By Asjad Nazir
SHE may be one of the biggest music stars in the world, but Shreya Ghoshal is very grounded and sees herself as one of the people. The human connection combined with world-class vocals has turned the singer into the undisputed queen of Bollywood music and a huge live draw on the global stage. That demand is why her yearly return to the UK is like an annual holiday for adoring fans who come together to celebrate great music. Each year the shining star gives something new to those who give her so much love.
Eastern Eye caught up with the multi award-winning singer ahead of her hotly anticipated UK concerts in London and Leeds to talk about her remarkable success, fans, having a waxwork at Madame Tussauds, her driving force and more…
The expectations around you are so high; does that put pressure on you?
I have been singing professionally now in films for 15 years, so this has always been there in my head. I always have to think about what I am going to do next so that I do better than I did yesterday. That pressure keeps me going and it keeps me alive. It keeps helping me to improve as an artist everyday and grow.
How do UK audiences compare to others you perform in front of?
It’s a class apart I would say because UK audiences have great taste in music. The warmth that they show to the artist feels so genuine and organic; it is as if I am performing in front of my family. They have that kind of a vibe. The UK audience has a strong connection with India and misses being close to their roots. Every time there is a concert or something to do with their own culture, the excitement and glint in their eyes is different and unique. Seeing and experiencing that gives me great joy.
How do you feel about being perhaps the biggest live draw in Bollywood?
Asjad, I think it is genuinely because people love music. The audience is very intelligent, sensitive and know what they want to listen to and see. So I feel happy that I have been able to connect to their hearts in some way because I believe in the same thing. I believe in good music and believe that when I am on stage it isn’t just another day in my life. It is very important! When I am on that stage, it is everything. Backstage, I am nervous before I go on. I still feel nervous despite having performed for so many years. That passion is what comes across I feel. They have genuinely loved me so much, so I feel great and don’t know how to thank them.
I don’t believe that the great Shreya Ghoshal gets nervous…
(Laughs) I do! I get very nervous preparing what to do and the new things to incorporate, and thinking how audiences will like it. Until I am on the stage I am nervous, but once I am in front of the audience all that goes and I lose all control of my thoughts. Then it is just me and the audience! When I am on stage, I don’t think and go on auto cruise. I just react to what they want and go that way.
You play to packed arenas, but how aware are you of the massive numbers in the audience?
Oh yes, I am very much aware, even though the spotlight can really blind you. It literally does blind you and I don’t mean it metaphorically. It means you can’t see all the faces, but I always ask my light technician to make it a little mellow so I can see my audience. I also ask them to shine the light on the audience so I can see them. I should know where they are all seated and who can hear me. I want to know if they are singing with me. I want to read their lips also while they are singing. So I do genuinely feel that if I don’t connect like that, for me to sing for them becomes difficult. So I am aware very much of them all.
How much does it mean to you that you have all ages, from young kids to elders, coming to see you live?
That is a nice thing. I just like the fact that I have something for everyone. There are songs for the younger ones and I just love the energy of the youth. But I also have something for the little more mature audience. In my heart, I am of all the generations and connect with them all. I understand what kind of music each of them wants. That apart, I do believe that if something is done with the right emotions, whichever song, it will connect with all audiences. Till today, even if I am singing an old song of Lata jee (Mangeshkar) or something even older in my concerts, I see the young kids also lip syncing along. Good songs don’t have a timeline or age and cross all barriers at that very moment. So I feel happy that my music keeps everyone together. I like to see families coming together. The big whole joint families who take up all the seats, I just love that.
You are the undisputed queen of Bollywood and have done an incredible amount, including winning countless awards. Is it difficult to keep motivated when you have done so much?
The restlessness is always there within. Have I done enough? What have I done this time? Have I genuinely sung a song that will be remembered forever? Have I done my best yet? So that thought is always within. I am not very complacent in life, not at all! That keeps me motivated and I know that tomorrow will be a better day if I work harder today. That desire to do good music all the time translates across to my colleagues and composers who I work and collaborate with regularly. They also have the same frame of mind so we connect like that and try helping each other to make even better music. So that keeps me motivated.
How much does becoming the first Indian singer to get a Madame Tussauds waxwork mean to you?
I don’t really have an answer to that, but I do feel really honoured. I actually genuinely don’t know how to react to it. Firstly, it is a great honour to be immortalised like this at such a prestigious institution that is there all across the globe. People have been so excited since the day the news came out. I’m yet to see the waxwork model and I don’t know how I will react when I see it. It is going to be interesting to see. The replica of you standing there next to you is quite bizarre but interesting too.
I think it will be the most hugged waxwork at the attraction…
(Laughs) Yes of course. I think if they had incorporated a singing statue, it would have been even cooler. I would suggest to Madame Tussauds, why don’t you add a voice chip also in the throat so it keeps singing to the audiences who come to visit?
Would you like to give a message to your adoring fans?
You love me but I love you even more. I can’t say it enough and more than the number of times than I have already done. Genuinely, whatever I am today is because of you and please stay the same way as you are right now. Keep showering your love and keep telling me what you want me to do and sing. What do you want me to do next? Your feedback, your tweets, messages, however you have been able to connect or communicate to me, I take it very seriously. I look, I read and see everything that you send across to me. I just want to say that I love you and hope that I can entertain you all my life.
Shreya Ghoshal will be in concert with a full band at First Direct Arena in Leeds on Saturday (29) and SSE Arena in London on Sunday (30). Shreya’s UK tour is courtesy of Rock On Music UK.