Shubha Mudgal on keeping to her lane

The musician on why she will not mix classical and pop on stage at IndiEarth XChange this weekend

Updated - November 30, 2018 05:27 pm IST

Published - November 30, 2018 04:13 pm IST

At IndiEarth XChange, Mudgal will perform in the khyal and thumri forms, presenting raagdari music

At IndiEarth XChange, Mudgal will perform in the khyal and thumri forms, presenting raagdari music

Shubha Mudgal has lent her voice to everything from classical to pop over her three decades of singing, but you will never find her attempting to make the worlds collide in her performances. Ahead of her performance at IndiEarth XChange this weekend, she says, “I won’t do half of classical and half popular music, because I find it very disorienting, both for the performers and the audience.”

No stranger to the format of a multi-genre music festival — having worked with IndiEarth’s organisers EarthSync in the past — Mudgal returns to Chennai after nearly two years on the back of releasing Bridge of Dreams , an Indo-Australian fusion album last month. It features her, tabla artist (and husband) Aneesh Pradhan, Sudhir Nayak on harmonium as well as saxophonist Sandy Evans and the explosive Sirens Big Bang. The entire band of more than 17 musicians worked on Bridge of Dreams for two years, discussing improvisations in jazz and Hindustani classical. “Then we had numerous Skype calls, many sessions trying to figure out how to go about it,” she recalls.

The veteran vocalist makes it work more than most classical artistes, perhaps because of her love for technology. She says with a laugh, “I love using technology to the best of my ability, which is of course very limited, but I really feel very empowered when I use it.” From co-founding the Underscore Records label with an e-commerce store in 2003 to using SoundCloud to guide her students’ vocal training today, Mudgal confirms she’s always on the lookout for new ways to use it, impressed by the power of distribution and publishing. She adds, “There are just days when I’m saying, ‘Hey it’s been too difficult, I have to close down Underscore Records’. Then I hear this wonderful piece of music from somewhere and say, ‘No! Let’s get back to work’.”

Off stage

While her IndiEarth XChange performance will stick to performing in the khyal and thumri forms, presenting raagdari music, she adds, “These are the forms of music I’ve been studying for a long time.” On stage, off stage and even behind the scenes, she is more than just a performer. Mudgal has just submitted a manuscript for her first book of short stories, which will be published next year. She is nervous about what comes next, but is happy she has finished the writing part.

“Mine is a first attempt at writing short stories about music and the music world in India. They’re about various situations and what I’ve been observing. I’ve been singing professionally now for over three decades and apart from anything else, I’m a very avid listener. Musicians and music lovers will certainly recognise the situations and experiences,” she says.

IndiEarth XChange takes place at The Park Hotel on December 1 and 2. Tickets on

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