She accompanies herself with three instruments as she sings. Meet Jasleen Royal, who won the MTV Video and Music Awards this year for her single ‘Panchee Ho Jawan’
Jasleen Royal could well have been part of the women’s national cricket team. Choosing between a career in sport and music, the latter won. “I was a leg spinner. I got through the national team selection but dropped the idea of pursuing cricket. Opting for music just felt right,” says Jasleen.
So, what does she do now? She is a one-woman band…singing and simultaneously playing instruments. “I play the guitar, the harmonica and the tambourine. Depending on the song, I choose the instruments.” This year Jasleen won the MTV Video and Music Awards for Panchee Ho Jawan, a poem written by Shiv Kumar Batalvi and set to tune and sung by her. The other competitors in the category were Kailash Kher, Rabbi Shergill and Indus Creed. “I was ecstatic. Competing with such names felt like a big achievement. The video shot was candid — we asked people on the streets about their dreams and aspirations. They ranged from a whole lot of things such as bangles and books to time travel. MTV really liked the song and it was aired at regular intervals on the channel,” she says. Her second release Maye Ni was written by her and recorded along with Swanand Kirkire. “The response has been great and I was thrilled to see people on Twitter talking about it.” Ask her about her trademark look — dishevelled hair, funky pyjamas (she wears them to most events) and flip flops — and she laughs, “That’s what I mostly wear. I didn’t want to change my appearance for the stage. So it became my style statement,” she laughs.
Jasleen is like any other 23-year-old who enjoys watching sitcoms, reading comics, and going on long drives. A conversation with her is interspersed with giggles. But when the young musician is at work, she is a different person. Starting out with the keyboard at the age of five and then dabbling with various other musical instruments, Jasleen figured that she could play two instruments even as she sang. Yes, initially she did lose beats and mix up a few tunes but soon perfected her act. Numerous school and college performances later, and at the insistence of her friends and acquaintances, she auditioned for India’s Got Talent Season One. “I got through the auditions and finally when I performed on stage in front of the judges — Shekhar Kapur, Sonali Bendre and Kirron Kher — I realised that the show was quite a big deal. It helped me get a lot of exposure. Post the show people started recognising me on the streets, in the metro…Teachers became more lenient when I asked for leave. It was a good feeling,” she laughs.
By then quite a few music companies and managers started approaching her to be part of their company. And she finally was signed on by Parikrama Inc. to be their exclusive performer. Now the girl from Ludhiana, who is currently based out of Delhi, spends much of her time travelling and performing. “I am working on Punjabi folk wedding songs, and will shortly compose for films. I am reading through a few scripts right now. For me, it’s not about cutting albums but making good music that’s important,” she adds.