Mumbai: From constant celebration of independent live music over Bollywood playback singing to bringing back some of the old traditional songs like “Piya se naina” and “Rangabati” or the recent “Tori Surat”, singer Sona Mohapatra has won appreciation from music connoisseurs and criticism from the traditionalists for her body of work.
Without sounding like a gender discrimination victim, the songstress has urged society to celebrate gender equality and empowerment.
Everytime she intended to experiment, she faced criticism.
Reasoning that out, Sona told IANS: “It’s easy to deduce that the common factor to all these criticisms is my gender. I’m not playing the victim card by saying that… I am actually highlighting a serious issue that many women face every time they attempt to do something new.
“We are conditioned to park women into stereotypes. I’m simply saying applaud both of them (the genders). People’s achievements should not be connected to a gender.”
Sona’s latest album “Lal Pari Mastani” comprises some of the traditional lyrics of Mirabai and Amir Khusro among others. She said she faced criticism of hurting religious sentiment by a Sufi Muslim NGO Madariya Sufi Foundation (MSF) for attempting to present the song “Tori Surat” in a contemporary manner.
“Women have historically been treated as property and while society now at large has evolved to a much more fair and egalitarian mindset, there are people who are still trapped in medieval times with medieval beliefs.
“My request to them is that they ignore every iota of progress humankind has made as a species and live in isolation where they can feel free from any offence because my very existence as a modern and free woman, with equal rights to any man, seems to offend them,” said the “Jiya laage na” singer.
Sona has already released two videos — “Shyam piya” and “Tori surat” — from the album online.
Sharing the thought behind the album, she said: “I started the ‘Lal Pari Mastani’ releases with a reinvention of a Mirabai song ‘Shyam piya’ with a 360 visual reality video shot in Vrindavan.
“I was singing her immortal lyrics in a brand new Blues soundscape wearing boots and all even there. The video got four million views on Facebook alone but no one objected. That is the inclusive India I belong to.”
“The ‘Lal Pari Mastani’ journey is about expression via music, music videos, performances, photography, essays, film, art, design, culture, change and conversations with my audience… I am only getting started,” added the singer who is also known for her unique on-stage fashion.
Being a singer, asked what made her pay attention to stage presence and flaunt Indian fashion on-stage, Sona said: “I consider fashion to be an integral part of my artistic persona. My aim is to reinvent the Indian music and fashion aesthetics.
“We Indians are embarrassed about our textiles, weaves and handlooms. We’re blindly following the West, who are looking to our history for inspiration; so we need to wake up and go from being blind followers to global innovators.”
Despite delivering some superhit songs in Bollywood like “Daav Laga”, “Bahara”, “Ambarsariya” and “Naina”, Sona has maintained her interest in independent music and simultaneously worked on some of the superhit indie songs like “Bolo na”, “Abhi nahi aana” and “Aaja ve” among many others.
Has she observed any improvement in the scene for independent music?
Sona says the mindset of the audience about not paying for live concerts is affecting the business.
“We need to take more pride in our culture and regional languages if we expect to make a genuinely successful local scene. It’s why film music rules the roost as it’s connected to the masses.
“Also, the film artistes tend to get paid for their talent. As audiences, we need to put our money where our mouth is. Pay for a ticket to see an artiste on stage and not expect a freebie all the time.”
She also urged mainstream media to encourage independent artistes instead of “jump(ing) on to a controversy when they can”.
“That is the simple and sad truth.”