAT is what Shilpa Ananth’s music does to you: hypnotizes your senses into detaching from this physical world and connect to your Higher Self. Read the article and thank me later for having introduced you to this phenomenal artist 😉
The airy voice with impressive alto tonalities will literally give you goosebumps. ”Listening to the clock tick to the beat of my heart/ Wishing I could make my life reflect my art/ I crave to find my way/ What if every sign so far were all little lies/ Have I been delusional, living in denial/ I pray to not be betrayed” – Align feels like a surreal Picasso painting transposed to music. What I’ve just realized as I was about to write the next sentence, is that Shilpa’s music can not be heard, it is FELT. Her voice, her lyrics, her energy, mesh extraordinarily well with the music. I also couldn’t compartmentalize her style right away. I had to do my homework. I just knew it’s different and that it reminded of 2 timeless musical acts: Enigma and Sevdaliza.
After extensive research, I can tell you with certainty that Shilpa Ananth is an Avant-Pop artist. Larry McCaffery, a notable American critic, describes avant-pop to be “the most radical, subversive literary talents of the postmodern new wave.” Translated to feelings, it would be that morning when you wake alone, drinking coffee, and you’re able to look at your life from a 3rd party perspective, when you realize that memories are created after they’re long gone. When you’re angry, frustrated, yet thankful for this life you’ve been given, all while being aware you’re gonna have to let it all go one day.
”The lyrics of Align describe in a beautiful way the uncomfortable feeling of being unsure of one’s path. What was happening in your own life that sparked these lyrics?” I ask Shilpa to open the conversation. She says: ”I was in a state of non-belonging, feeling I didn’t fit in with the life I had worked to build in America, not having my morals and values aligned anymore with what I was taught back in India, and by consequence grieving the loss of my inner sense of ‘home’.”- Shilpa, if you ever write a book, make it your autobiography and don’t leave any details out. It sounds like we could learn a lot from your life experience thus far.
My next question goes: ”Who composed the instrumental that fits so well with the song’s message? And did the music come first or the lyrics in this case?”. Shilpa: ”My producer and someone I consider my musical soulmate, Drew of the Drew, sent me a little section of the beat first. Within 10 seconds, I knew we would create magic from this song. I felt connected to it before I even decided on the message. I meditated on what emotion I was trying to convey, wrote down the lyrics, recorded myself with my iPhone, sent him my side of the story, and the song ultimately took shape along with the meaning and direction of it” – Gotta love the organic making of the product. Songs like this are not born every day, nor every week. They have a moment in time that needs to be crystalized right away by its creators, and Shilpa did exactly that. I shall call it artistic intuition, and this girls owns an abundance of it!
I also need to know WHY she chose Align to shoot a music video for? To which she shares an appropriate, funny comparison: ”I feel as though in this day and age, writing a song and only releasing it out as an audio version, is the equivalent of giving birth and keeping your child from seeing the world. Or the world from seeing her. I wanted to sustain Align’s lifeline as long as possible, and knew that creating a visual story to show the meaning of the song from a different point of view, would only give it more layers of depth and interpretation.” Truth has been spoken! As unbelievable as it may seem, we’re in 2020, and the days of reaching success just by releasing audio material are long gone.
”Do I wait for the planets to align/ Do I wait for some sign/ Do I make, peace to never find/ Do I really know, the one within my mind” if you had trouble wording your internal state during these controversial times of history (hi Covid19 and all the craziness you brought with you), THIS is how you put it in simple words to your therapist! or just send her the link to Align 🙂
I then ask Shilpa if she ever listens to this song herself, to which she gives me the coolest, unapologetic answer ever: ”I love this song, and listen to it often and shamelessly. I am extremely proud of it, and at the moment, it is one of my favorites. Align means so much to me, and it saved me when I thought I had nothing left to give.” I honestly can not point a single mistake or place to be improved in this song. It is perfect the way it is: the lack of structure makes for memorability, the presence of a middle section in Malayalam stands strong for Indian roots, the versatility of Shilpa’s voice shows her vocal confidence, the gentle music lays the matching ambient.
If like me, you were wondering who this song was written for, here’s what Shilpa shared with us: ”Anyone going through an existential or artistic crisis, can identify with it. I sing lyrics penned in English and Malayalam (one of the many languages spoken in South India), so anyone who understands the journey made to go between languages, and the complexity of expressing yourself while your mind translates words, context, and emotion, to help you connect deeply, would 100% identify with it.” Her answer completely resonates with my own thoughts. You see, there’s a piece of Shilpa in every person that left home to go chase their dreams.
Let’s get to know Shilpa Ananth more personally though! ”I’ve been singing since the age of 3. Coming from a traditional, South Indian family, I started my Carnatic (Classical music) voice lessons very early. But I only came to terms with music being my calling at the age of 15. Through my older brother’s influence, I was listening to every genre of Western music. This made me experiment with my voice, exposed my ears to the other styles of international sounds, and helped me develop my own passion for it. Singing along with the rich, deep voices of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Erykah Badu, and Norah Jones, made me believe I had a place somewhere in there, and could make a difference with my Alto voice too. Coming from a culture which only deems Soprano voices as talented and worth listening to, whether it be in Bollywood, folk, or classical music, this was a crucial realization for the teenage me. Skipping ahead a few years, these very same beliefs gave me the courage to audition and study at the Berklee College of Music, Boston. Now living in Brooklyn, NY, I cannot think of a life doing anything else other than music. I believe my life purpose is to write, perform, educate, and empower through my artistry.” – for some reason I just saw Shilpa in my mind doing a mic drop. That’s how good this answer was! Mind you, this issue is not something prevalent only in India, we globally have been conditioned to say that Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande have angelical voices. But… why doesn’t the industry bend over for the Alto reps as well? Something for your thoughts to chew on.
”You’ve shown commendable control of voice in your songs. How did you develop that? Are you doing something on a regular basis to maintain it in shape?” – had to ask this one for the fellow singers who are looking to learn from people already in this game: ”Thank you for saying so! It’s very kind of you. I am very sensitive to the needs of my voice. Having some amount of classical vocal training in my younger years, it accounted for its strength, stretch, and stability. But most importantly, it’s a combination of taking care of my body, breath, and mind, combined with regular warm up and practice over the years, that has kept it in good shape, and always ready to play.” – I like the play reference to the voice, it is the first time I hear an artist using it in such context, as an actual, valid instrument.
As to what this young, incredible artist prefers in her downtime, Shilpa says: ”Yoga all day EVERY DAY! Meditation. Reading. Laughing with a close friend or family. And experimental cooking. These are the pillars of my general well-being and mental health. In the current pandemic lock down, with all the uncertainty about the future, these were instrumental in keeping my balance. Otherwise, normally I would add sitting in nature near any type of water body, running in a park, or traveling, as all the other proven ways I would use to recharge my batteries.” Yesss! I hit the nail on the head when I told you that I’m feeling connected to Earth herself in the beginning! (slightly selfish proud moment time ^.^)
As with everything else in life, time teaches us all how to be better at damn near every thing and every aspect of our lives. What would be one advice Shilpa would give her much younger self? ”I would tell Lil Shilps to stop worrying, keep trusting the universe’s plan, and be much more easier and kinder on herself. In the music industry, the rules are constantly changing, and there’s no formula or back door to reach the top, even more so if you’re doing it all on your own. So this is the life lesson I have come face to face with across different experiences, several times. It’s something I have to remind myself even now, but the only difference between then and now, is that I’ve started to actually listen to myself.” – wisdom ladies and gents. Wisdom from an undeniably spiritual and artistic soul.
One question I was looking forward to since the beginning of this interview is the following: ”If your music was a painting, what would we see on that canvas?”, to which Shilpa responds: ”A turquoise globe, filled with tiny transparent bubbles, and subtle strokes of ruby, sapphire, and gold. Like the inside of the glass marbles I used to collect and play with, as a child.”
In what might have been the longest article we ever published, it also was the most enlightening and spiritual one. We want to thank Shilpa for her time and for opening up about her path and soul journey. We will be rooting for you!
Note from Shilpa: ”I would like to thank my parents for teaching me to fight and never give up. My brother, Suraj, for supporting and inspiring my dreams since childhood. My sister, Srinidhi, for always believing in me and catching every fall. My dearest friend, Aleksandra Denda, for being my voice of light and keeping me sane.”
Interview conducted by Mariana Berdianu
Blue Rhymez Entertainment ©2020