She calls herself a free spirit, a Sufi. She speaks straight from the heart, does not mince words or shy away from talking about her failures. In the hour that I spent conversing with Shibani Kashyap, artiste and singer who started her career with an AIR FM jingle, I realised that her confidence and her belief in herself is what has kept her going over the years.
As I unravel her story, one composition by Shibani in particular reverberates in my ears –
I am a woman,
I am a girl, this is my story…..
Building a brand
While the industry has changed with the times and adapted to market demands, Shibani has kept pace with the change. Over the years what has kept her going is her self-reliance and the skill to seek new opportunities. “I am self-reliant, I make my own songs and my own music. I don’t wait for the phone to ring. Building the brand is about separating the personal self from one’s artistic self and nurturing one’s artistic abilities and persona. The onus is on the self to learn, grow and evolve in that persona so that others are forced to sit up and take note,” she says.
Shibani firmly believes that passion and desire pave the road to success.
“If you have the honest desire for something then you are bound to achieve it and I have seen it happen. So if you dream it, you live it,” says the 36-year-old.
Music with a message
Music has been a vehicle for social change and impact for Shibani. It allows her to express what she feels strongly about. “It helps me influence and empower people and that is when it has substantial meaning for me,” she explains. Over the years, she has, through her music, spoken about breast cancer, women empowerment, against drunken driving and terrorism and other such issues. However, she adds, “People don’t often like artistes to get preachy. So I share my message with a light-hearted approach.”
A free spirit
Each artiste, according to Shibani, has to look within and understand their passion, art and talent. She says, “The tag of ‘Sufi music’ has been used and abused.” She explains that her style of singing is folk and the music is ruhani (soulful). Sufi, she says, should be understood as, “someone with a free spirit who believes in a divine power and wants to be one with the universe.”
It is her penchant for live performances that keeps Shibani motivated. She enjoys travelling and performing across the country and the globe. Recently back from Guyana, where she performed before a huge audience, she says, it is essential to stay fit and be in one’s top form.
Learning is a life-long process
Shibani shares that she is still undergoing training. She studied Western classical vocal music from Delhi School of Music. She also learnt to play the piano and taught herself to play the guitar.
Her Indian classical vocal training happened under the guidance of Pandit P. R. Verma, whom she practices with till date.
Spreading her wings
An army kid, this Delhi girl did her graduation in Literature from Lady Sriram College. Her biggest challenge was to get out of the protected environment she was raised in and to become independent. “I wanted to explore my life, my music and have my space to express myself,” she adds.
She rented an apartment, bought herself a car, learned how to drive and realised that she could do so much on her own.
The glass half-full
“I think the challenges grow bigger as you grow bigger,” Shibani says. When an artiste is new to the audience, there are no expectations. After attaining a certain level of success, the audience’s expectations increase.
On criticism, Shibani notes that one cannot write off an artiste based on one flop. While artistes are often held accountable for not delivering a hit, there are other variables at play. Even good work often does not receive the attention it deserves due to marketing, promotions and other such factors that impact the
reach of a song.Shibani says only a third of her songs have been commercial hits. Her favourite composition Kehle Kehle is very well appreciated during performances. “People appreciate the song and like it but wonder why they have never heard it before. This is one of those compositions that never really reached the audience because of the way it was marketed,” she adds.
She recounts how one of her songs that was to be included in a movie was not in the end. She was crestfallen and dejected for a few days but her indefatigable spirit came to the rescue. “I know there are going to some hits and some misses. That is what life is all about,” she says, adding that she prefers to look at the glass half full.
Her mother, brother and her husband are her three pillars of support. It is under the guidance of her mother that she has emerged as a go-getter. Shibani recalls, “She has told me that from one opportunity I will get another.”
Her brother is her best critic and someone whose honest inputs and criticism help her put her best foot forward. Her husband, actor Rajiv Roda, she says, “has helped me value my music. I have learnt to say no when there is no good value in a project in terms of money or value for time.”
Creativity and business
Often, artistes aren’t good with the business end of things and many get exploited. Shibani shares that the lack of music managers in India is a big challenge. Initially when she started under a big music label her primary focus was on her music.
However, the ecosystem changed and artistes came to fend for themselves. “Today, it is important to find a business specialist and agent who understands your music and can market and promote you in a manner that will best complement your style, identity and art,” she advises.
Be true to yourself
Shibani’s message to young aspiring artistes is to focus on skills first and not on being famous. “As an artiste, you have to shine and this comes through only by a lot of practice and polishing. Figure out what is unusual and unique about yourself and build on that instead of trying to ape or mimic established artistes.”
YourStory caught up with Shibani at The Gurgaon Story where she spoke about how the government and people could join hands to do more for Gurgaon. Here are some excerpts: