If you are destined for something, you will surely get into it. And if your destiny is music you must get into it. We at randominks got this chance to chat with Rasika Shekar, an adept flautist and a singer which is a rarity. Again she’s a Chemical Engineer and perfect example for beauty with brains and grace of art – music.
Born in Dubai, brought up in US, Rasika has music imbibed within her and she took up her passion seamlessly to achieve excellence. Having toured with Shankar Ehsaan Loy, the impeccable trio, and the Gazhal Maestro, Ghulam Ali Khan Sahab, Rasika is now a professional singer and had her debut song in movie, Dekh Indian Circus- an internationally recognized and awarded movie. Also she has sung along with Shankar Mahadevan for film Katti Batti. Mostly searched as “Shankar Mahadevan and the Flute Girl” so she’s the flute girl from the video that went extremely viral which actually is a compilation of her prowess of playing flute and Shankar Mahadevan’s vocal magic.
Well now, without extending further more here is the interview:
- How did you start off with music?
My parents put me in music classes when I was 7 or 8 and that was Carnatic classical which I learnt from my aunt in Dubai and it was just out of desire to learn some kind of an art form. My mom’s family is very much into music so it was just a natural thing that I would start learning Carnatic classical music. This is how I started off and when I moved to the US, I started learning flute from the age of 14.
- This might be the most asked question to you but still, why flute?
I just found flute very fascinating and interesting and just started learning it. I remember when I was in Dubai, there was a flute in an old cabinet in the balcony. I didn’t know whose flute it was, but I just remember sitting with it for a long time trying to play it and because I never knew much about flute that time. So I guess that’s how my fascination for flute started. Then later, I decided to learn, and for a matter of fact would extend my gratitude to my mother for having found me a teacher in US
- Who was your guru in the US?
In US my flute guru was Bhavani Rao, an extremely multitalented person. She sings, plays flute as well as Veena and is extremely well versed in Carnatic music. So starting off learning flute from her was the best thing because she really got me interested in the instrument and the music.
- Being in a pop cultured country, how you got into Hindustani and Carnatic music?
Well, Carnatic music, thanks to my family from my mom’s side. My mom is a Veena player and my grandmother is a Violin She’s a Carnatically ‘A’ graded violin player and so their influence is very strong and they would always talk about music at home and also, we had a nice community of people who were all into Carnatic music. So that helped me to get into Carnatic music. Then Hindustani music, I myself got into it because when I was in college I met many other musicians, my friends who were learning Hindustani music and we would sit and play together either Carnatic or Hindustani. I always felt that I need to learn more about that form of music and that’s how I got into it.
- How did you manage your studies in the US along with musical attachments?
In college, it was a little difficult especially while doing chemical engineering which is very time demanding course but somewhere down the line, even when I didn’t realize it, I knew that music was something that just made me very happy and it seemed very exciting. So somehow I subconsciously made time for both of them. Obviously studies were priorities because you know, you have to do well in your engineering but at the same time what helped is, I had a lot of friends who were into music as well. So any kind of extracurricular activity that happened outside studies was very much related to music so I had to divide time, but then it was very natural.
- So your chemical engineering and music was going on in a parallel way?
Yeah! I was doing it as a hobby back then since I liked it a lot and it was something that I was very passionate about. I wasn’t into music professionally. And I also believed that the more you study, the more exciting it becomes to get back to music. So parallel, yes, but it wasn’t like a profession where I had to spend equal amount of time
- Now what? Music as a profession or are you carrying out something else right now?
Yes, music as a profession right now- full time!
- You’ve toured and performed with the music Maestros like Shankar Ehsaan Loy and also Ghulam Ali Khan, how was your experience with them?
It is really very hard to express how amazing and extra ordinary my journey was since throughout the journey I got to learn so much from these legends, that couldn’t have been learnt in any class or by taking lesson or studying. The most commendable thing about both of them would be that they both are very calm and both are very encouraging when it comes to music. One thing I got to learn from them is that music comes from within. Their passion for music is so much evident that it just inspires you.
- One specific thing you’d like to tell about Shankarji and Ghulam Ali Khan Sahab?
Shankarji is one artist whom I can’t thank enough for giving me the opportunity to sing for his films and to perform with them (the trio). And he’s someone who really encourages people and their talent; and at the same time he’s so full of energy, I mean, I’ve travelled with him so many times and the energy that he has is just inspirational. Again that shows his passion for music and passion for doing different things in music. Also he’s so down to earth that you can always approach him for advice or musical stuff. If you wanna learn, he’ll give you the best advice because he’s so experienced. So having performed with Shankarji is amazing.
Honestly speaking, when for the very first time I got to know that I’d be travelling with Ghulam Ali Khan Sahab, I was not able to believe this fact that I was seriously getting an opportunity to travel with him. It surely took time to realize that, ‘wow’; I am actually touring with Ghulam Ali Khan Saab! During the entire journey, we used to talk so much about music and gazhals. When we didn’t have any performances, he would teach me about scales and exercises, teach me about poetry, certain gazhals. He is a genius, when it comes to gazhals and harmonium playing also. So to observe and learn all this was a delight. Besides, he’s extremely funny and will surely make you feel very comfortable. He is always very encouraging and a great teacher indeed when it comes to advice related to music.
- How you got in contact with them?
Shankarji, I actually met him in Bombay at a dinner and I just told a little bit about myself and you know he’s very enthusiastic. He loves meeting people and he just generally asks, you know he’s like achaa.. How are you? What you do? What are you into? So I told him that I have learned Carnatic music and I sing and play flute and the rest of it. So he asked me to visit the studio just to test my voice and that’s how I met him and when I went to the studio I met the ‘TRIO’.
- Who is your Guru for Hindustani Classical Music?
I came to India to learn Hindustani from my guru here in Bombay, Shrikant Waikar.
- You can even get a break in film industry, so wanna try it?(I feel even as an actress)
Actually, I don’t know but many people have told me I should consider acting because supposedly I’ve been told many many times that I have a thing for acting, which I don’t know is true or not. But then I keep doing imitation and stuff here with my friends. But acting is something a little more serious and there are a lot of things to learn before you get into it. I really haven’t thought much about that. And as far as singing is concerned I’ve already sung in 4 films in the industry. And so I can proudly say that my first break was thanks to Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy.
- So how was your experience when you got your first break in the industry?
It was great because, first of all it was with Shankar Ehsaan Loy so that was a huge deal and yes, there is, of course a little bit of pressure, but again you know that they make you feel really comfortable. They gave me like a really quick brief and then, I just had fun in the recording because I loved the song. It was for the film, “Dekh Indian Circus” which actually won a lot of awards in the international circuit.
- What are your future projects and do you have any plans to launch a solo album?
Yeah there is a plan, but it is just like ‘work in progress’ right now and other then that there are couple of collaborations which we are working on right now.
- Any plans to start a YouTube Music channel?
It crossed my mind and I might do it. Not sure yet but when I feel like I have something definite to put up, I’ll do it for sure!
- Your message for young Music aspirants:
Just keep learning and have a lot of fun with the art whether it is music or acting or dance or whatever kind of art you are into. If you really do it with all your heart then you would definitely find yourself within that art form. Once you know that what it is, that you are really passionate about, everything else will fall into its place. That’s for sure! So just keep working on it.
A special thanks to Rasikaji- of course for the interview but also for guiding in editorial job; Sharayu and Priyanka for fine editing and to team randominks!