Interview Music

A global coming out song

Indian-born British singer and song-writer Shayan Italia   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Just when you think you have seen the best of the lockdown music productions, there comes another one demanding attention. To mark International Coming Out Day (October 11), India-born British pianist, singer and songwriter Shayan Italia has released his second video, ‘Sha La La’, a ‘Hinglish’ (Hindi and English) single with 65 artistes to drive the message ‘love without boundaries’. “I’ve never looked at the world by country, religion, caste or culture. There are no borders for me in creativity,” explains Shayan.

Excerpts from an interview:

Was the song influenced by Carpenters and Vengaboys ?

The Carpenters definitely. ‘Yesterday Once More’ is a classic and one of my late mum’s favourites. My purpose of creating ‘Sha La La’ was that not only must it be relevant in today’s age, but also audio-visually bring something thought-provokingly fresh and insightful to the world of new-age Indian pop music, which I believe, if steered in the right direction, could acquire a global audience like mainstream Spanish music has today.

Can Sha la la be called a lockdown production? or has this been conceived before the pandemic?

Sha La La is a mammoth production for a music video in today’s social media era (even when compared with any big Indian movie song for that matter). The song was conceived many years ago. It was brought to life as a commercial Hindi-English track in the last 2 years with me recording the song in end 2018, Sept, shooting the video exactly one year later in end-Sept 2019, and launching the video exactly one year after that in early-Oct 2020. Within this time It has been carefully developed to what it is today. A lot of thought has been gone into every stage of its creation. I like to live with things to know if they can truly stand the test of time. If you see this video in 5 years it should still look and sound stunning; then we’ve kind-of-done our job!

Poster of ‘Sha la la’ by Shayan Italia

Poster of ‘Sha la la’ by Shayan Italia   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Did you have any apprehension before finalising the storyboard that contained sensuous visuals?

Muni Agarwal, the video’s director, and I lived with the storyboard for nine months before taking it to the floor to shoot the video. If you access the concept page of the ‘Sha La La’ website, you will understand exactly how the storyboard flows in six distinct parts. I have always written songs or made videos on what feels right to me; I have never considered public opinion. To me the ideology of “Love Without Boundaries” is a universal one.

Do share how the large team of creatives, technicians and artists have come together for this project.

The song was recorded at some of the world’s best studios [where I have been recording since I was a boy. These include Air, Metropolis, Abbey Road etc in London. I tend to record certain parts in certain studios to get a specific sound. I also like recording some parts to tape and then converting it digitally. The Hindi vocals were recorded at Purple Haze studios in Mumbai, [and on a ribbon mic might I add. which is very difficult to sing into]. The music features a plethora of legendary talent whose contribution to the international music industry is unquantifiable. I personally mastered the track using analogue equipment. I cannot stand how some new-age stuff is mastered. It is so loud and deafening, even at lower volumes! Music for me has to possess dynamics.

The video features ace production house Benetone Films with local talent from Mumbai. It was shot in Bangkok, Thailand. A lot of recce and casting work was done remotely, then on-ground before the video was shot. It was a very intensive back-to-back three-day shoot. The 21-strong cast makes it a truly international project. This again was very important for me to achieve with this song.

What memories do you have of Hyderabad/Secunderabad from your childhood?

I came from a simple Parsi family in Secunderabad and was fortunate that when I was a boy, I had my brother, most of my cousins, aunts and uncles all staying in the same city. So every Sunday when the family would meet, like any other Parsi family, the energy was kind of like a zoo! Values were the real ethos imbibed in us all and doing the ‘right thing’ over what was convenient. I find if you are driven by purpose you lead a more fulfilling life than if you are driven by vanity metrics.

How did losing parents early in life impact you?

I lost my mum when I was just a boy and my dad exactly one year after to Multiple Myeloma and Multiple Sclerosis respectively. Overnight both brothers had to grow up. Life without the guidance of one’s parents, is infinitely more difficult, especially when you navigate in the social world of today. Even women perceive you differently when they find out you are, well an orphan of sorts. I do miss them both. But in a way I’ve made them part of me in the way I live: travel, music, health, food, fitness, reading, movies, technology… it’s a 50/50 split of each in me.

Having lost parents to diseases, I lead a healthy lifestyle and this has also led me to create my up-and-coming flagship wellness app which launches later in the year. My love for technology and efficiency stems from my dad as he was a PhD in Engineering who graduated from IIT Ahmedabad. My mum lived in books, having read thousands in her life; I guess the creative side of me stems from her.

What took you to London?

My elder brother was in London at the time. After I lost my parents, I ended up there under his care. In fact my brother has been my brother, mum, dad, sole-confidant and I’m truly nothing without him. Every introduction, every break, every support has come from or through him. Also a few of my first cousins were living in London at the time so it made sense to go there. I live in Mumbai now as I believe there is space for change in India. Who knows, maybe ‘Sha La La’ could grow to be that small bit of change.

Any inclination towards Bollywood?

I believe I could contribute to an Indian film in setting a theme or song that would resonate with the audience, with its melody broken down into various parts throughout the film [like the theme of Titanic]. For now, my focus is on growing ‘Sha La La’ and launching a wellness app soon. But if a big production house wanted, I would definitely explore the opportunity. It just can’t be conventional. I don’t do conventional.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 8:15:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/shayan-italias-video-sha-la-la-is-a-global-coming-out-song/article32900554.ece

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