“My family is from Palakkad in Kerala, which we visited several times when I was growing up,” says Vidya Iyer with a touch of nostalgia…
“I love Kerala and the folk traditions there and was always looking for a way to showcase its beauty to everyone else!” reveals the gifted singer and YouTuber who shot to fame with mashups expertly blending Western pop with Classical Indian Music.
Vidya speaks exclusively to us about music, creativity and the mushrooming global music industry.
What was it like behind the scenes, shooting for Kuttanadan Punjayile with the Mohiniyattam performance?
Kuttanadan Punjayille was a song I’ve heard growing up, especially when we used to go Amma’s ashram in Kerala, and at her programs in the US. The shooting was all very last minute. Shankar (Tucker) composed and produced the English part in about an hour or two, recorded Jomy (George) on the Tabla and Edakka that night. We sent it off to the dancers, before the shoot at 9am the next morning.
They were amazing, stayed up the whole night choreographing and practicing to the song! It was such a beautiful location, right in Jomy’s hometown.
Tamil born was specifically inspired by haters who’d always comment about the color of my hair. Also probably, by the guys that randomly bother my friends and I, uninvited, when we are on a night out trying to have fun, even after saying No a million times!
The weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you while working on a song?
About 4 to 5 years back, we were doing a night shoot in Chennai on the beach, for a song on Shankar’s album, Filament. It was so beautiful, as it was a full moon night. All of a sudden, a drunk man randomly showed up and started yelling and throwing rocks at us. We legit bolted out of there, as fast as we could. It was so scary!
When do your ideas for a mash up come to you?
At the most random times, during a shower or even driving somewhere. I note them down on my phone and have a long list of songs. However, recently, I’ve been solely working on originals and that’s been such a liberating process. After the Kuthu Fire EP, I’ve been more and more inspired to write and compose my own songs.
Could you tell us your fondest memory of working on Be Free (Pallivaalu Bhadravattakam)?
It was the first time my mom came to see one of my shoots!
It was also the first time my best friend from home, who was in Kochi at the time, saw one of my shoots as well. Jomy and his friends organized the shoot – they knew all of the local dancers and groups. It was so visually stunning in person, and I think Shankar did a great job capturing the feeling and vibrancy of that day!
What are your greatest musical influences in both Western and Classical music?
I have so many influences and inspirations! I try to listen to a lot of different types of music, from Classical Indian to Electronic Dance. My biggest influences are AR Rahman, Ranjani and Gayatri, Kaushiki Chakraborty, Major Lazer, Beyonce, Adele, Coldplay and Rihanna.
What is it like being a woman in the music industry?
It can be tough. People make so many comments about my body, clothes, the way I’m dressed, my hair. However, men who are doing similar music, don’t get any such comments or criticism and can get away with a lot more.
These double standards occur because that’s how society has been intrinsically wired for hundreds of years. However, I think it’s a good time to be a woman in the entertainment industry in general.
The Times Up movement has a lot of women coming out with their sexual harassment experiences. It is very empowering. Victims of harassment are finally telling their stories, even though there is still a lot of work to do, the fact that we are having conversations about harassment in the work place, is so great.
I really hope we can make some real change in the way we educate men and women in the coming years.
Latest posts by Aditi Balsaver (see all)
- StartupStory#80: Gharobar – Avani And Rashmi On Empowering Home Based Entrepreneurs - February 19, 2018
- When Your Favourite Pav Bhaji Turns Quirky - February 17, 2018
- Middle Eastern Cuisine – This Is The Real Thing! - February 14, 2018