Prasoon Joshi introduced her with his poetry, ‘Abhi abhi ek chanchaal ladki hawa ke jaise guzar gayi’… and to everyone’s surprise, the Diva got up to walk away…and chuckled naughtily saying, “It was a good chance for me to escape” …That’s the spirit with which one and only Asha Bhosleji live at the age of 85, being always cheerful, playful and young at heart. Here are some excerpts loudest.in captured through the conversation as Ashaji shared some of the most interesting aspects of her life with Prasoon Joshi in the session ‘In Ankon ki masti ke’ at the Raymond MTV India Music Summit 2019.
Joshi began the conversation talking about the ‘Abhinaya ang’ (element of acting) in Ashaji’s renditions asking her how has it emerged in her style as one can actually visualize a scene or a character when she sings a song. Reminiscing her initial training she replied, “My father was both a classical musician and a theatre artist so there was definitely an influence on me of both the forms, as I was trained from an early age in Indian classical music, while I also went along with him to sing ‘Natya Sangeet’ which is a very expressive genre of music, that requires very fast taans, and an expressive yet very flexible voice.”
Talking about creating her own style Ashaji said, “Eventually when I started singing in films I had to create a differentiator as I could not sing in the same style as Lata didi. Since an early age, I had a very high pitch voice and it was once that I saw an English film and was astonished by the way they sang.I tried imbibing the western music nuances like how to create vibrato in the voice. This was exactly opposite to our classical music technique, where you need stable notes and where a vibration as we call it ‘kampan’ in Indian music, should be used only where it is required. By and by I developed my own style and then was fortunate to work with music directors who wanted to try something new with me.”
Ashaji took the audience through her personal struggles behind her successful musical journey and how she ended up being a versatile artist saying, “I lost my husband and had three children to take care of. So there was a time that I sang what came to me,I could not be choosy,but that gave me an opportunity to explore different styles, and that’s how I sang across genres be it a Cabaret, sad or a happy song, a Ghazal or Classical, it kept happening and I went with the flow.
“For me, every song is like God, and whatever comes in my hand, I try to make it shine as brilliantly as I can. I try to mold my voice according to the artist on whom the song has to be picturized in the film.”
Eventually, I started getting songs that nobody would do and the music directors tried my voice to experiment with and I equally worked hard on every song. While some cabaret-style songs even had dialogues and required a very different production of voice, I tried doing all as it was both challenging and exciting for me, which later became hits. Although, there were few old school artists who were critical about my style, today their grandchildren are my fans. It was after 75 years Noor Jahan came to Mumbai and her homecoming was much celebrated. She only kept appreciating my voice while her 18-year-old granddaughter came to me saying I am with you and we all love your music”…chuckles!
“I belong to a Marathi speaking family being a Maharasthtran but over the years started getting songs in Hindi and different languages and so I also learned Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi and sang in multiple languages” added Ashaji.
For any singer it’s important to create a balancing act between the family life and the professional life as Ashaji says, “I used to record till 4 am in the morning and then had to send my children to school and take care of my family as I was a single parent and it was very difficult. I am glad my family too supported me to sing for long hours, so it was very mutual. It’s important to face the challenges and take responsibilities head-on and that’s what I will tell today’s generation to create a balance between both family and career.”
Talking about importance of Riyaz (practice)and learning classical music Ashaji said, “If you don’t do riyaz your voice gets out of control, you need to practice every day and for that learning classical music is a must for all singers because it is the base of all the music, and it’s not that you learn it for few years and you get it. Music never comes easy and needs constant practice to master your ‘Sa’ as it’s never the same.”
Emphasizing on the need to learn classical music Ashaji said, “Classical music gives fluidity to your voice and thought and enables you to sing any song because it prepares your voice to improvise in any form and genre. Also playing tabla or any instruments helps to learn about the rhythm which taal (beats) are being played. I feel there needs to be a curriculum in schools to teach Indian classical music and even parents must encourage their children to learn it to master their singing.”
She lives with a zest of life and is always ready to explore and live life to its fullest at the age of 85, so what is the power behind her strength, since at this age many people tend to give up. Ashaji told about her life’s philosophy, “I have absolute faith in God. I believe in the Geeta which says you have not brought anything with you, nor will you take anything. I was very disturbed when my husband passed away, but after reading these lines I calmed down and took life as it came to me. I wake up in the morning pray to God and wish good morning to everyone from my family to my driver to my watchman. We must try to keep everyone happy around us and I feel life is a celebration, live it fully till you are alive!
Talking about her favorite songs which she likes to sing in her leisure time, Ashaji says, “When I heard ‘Aaoge jab tum o sajna’ sung by ‘Rashid Khan’ I kept singing it the whole day while I finished my home chores. What a voice and what a rendition, I was so mesmerized that I searched for his number and called him to say I would like to sing with him someday.”
India music summit 2019 created history by bringing both the maestros together the very next day enthralling the audiences who saw Ashaji go on the stage to jam with Ustad Rashid Khan in concert to sing the thumri ‘Aaoge jam tum o sajna’ with him…what impeccable improvisations and what fluency the maestros showcased in an impromptu live act…priceless! What more can classical music connoisseurs ask for…that this platform bestows!