‘Needhe Aakasam’ (The sky is yours), the first Telugu independent song composed and sung by Yamini Ghantasala, is the playback singer’s ode to the vast sky that she says, has a calming effect on her. “Half my phone gallery is filled with images of the sky. I can gaze up for hours and when I travel, I try to take early morning or evening flights to view the sunrise or sunset,” she says, speaking on phone from Chennai.
The singer who divides her time between Chennai and Hyderabad, surprised her brother — music composer S Thaman — when she completed recording the song and music video. She had worked quietly on the project and recalls his reaction, “He enquired about the song; when I told him I had composed and sung it and it was not for a film, he was pleasantly surprised.”
During the second lockdown, in the summer of 2021, she had begun to experiment with the MIDI keyboard — that Thaman had gifted her — along with music software, and composed short instrumental pieces for her YouTube channel. “I think there is a composer in every singer. In my school days, I used to learn social studies passages by singing them in a tune. As I began composing, I became eager to explore the indie music scene. I had grown up listening to original numbers by singer-performers such as Shaan and Rajeshwari.”
She wanted her first indie song to retain the traditional pallavi-charanam format but not sound like a film song. She shared her idea about a girl next door on a backpacking journey of soul searching, looking up at the skies for inspiration, to lyricist Kittu Vissapragada and the song took shape. Some of her long-time collaborators and well-wishers, including programmer Siddhant Mishra, sound mixer Shadab Rayeen, flautist Lalit Talluri and guitarists Bruce Lee and Jobin David, came together to make the song happen.
The video was filmed in Puducherry, Auroville and Hyderabad using a mobile phone, given the limited resources at her disposal. “Since it is my first indie song, I wanted to do it my way and release it on my YouTube channel; it is a self-funded project,” says Yamini, adding that she sports a no makeup look to lend authenticity to the story of a girl who sets out on a journey of self-discovery.
‘Needhe Aakasam’ took eight months to complete, alongside Yamini’s film singing commitments. Her playlist includes songs for Telugu films such as Itlu Maredumilli Prajaneekam, Goodachari, Dear Comrade, Kondapolam, and DJ Tillu. One of the motivational factors for her to compose an independent song was the time she spent working with and observing Sricharan Pakala’s band which navigates both indie and film music spaces.
Yamini considers ‘Needhe Aakasam’ as a new beginning and says with pride, “Thaman always wanted me to make a mark on my own and not as his sister; I have strived to do that and I am happy that I could do this on my own. Thaman’s only feedback was to keep the indie compositions simple to reach more listeners.”