Taking the Bollywood scene by storm with her unique voice and counting on music to get through life, Sufi singer and Bollywood musician KAVITA SETH talks about the power of music with VANESSA VIEGAS.
You come across as a mentally strong woman and clearly don’t thrive on self-sympathy. The loss of your husband may have broken you, but you continue to pay tribute to him through music. Tell us about your inspiring journey.
The loss of Mr. Seth had shattered me no end, I felt broken. But while he was here, he always taught me to live life to the fullest and chase my dreams no matter how tough the path. And I sincerely believe that is what kept me going. To be honest, I didn’t cancel a single show after his death and in fact I performed within 10 days of his loss. Music is what keeps me alive and that was and is my biggest strength. ‘Jeetehainchal, jeetehainchal, jeetehainchal…’
What made you so passionate about Sufi music, how did your journey begin?
My musical journey started in Bareilly with my father taking me to the Dargah every day. My connection with Sufi music can be traced back to my childhood days. My husband, mentor, guide, guru, Mr. Seth was the one who told me all about Rumi and I fell in love instantly with this genre of music. When I attended a concert organized by Muzaffar Ali Sa’ab titled, Jahan-e-Khusrow in Delhi, Sufi musicians from the all over the world had come to perform at the festival. It was since that day that I dived into the infinite ocean of Sufi music. I performed with AbidaParveenji, which I believe is the most precious moment of my life because I had no fame or name at that time.
Tell us about the women that have helped transform you into the woman you are today.
It began with my mother, followed by my mother-in-law. She has been a strong support system for me throughout my career. Watching her live her life, I learn a lot from her every day.
Are women really the weaker sex? This is a predominant notion in our country even today.
Absolutely not! Today women are capable of achieving everything that a man can. I don’t see scope for comparison. The problem lies in the minds of people and perceptions that are rigidly held since ages. I see a lot of film, music and art that is trying to tackle this perception in the right way, which is amazing. It is definitely a slow process but I have my belief in it.
The name Kavita is so apt for you, who would be your favorite poets and why?
Yes, my parents have given me a name that truly reflects my personality. I don’t think I can choose one name because my list is endless. Rumi, Kabir, Meera, Amrita Pritam, MirzaGhalib, NidaFazli, WaseemBarelvi, to name a few.
Do you think the Sufi genre has a bright future?
It is a challenge. I think we have to very cautiously handle sharing music and art with generations. We need to adapt to their tastes and, at the same time, keep the soul alive. My album Trance with Khusrow is my way to connect the younger audience to Sufi music. I collaborated with my son Kanishk and we blended Sufi with Trance music. Each song keeps the soul of the poetry alive, but at the same time it gives a contemporary Trance touch to it. If you hear it, it will surely transport you to a beautiful space.
Is Bollywood giving Sufi its due? Or are they adulterating the purity that is inherently present in the genre of the gods?
Sufi music has found its way to the hearts of people of all age groups. It is the divine energy that Sufi music brings with itself that it not only touches the heart but the soul. It is heartening to see some wonderful artists performing their own compositions. I think the word Sufi has been misused to a great extent in Bollywood. Just by adding words like Maula and Khuda, the song doesn’t become Sufi. Keeping the soul of the song in Sufi is what is missing in Bollywood compositions today.
Does the industry give its female playback singers their due, or is there a gender bias in the fraternity?
Yes according to me female singers do not get their due respect. Although times have changed there is still a bias against female singers. It needs to be made equal.