Indo-American flautist/vocalist Rasika Shekar on blazing her own trail
Her signature sound draws deeply from an amalgam of Carnatic, Sufi, blues, Hindustani, jazz, and ghazal pieces.
With regards to new-age musicians, Rasika Shekar has unintentionally got the formula right. This 20-something-year-old has already amassed a few viral flute jugalbandi videos, sung on a couple of Bollywood chart-toppers, and has found a niche within the world-music sphere.
From the traditional soundscapes of Indian classical music to the cutting-edge grooves of Western contemporary tunes, she has experienced the best of both worlds. A quick run-through of Rasika’s YouTube and Soundcloud profiles would reveal that her signature sound draws deeply from an amalgam of Carnatic, Sufi, blues, Hindustani, jazz, and ghazal pieces.
“I don’t cater to genres, I’m just trying to express myself through music. Depending on the context, and the story I’m trying to tell, everything from the gamakas of Carnatic compositions to the poetry of ghazals seamlessly appear in my music,” begins the chemical engineering graduate.
After performing on over 350 stages across nine countries—including tours with Ustad Ghulam Ali Khan and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy—Rasika is currently living in Mumbai. But, the musician tells us that her roots can be traced back to Tamil Nadu.
“Some of the first sounds I was exposed to was Tamil folk music via instruments like magudam and nadaswaram,” states the classically-trained vocalist, who was born in Dubai and raised in New Jersey.
But her current artistic sensibilities are influenced by Indian Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan’s spiritual message from a book called The Mysticism of Sound and Music.
She explains, “Ever since I started reading that book—which revolves around the centrality of vibrations because music is basically vibrating air—I’ve come to realise that everything we see around us is music. Be it colours, objects, trees, etc. It’s philosophically-heavy stuff but for some reason, I really connect to this blend of Persian poetry and Western intellect.”
When worlds collide
Having recently returned from Spain after completing a Masters in Performance and Production at Berklee College of Music, Rasika is currently working on her own compositions. Titled Uproar, her new instrumental single features collaborators like American jazz drummer Joshua Wheatley, bassist Tabari Lake, and Korean pianist Hooni Min.
“Thematically, Uproar is centred on the cycle of chaos and tranquillity within all of our minds. During the live recorded session, my thinking process remained Carnatic but tune does have a Latin and jazz vibe,” concludes the flautist, who has also performed alongside Mahavishnu Orchestra’s jazz-rock luminary John McLaughlin in Valencia.
Uproar releases today.