Shubha Mudgal: I make my little efforts to experiment


“In my opinion, a festival like Serendipity is of great importance as it is interdisciplinary and boasts of great diversity. It would be wonderful to have more such platforms and spaces in the country,” she adds…writes Sukant Deepak

Registering her presence as a classical singer in the ’80s, Shubha Mudgal, who started experimenting with other forms including pop and fusion, in the ’90s surprised her listeners with ease with the way she negotiated the spectrum.

This Padma Shri awardee (year 2000), who is known to be constantly innovating and experimenting, however feels that every artist is driven by an urge to do the same and she is not alone or rare in that sense.

“I make my little efforts to experiment and also try and assess if they have worked for me or not. If I am convinced about something I attempt, I wait for an opportunity to share it with listeners. Once it is shared, there is a possibility that it may not receive a favorable response from some. This is something that every artiste has to be ready to face, and I too accept such challenges,” she tells.

Even as the threat of the new coronavirus variant peaks, she feels nothing has been done to help artists recover from the losses they faced during the last waves of the pandemic.

Campaign to support disaster-affected artistes.

“There does not seem to be any plan in place for the future either and artistes have been left to sink or swim. I believe that it is artistes themselves who need to ask for this lethargy and lack of empathy to come to an end. Sadly, they too do not think of themselves as a fraternity or community and are busy lobbying for concert opportunities, awards, and other benefits. Thus, this situation where arts does not get the attention it deserves is likely to continue,” she laments.

Attributing her success to the support she received from her parents and family, the singer remembers how they would constantly encourage her to engage with the arts and ensured abundant exposure to different art forms. “They made many sacrifices to enable me to learn music and pursue it as my life’s work, and were a constant support in the face of any challenge that came my way.”

The singer, who enthralled the audiences with her performance during ‘Dil ki Baatein’ curated by Aneesh Pradhan at the recently concluded Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa, says that the challenge for her was to render love songs and love poems written by different poets, and interpret each in a nuanced way and with variety. Singing under the direction of the curator and the arranger Srijan Mahajan, the set included some songs written and composed by her as well.

“In my opinion, a festival like Serendipity is of great importance as it is interdisciplinary and boasts of great diversity. It would be wonderful to have more such platforms and spaces in the country,” she adds.

Someone who has been writing and speaking about musicians’ rights, anti-piracy, and insurance for musicians, says these issues are integral to the well-being and progress of artistes and to their livelihood. Even though Indian law is extremely artiste-friendly, she stresses that artists continue to be exploited and are not given their due. “Contracts and agreements that we are expected to sign are unfair and often strip us of even our moral and fundamental rights. I try and understand these problems and share my views with others by writing or speaking about them.”

Talk to her about her stand on contemporary social and political issues including CAA-NRC, and Mudgal, who performed at Shaheen Bagh during the protests, says that being a responsible citizen social and political realities, problems and conflicts are of interest to her. “I have voiced my opinions publicly, and as is often the case, have had to face abuse, trolling, and worse. I try and face the consequences to the best of my ability, independently and without trying to garner support for my actions or opinions from any quarter.”

With a robust concert schedule coming up in 2023 starting with a performance at the annual Saptak Festival in Ahmedabad in early January, she says, “Taking into account the threat of another wave, I hope we will all be safe and be able to travel and perform once again.”

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