Shilpa Rao on Grammy Awards 2020

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Music’s biggest night, Grammy Awards are finally set to take place on Monday, March 15. Among the starry line-up of performers and the long list of nominees, is Bollywood singer Shilpa Rao who is waiting to strike gold for her collaboration with Anoushka Shankar, on the album ‘Love Letters’, which is up for the ‘Best Global Music Album’ award.
The singer, who has delivered hits like ‘Ghungroo’, ‘Bulleya’, ‘Khuda Jaane’ and many other tracks for Bollywood, sat down for a conversation with ETimes, and spoke on the importance of promoting Indian classical music, the need for the Indian music industry to embrace its roots, cheering for Queen Bey, and more.
Excerpts:

Do you think Indian music has not been given its due on the world stage? I would say that Indian music is always held in very high regard abroad. The only drawback is that there are very few Indian musicians who own it and can perform it (classical pieces) to its full potential. That is the drawback here. Indian music, language, culture are too big to be ignored. Human beings aren’t as big as music, poetry and art. We need Indian musicians to connect to our classical roots and folk music. If we have more people owning it proudly, it will probably be performed more and heard more and we will get our due on the world platform.

Do you think that Anoushka Shankar and your possible victory could inspire younger talents to embrace classical Indian music?
I really hope so. Even if I can inspire even one kid who doesn’t know what to do and is lost and finds solace in Indian music, it will be a great thing for me. Also, it is not about the award; it is always about the speech. When I watch the Grammy Awards or the Oscars, it is not so much about the award as it is about the person standing on that stage and speaking. What they always say is, ‘If I can do it, you can too’. That is what award shows should do – inspire people. What Anoushka and I would want to say to the youth is that ‘If we can, you can too.’

This year a lot of female singers–from Taylor Swift to Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Billie Eilish–are up for Grammys. Who are you rooting for?

If you look at the artists, what they believe in, and what they stand for, and not just the music, then, Beyonce. I think she is one of those people who is not a name, but a phenomenon. She has become a word from which we derive so much strength. And she is someone I admire. What I love the most about her is that she owns who she is.

Beyonce gave us ‘Brown Skin Girl’ this year and BTS and BLACKPINK brought on a K-Pop take over; what does it take to reach such highs while embracing something so rooted?

Embracing your roots is not difficult. If I go to my mom and ask her to give me rasam and rice, it is an instinctive emotion for me. In the same way, the Indian music that I have been taught since my childhood, I own it like it is a part of me and not a “thing” in my life. Maybe someday, when we have an Indian singer on the Grammy stage, or maybe someday if I can do a Gagan performance for which I have been trained, it would be a beautiful vision to have.

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