Neha Bhasin is an exceptional musician with a gifted voice that has an ironic sensuality. She touches millions of hearts and souls with her melodies…
Young, talented and zealous, Neha Bhasin exemplifies the essence of the Indian Music Industry. She is aptly called the ‘hit machine’ for the songs she has delivered. This quintessential girl-next-door, who has swiftly impressed the viewers with her much admired performances across mediums, has made it big through her countless outings on stage, digital podiums, television and the big screen. The sultry voice that was discovered from the first all-girl band of India ‘Viva’ has been enticing the nation not just in Hindi but also on the regional tracks. Today, besides running her own YouTube channel devoted to Punjabi folk fusion, she has a fairly successful career in Bollywood. Currently celebrating the success of her recent release ‘Heeriye’ from Race 3 with 30 million views she has embarked on a solo journey in the domain of music. Neha has come a long way and is definitely here to stay!
The Lifestyle Journalist Aditi Rana strikes a conversation with Neha Bhasin…
You started your career with an all-girls band group Viva. How has been the journey so far?
I started my career in the year 2002 so precisely it has been 15 years that I have dedicated to the music industry. My journey has been beautiful and gradual. I followed my heart for most parts, shunned opportunities I didn’t like and embraced the ones I did. Decisions weren’t easy always and people often called me a dreamer but I guess following your heart leads the way.
One childhood memory that is still fresh in your mind and makes you happy every time you think of it?
I was born and brought up in Delhi. I miss the changing seasons of Delhi and the fragrance of the flower, Raat Ki Rani, which is found all over the city. And of course, Delhi food! My most cherished memory is the sound of my mother singing in the kitchen and the delicious whiff of her food.
You have engaged in a number of international collaborations. How was the experience?
The experience has been wonderful and overwhelming as I was the first Indian female singer to endorse Sennheiser which is known to be one of the leading German brand for microphones. Also, it was an honour to collaborate with the Emcee Jesz for ‘THANIYE’. We received great response and lot of love from our fans.
What made you fall in love with music at the first place?
My connection to music is definitely my mother. She herself is a singer and she used to sing around the house all the time. My school also played a big influence as that was actually the first time I discovered that I had the voice and I can actually sing. Also, Michael Jackson was one of my first and biggest influencers in life who inspired me to be a pop star.
What does success mean to you?
I have been in this industry for a very long time now. My journey has been nothing less than a roller coaster ride. But what kept me going was my immense dedication, passion and my love for music. Success to me is nothing but a reflection of my honesty towards music and I also owe the most of it to my family and of course my amazing fans.
You suffered depression at an early stage of your journey in this industry. How did you deal with it?
The years between 2002 till 2006 were a painful period in my life. I experienced lack of self-worth and confidence, loneliness and depression. Fame is something you’re never prepared for. When you’re out in the open you experience many things. I came across people who were like wolves at my door; they wanted to eat me at my vulnerability. But every cloud has a silver lining and I am in a much better place today. Today, I am self-aware and connected to my spirit. I am on the path of brilliance and bliss.
You are judging a singing reality show ‘Love me India’ alongside Guru Randhawa and Himesh Reshammiya. Share your experience.
It is really exciting to be on the other side as a judge now. I completely understand how contestants work and also look forward to sharing this platform with two musicians who are as passionate about music as I am. Himesh has judged numerous reality shows. Guru is popular amongst youngsters and I have experience and credibility as a vocalist so the panel is a very good mix. This show is for young kids and I feel immensely responsible as I understand how impressionable they are at this age. I was a very sensitive girl growing up and I would like to keep that in mind on this show. I know reality shows like drama but I would like India to see the real me.
You have started your own YouTube channel dedicated to folk fusion. How did you come up with an idea to start this?
I feel like folk music is like an old recipe that is passed on from generation to generation. No matter how far the borders change, it is our culture because it is what keeps us related and deep-rooted to our core DNA. Folk music was an integral part of my lifestyle at home. My nani maa (Grandmother) was a beautiful singer and my choti nani still sends me voice notes of songs that I should work on. They both played a big role in inspiring me to come up with a YouTube channel of my own dedicated to folk fusion and take the legacy forward. To sing folk thought was Sameer Uddin brain child and my mother’s knowledge of Punjabi folk helped a lot.
Bollywood industry is considered a male dominant society. Have you faced any gender bias in the industry?
India is a male dominated country. That is the truth. But this fact does not bother me anymore. I am not here to revolutionize feminism or any other female centric tags. I am here to live by example. I love music and I am here to stay.
Any Viva reunion we should look forward to?
Reunion with Viva band mates is not likely, but I believe our band still sounds ‘great’ together. We’re not in our 20’s anymore and have moved on. I wouldn’t have time to be part of a band. We didn’t talk for years, almost eight years and then we met recently and felt like nothing had changed, we also sang Jaago Zara and it was very nostalgic.
Who are your all-time favorite singers or music composers? My music choices are varied. From pop, pop rock, classic rock to a bit of hip hop, dance music and jazz, I have a generous mix on my playlist. I adore Billie holiday and listen to her for hours especially when I am traveling. The two artists from our generation that I really worship are Beyonce and Pink, not just because they are great singers but also because they are great performers as well. I admire Adele and Sam Smith. My all-time favourite as most aficionados of the 90’s would agree, is none other than the king of pop Michael Jackson, I also loved Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, bands like Roxette, Mr.mr, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, George Michael, Prince. The list is endless.
Your song ‘Swag Saha Nahi Jaye’ from ‘Happy Phir Bhaag Jayegi’ crossed 5 million views in one day? How do you feel about it?
It is an amazing feeling when you receive so much love and appreciation for your work. The music composer Sohail Sen and I go back a long way. I have sung some of my biggest hits for him. Dhunki from mere ‘Brother ki Dulhan’ being the most special.
What is your take on favoritism in Bollywood industry?
It does exist, that’s how humans function. But if you are talented and a persistent shark you can win them all!
One advice to the young aspiring singers of the coming generation.
If you wish to stick around and want to have longevity in your career, it’s vital to reinvent yourself and it’s very important to keep learning and keep pacing up your game because there will always be new people in competition and new trends that would threaten your position. If you are dependent only on what you learned as a child, then you can never be a Madonna or a Lata Mangeshkar. So, it’s very important for you to raise your standards (in terms of work)!