IN CONVERSATION WITH SAGARIKA DEB – FOUNDER OF THE WORLD’S FIRST INTERNET GIRL BAND
Having born in a musical family, Sagarika Deb has music bequeathed to her at her birth. Blessed with a beautiful voice as she is, she is a staunch supporter of women empowerment and animal rights. Even as she has carved a successful niche for herself, she aspires to support the causes dear to her heart through her music.
She has to her credit a lot of accolades. She is the Founder of the World’s First Internet Girl Band, “Wild Blossoms”; she has been recognized as the Young Achiever/ Top 10 Shining Faces of Delhi/ NCR 2012; and many of her songs have received exceptional reviews from critics and music lovers alike. We at Youth24x7 are pleased to bring to you a candid interview with her. Read on!
What is your musical background? Do you have a musical family or did you get started with music all on your own?
I came from a very music family, my mother and sister are both briliant singers. So singing has always played a BIG part in my life. Ever since I remember I have been singing and even my earliest memories are also of performing on stage.
How old were you when you started getting involved in music? How did you figure out you can sing?
Ever since I opened my eyes as a baby, I heard my mother singing to me, and I felt so proud seeing her perform on stage. I always wanted to be like her. I have never taken any professional singing classes or vocal lessons but it came naturally to me. My first steps on stage was at the tender age of two and half when I dressed up as a beautiful Bengali Indian bride and my sister acted as my groom. A musical act followed, and I remember being really excited to be a part of it all. Even then, I was a child with big dreams, and I knew there was nothing else I wanted more than performing on stage, singing/dancing in front of an audience.
What have been the challenges faced in forming the world’s first internet girl’s band?
I have always had immense interest in the internet and social media, and in using these channels to share not only my music, but also important social issues like Women’s Empowerment and Animal Rights, another cause which is extremely close to me.
Wild Blossoms was an experiment which will always be very close to my heart, although now my career has moved on and I am concentrating on evolving as a solo artist. My manager is based in Paris and I use the internet several times a day to communicate with him. I am totally independent of Wild Blossoms now, but I will treasure the memories. Now that I am absorbed in my own music, it is an exhilarating time, especially with the 2013 release of “Shine a Light”, and its music video released few weeks ago. I will continue to perform live, release songs and support the social issues I believe in. A big step for me in 2014 will be working on my Solo Album.
Starting and working on an internet-based project is never easy. Everyone thought I was out of my mind when I said that I had no money or funding, the situation became hysterical, but I wanted to prove them wrong. There were hardships and challenges, but who doesn’t face hardships when starting something new? The key is to not give in!
One big challenge I have faced is sitting on my computer, communicating with my team. What people don’t know about me is that I am a person who likes to be very active. I can’t sit still and I am always on my toes. Answering e-mails throughout the day was a personal challenge. I cannot even watch a movie that is longer than one-and-a-half hours, without fidgeting. I like being a busy bee 😉
At the early stages of my singing career, there were a few communication problems. One of the most important problems, to overcome, was the time difference. This made the work process rather difficult. (I am based in New Delhi, India, my music Management Team is based in Paris, France and my songwriting team is spread throughout USA and Europe).
Contact has become much easier even with the time difference we all experience, as we now use SMS or sometimes make telephone calls if we are in a hurry. E-mail, Skype conferences and Facebook still remain the best choices for interaction, (it’s not always possible to call others because it may be late at night in their country). Gradually, we have overcome all of these concerns and are working together brilliantly – it has been a big team effort though.
Another difficulty has been the production of songs. The composers and songwriters often ask me to record a home demo of the song, in case they need to rearrange any of the music or change any lyrics. It is important that I get their approval before the final studio recording. I have sometimes felt that the songs produced earlier could have been much better if the composer was sitting right in front of me, helping and guiding me during the final recording sessions.
Mixing and Mastering of songs was also an obstacle we had to conquer as Indian sound engineers rarely work on the mixing of English songs. To avoid this problem now, I always collect my ‘raw vocals’ from the studio and the mixing is finalised in Europe or America with professional sound engineers or by the composer of that specific song.
Do you think online music will play a large part in where the industry heads in the future? Where do you see songwriters and singers fitting into that?
I don’t think but I know that online music ‘is’ & will play a large and a very important part in where the industry is heading. Even the major stars are releasing their songs digitally and are making special videos to be showcased exclusively for their online followers. Mobile and internet is where the youth stays now days and if you want to connect to them, online music plays a very important part. There are no chances of the power of the internet going down but will just increase with more and more people joining in even from the remotest parts of the world.
Because of online music I was able to make a mark for myself in the music field. And I feel it holds tremendous opportunities for songwriters & singers to fit in. It gives opportunities to grow ones fan base without taking the traditional long route and gives the liberty to connect to their supporters through any parts of the world.
What genre of music can’t you stand to listen to?
Being a musician I totally understand how much pain and hardwork one has to go through in finishing any creative project, so I really appreciate all genre of music. However if I wear my heart on sleeve, I would say Hard Rock Metal genre is what I can’t stand to listen. I tried before since it is quite popular with boys, ha, but it gives me big headache.
Do you try and give messages in your songs? If yes, what are they?
Music is a universal language of love and peace, and it is the best way to spread awareness about the cases which are very close to my heart, Women Empowerment, Animal Rights, and many others. Many of my songs have been written specifically for them.
I am closely associated with Dr.Kiran Bedi’s NGO, Navjyoti India Foundation (NIF) and attend their events, spreading awareness through my music by joining hands with them. I was first approached by NIF to compose the theme song for their Women Empowerment campaign called ‘Bigul’. This was when we started working on “Shine a Light/Navjyoti Ki Oar”.
Shine a light is a song about a notorious incident which took place a year ago. A very brutal rape and murder took place in Delhi. It was so distressing that it created headlines all over the world. Here in India, it caused shock, revulsion, anger, and the loss hit us all very hard. She was everyone’s sister, daughter and friend. The young girl’s name was Jyoti, and she was a beautiful, bright, young student at the University. Jyoti was trying to get home on a cold night after watching a movie with her friend, something that young girls all over the world do. It is a part of growing up, it is a time of fun, which sadly ended horrifically for her, and ultimately led to her death.
I realized then, that things finally have to change for women in India. Laws have to change, but more so, there has to be a change in attitudes, hearts and minds. Women have to be loved and protected. We have so much to offer not only to each other, but to the world as well. With “Shine a Light”, I wanted to reach out to the world.
My contribution as an artist was to sing this song, which is called “Shine a Light” in English and “Navjyoti Ki Oar” in Hindi. It is an expression of hope and change. It is about kindness and peace, not rage and anger. The lyrics spoke to me, and through the music and the video, I hope they will speak to everyone.
The words were written with great sensitivity by lyricist Mellina Barnett and the music was composed by Billy Playle, both from the UK. I have recorded the song in English and Hindi. The Hindi version was composed for Dr.Kiran Bedi’s NGO, Navjyoti India Foundation and used for their campaign for the empowerment of women, ‘Bigul’.
All the people involved in the production of this song are keen to take the message deep into India and share it with the world as well. For a more powerful impact, we decided to make a video of this beautiful song, here in Delhi. I was highly fortunate to have two extremely talented French filmmakers Casandra Prerost and Bruno Acard, sent to India by my management, HorizonVU Music, for shooting the video with me. We filmed extensively in parts of Delhi, and wrapped up the shoot just before Christmas.
The link to the video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6U3N-7gbvNQ&feature=youtu.be
The video was released and soon went into the prestigious Huffington’s Posts Blog acknowledging our efforts to support Women Empwoerment around the world.Link to the article – http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/casandra-prerostsingh/delhi-gang-rape-music-video-for-jyoti_b_4802085.html
The video will be featured in this year’s prestigious ‘European Independent Film Festival’, and the ‘Los Angeles Music Video Festival’. We hope to spread our message of Women’s Empowerment across the world.
Also, my association with Animal Rights has been part of me since I was very little. My family and I are very fond of all animals, especially the strays. There used to be a TV Series by Mrs. Maneka Gandhi called Heads and Tails. As a child, I used to watch it regularly. I was filled with horror and revulsion when I found out how these beautiful voiceless creatures were tortured by humans. That forced me to give up eating meat and to fight for animal rights.
Today, apart from feeding stray dogs, my friend (Abhishek Kachhawaha) and I run a Facebook community and blog called ‘We Feel the Pain for Animals’. We hope to educate people about animal cruelty and try hard to bring positive change in the world. It is another battle, but it is close to my heart and very important to me.
I am also a ‘Colony Care Taker’ for stray animals and hold the ‘Government ID Card’. I don’t understand why anyone has to be so cruel and heartless towards them. I hope to be a voice for them. I, and people like me, proudly call ourselves “Voices for the Voiceless”.
My day is incomplete without playing with or feeding my stray dogs, and with my own success in music, I wish to form an NGO dedicated to the well-being of animals. A big part of my charity will also be dedicated to people living on the streets. It would be wonderful to have the ability to give jobs to the jobless or homeless people so that they can take care of themselves and their families. It would give these people the opportunity to earn their own money, and live respectfully and compassionately. As you can see, I have many dreams and hope one day to have the ability to bring about change.
We have composed songs for Animal Rights which will be released soon in the future. I am so excited for all the happenings and all the songs which are coming up, hope I will be able to spread awareness with my music and touch many lives on my way.
If you could dabble in another genre of music, what would it be?
I feel I have a kind of voice that can blend into many genre of music. Prior to signing with my current management team I have sang songs in many genres that included, Opera style ‘Ave Maria’, Rap, folk songs, and even songs in multiple languages, including Cantonese, Chinese 🙂
But if I could dabble in another genre I would say ‘Soul Sufi’ genre of music. It’s a very peaceful genre of music and I love listening to them and perhaps might try recording one song in my voice too. Another genre of music I like a lot is ‘Country Music’.
When did you decide you wanted music to be your career?
I always visualized myself singing and dancing on stage. I think it came really naturally to me keeping in mind my family background and the history of stage performances. I feel this is what I was supposed to be, that I am today. I never thought about any other profession but to take music as my career. And finally with the inception of my internet project my dream and passion became much clearer (even with all the hardships that I had to overcome) and finally with my French management team joining in, my professional solo journey started as an artist.
Do you think your fans and critics expect too much from you?
Of course my fans and critics expect a lot from me and they do have reasons to expect too much from me as well. After all I was able to achieve a name for myself pushing behind all the odds, even when everyone said and thought it was impossible for me to sustain in the music world.
During my early days people thought of me as someone coming in and then fading away quickly but I was able to prove them wrong so it is obvious it was surprising for everyone and now their expectations has raised.Honestly their expectations and my will to fulfill them musically keep me going….
Who are your favorite singers/songwriters and why?
A singer that has inspired me the most is my mother. I happen to come from a very musical family and my mother and sister are both brilliant singers. Ever since I opened my eyes as a baby, I heard my mother singing to me, and I felt so proud seeing her perform on stage. I always wanted to be like her. My family has been my strength and I love them more than words can express.
Before my mother got married, she lived in Kolkata. A very famous music teacher lived there too. He was truly gifted and very special even more so because he was born blind and had spend his entire life on music. He once said to my mother, “If there is anyone to take the place of Lata Mangeshkar, it would be you.” In her prime, my mother had plenty of opportunities to pursue her singing career. However, a career in music was extremely difficult for women at the time (even today it is tough but luckily, I have an incredibly dedicated team as my support network). My mother was also highly devoted to her family and I feel she sacrificed her career for us.
My mother constantly encourages me to aim high. My parents have always told me to chase my dreams and most importantly, that there is no difference between a boy and a girl and that we are all equal.
If I have to choose from any of the famous singers it will definitely be Enrique Iglesias. I just love his voice and the way his vocal timbre goes. I am also a very big fan of Britney Spears, the stage presence that she has is out of this world and I don’t think anyone else would be able to do that and Celine Dion for the power in her voice and there are few more like Adele, Whitney Huston, Mariah Carey, Beyonce. Out of the Indian singers Shaan, K.K and Shreya Ghoshal, the depth in their voices and the dedication for music is commandable. I have grown up listening to all of these people and take great inspiration from them.
If I was to turn on your iPod right now, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?
At present we are selecting songs for my album so my playlist at the moment is dominated by the songs of my future album 🙂
Chasing A Butterfly – (by English Lyricist Mellina Barnett and American Composer Frank Prenevost).
Can You – (by English Lyricist Mellina Barnett and Danish Composer Paul Bengtsson).
Dreams – (by American Lyricist Susan Simonson and Produced by Benjamin Bishop also from America.)
Apart from my own songs, the other top songs in my playlist are –
i) Songs of Enrique Iglesias (I can listen to Enruqie all day long without getting bored, he is one of the most talented singers and deserves to be on top of my playlist always).
ii) Ellie Goulding – Burn
iii) Bruno Mars – Young Girls
iv) Raam Chahe Leela – Film ‘Raam Leela’ (The song is very catchy).
v) Wrecking Ball – Miley Cyrus
How important do you think image is to musicians in general and to yourself personally?
What I have noticed in general is, it’s all about the image now days. There are very few artists like Adele, Celion Dion and few more who actually concentrate on music rather than taking themselves towards a particular image to gain publicity. I am sure you all agree that it works.
Although an image is important however I strongly think talent and dedication towards music is more important than just a particular image.
I think I have a very positive image and I didn’t have to do anything to create it. I have always been singing and always been working for my causes, the only difference is people didn’t knew about me and my work prior to my professional music career. I have always had the same image that I have today.
What’s coming up for you? What are you working on now and where do you feel your music is headed?
At present we are preparing for my first Solo Album. We are finalizing the songs and hopefully will be able to realease it within this year. It will be a Pop Album and the songs are written and composed by songwriters from Europe and America.
My music video ‘Shine A Light’ (“Navjyoti Ki Oar” in Hindi), which has been shot as a homage to Nirbhaya/Jyoti was released few weeks ago. The song is written in a hope to bring awareness about the brutality which young girls go through in their lives. It’s about hope for a new light for women not only in India but all around the world. I have recorded it in English and in Hindi. The Hindi version was originally composed for Dr.Kiran Bedi’s NGO Navjyoti India Foundation and used for their Women Empowerment campaign against eve teasing ‘Bigul’.
The video will be featured in this year’s Prestigious ‘European Independent Film Festival’, also in “Los Angeles Music Video Festival” and many other Film Festivals around the world.
In between the album and video shoots I am also constantly attending musical events as a singer/performer/hostess and even as a ‘Guest of Honour’. It’s an honour when people approach you to launch their prestigious conferences and say that they idolize you and your efforts and are amazed by your achievements. I feel truly humbled and blessed.
I strongly feel my music is headed in a very positive direction. In the nearby future I see myself as a successful music artist as well as a Social worker for my causes.
I have a very dedicated management and creative team and I see myself growing fully as a music artist under their guidance and influence. I am already working on my solo Album, waiting for my first video to be showcased in the prestigious film festivals of the world and luckly preparing for my second video shoot.
Everyone will be surprised to know that I haven’t met any of my team mates in person yet, and just after knowing me virtually and over the phone they have managed to arrange for the video shoot and had sent film directors, all the way from Paris. The confidence that they have in me helps me to grow musically and as a person.
I very strongly believe everything starts with your own self confidence, so all of this makes me want to think I have a bright future as musical artist ahead and this is just the beginning of my journey…
If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
I feel if I had the experience and the understanding of the music business that I have now, I might have been able to take my prior decisions more maturely and appropriately, however I strongly feel inspite of having any resources, funding or God Father in the music business I have done pretty good for myself so far 🙂
Please leave one tip you think is invaluable for aspiring/ beginner singer/songwriters to know.
The biggest message I would like to give to aspiring singers is that there is no shortcut in life, especially in the entertainment business. It can be very hard on your voice, so riyaaz (vocal exercise) is important and should be done regularly, as without your voice, you have nothing. Although luck can sometimes come into play, true talent is always recognised so, never give up. Share your voice where you can. The internet is great for this. Be prepared to take criticism, take advice and work hard. Always dream big, there is nothing wrong with that.
Before anyone believes in your efforts you have to believe in yourself. Believe in your own strength, believe in the power of the Universe and always spread a positive message. I always try to be the person I am. I won’t let anyone change me or make me conform. Be kind, but don’t let people take advantage of you. Everyone should have a dream, something wonderful to aim for.
Last modified on Monday, 10 March 2014 23:11