Singer-Songwriter Abhilasha Sinha On Disparities Faced By Young Female Musicians
- IWB Post
- November 5, 2019
A feminist, a food lover, a body and skin positivity advocate, and an avid thrift-store shopper is how this immensely talented and hardworking musician chooses to introduce herself.
Pursuing masters in Music Business at NYU, Abhilasha Sinha loves to play Ukulele, and as humble as in her introduction of self, responding to her excellent song-writing skills, she calls it a learning experience, emphasising, “I’m still a very new songwriter”.
She’s passionate, she’s vibrant, and when you listen to her songs, you’ll know where she gets all that energy from – her love for what she does – music! In our extensive chat, Abhilasha talks about emotions that inspire her lyrical narratives, her ideals in the industry, the challenges she’s had as a young female musician, and a lot more. Also in store is a playlist put together by Abhilasha for IWB’s readers exclusively!
Your love for music surfaced early on. Tell us about those happy childhood memories!
I think I must have been one or two. My mum and I would sing together, she playing the harmonium and I just clapping my hands and singing with her. Later in life, I realized how much of my musical development was shaped by “bhajans” and lullabies that my mom would sing for me. I remember our family would take long road trips from Delhi to Manali, with the only two cassettes on loop being Vengaboys and Taal! A very unlikely combination, I know. I also sang throughout school, in choirs and operas, and it was finally in college that I began singing in bands.
When and how did Ukulele made its place in your journey?
The process of writing alone as a solo artist was difficult – I had a lot of song ideas, but was unable to create them, because I didn’t play an instrument. My friend and bandmate Tarana bought a ukulele for me one day on a whim and said, “Learn”. I think that was the beginning of writing music on my own; learning a small instrument, putting pieces of music together with the help of some incredible musicians and collaborators to create the first body of work that I put out this year. It’s a learning experience, I’m still a very new songwriter.
Your lyrical narratives touch upon motherhood, love, and other human emotions. Tell us a little about it.
My first single ‘Mother’ was born from nostalgia of when I fell sick and alone while working in Mumbai. You quickly realize how important your mother is when you have to do your laundry. The second one called ‘Tum Ho Yahaan’ is about meeting somebody at a party after a long time and realizing you’re not over them but that you’re not holding on either. ‘Hold Your Pride’ is about shedding your ego for the sake of love. And these songs together make “The Labours of Love”
Any personal experience that led to becoming the soul of a song?
Long-distance love is what my next single is about. Anyone who’s been in a long-distance relationship will absolutely understand.
Who are your ideals in the industry, amongst old musicians, and new?
M.I.A, Lianne La Havas, Rihanna. They are all incredibly successful, incredibly talented, unapologetically badass women. M.I.A is so outspoken about political issues, which in today’s world is rare. Politics and music have always gone hand in hand, and it’s songs that have changed the course of politics sometimes. Musicians aren’t doing that anymore – they’re playing it very safe, trying not to offend anyone, and MIA challenges all of that. Lianne La Havas is just an incredibly gifted singer-songwriter, and she takes time to work on her artistry and mental health, which is crucial. Rihanna is a bold, beautiful mogul. She’s the best. I also love Farida Khanum – in a world of high, wavering female voices, she was a beautiful bass.
As a young female musician, what challenges have you had to face in your journey so far?
I think the first real challenge is the convincing part – first yourself, then your parents, and that same cycle continues, until your family is no longer the concern, but you yourself. Initially, the main problem was late nights. Rehearsals, shows, staying late at studios in odd locations. The “struggle” that musicians face is amplified tenfold when it’s a female musician, because not only is she concerned about writing music, getting work and making rent, but also has to make sure she isn’t assaulted, or taken advantage of. Delhi and Bombay aren’t safe cities for women, the world at large is not, but especially Indian cities.
Another challenge as a female musician is how important your age and your looks are, as compared to the actual music skills. That’s been an entrenched problem in the music industry for centuries now, specifically in the US and UK, the younger and prettier a musician is, the more likely she is to be made into a “pop star” – the expectations of which permeate into all other music aspects. As an artist, your appearance is important, but it seems to be far more important for female artists than male. The other situations have been more gender-neutral, such as quitting corporate jobs with more security to go into the tumultuous music industry, finding your sound, learning how to write songs and constantly improve, and most of all, releasing and marketing your music as an independent artist, that is the biggest challenge of all.
Would you say that women have it more difficult in the industry even when it comes to getting recorded, signing labels etc.?
For actually recording your music, not really. As long as you have the resources to pay for creating your record, you’re fine. But to getting signed, the reasons are the same as I just shared, added to the fact that most of the decision making executives in the label business happen to be men, which can make a subliminal difference. But times and tides are changing, both on the artist and label fronts.
Loved your song ‘Hold your pride’. Has there ever been a time, a situation that called to preserve your identity?
Thank you! Yeah, I have. Though I’ve had the privilege of being able to be myself and do what I do without having to worry too much about fitting into an undesirable mould. There are countless people across the world who really struggle to preserve their individuality and identity in a world that won’t recognize them or treat them with respect.
2019 marked one year of #MeToo movement for the industry; what change have you felt in the atmosphere after singer Chinmayi Sripada’s tweeting about her experience – does silence still prevail?
Yes. The men that were outed are still living good, fulfilling lives with no real repercussions to their careers or public lives, whereas the women who spoke up are the ones facing the noise.
And as promised, here is the exclusive playlist that Abhilasha has curated for IWB’s readers!
Cover Image Credits: Deeksha Rathore