Here are Hyderabad's known female musicians who challenged gender norms to become the stars they are
Historically, the pop and rock music scene in the city has been dominated by several male performers and boy bands. But, young female musicians from the city have started garnering a strong fanbase in the club scene. We speak to four female musicians who are breaking stereotypes and owning the stage:
Pranati Khanna is an illustrator, graphic designer, singer and also owns a marketing and design firm, The Whole SheBang. She shares that more than wanting to be a musician, she has always wanted to be an artiste. In fact, she started exploring music only for pocket money, which later turned into a career alongside her design firm. Pranati offers a different perspective when asked why there are a higher number of male musicians than female musicians. “Yes, we definitely know more male musicians, and I think this is because their families are more approving of them performing at live gigs. For young girls, this becomes a set-back. But, for me thankfully, I come from an open-minded family that fully supported the choices I made. I think the biggest challenge I faced earlier in my career was that people in other metropolitan cities like Mumbai or Delhi already had stereotyped Hyderabadi artistes. To break that, and create my own identity, it took me years and I worked very hard at it,” Pranati explains. She mentions that she wishes to create a better community and hopes that well-known indie musicians recognise the talent of budding artistes and encourage their work. Pranati, who started performing at the age of 17, very early on, learnt quite a few lessons. “My number one piece of advice for girls who have just started to come out of their shell to perform live, is do not fret. Do not worry too much about what people think of your talent. Trust me, I am speaking from personal experience. Your energy is what you must feed the audience,” advises Pranati.
The face of the local band, The Playmores, Rinky Sharma is a well-known singer and songwriter. Hence, we are taken by surprise when she tells us that she never planned on becoming a musician. “I come from an academically-inclined family. Music started as a hobby, and I started performing live shows while working in a corporate firm. After several shows, and around the year 2017, I made the call to make music as my full-time profession,” shares Rinky. Be it impressing audiences or managing show producers, Rinky’s journey is one of patience and determination. “Early in my career, I learnt that I cannot please everyone in the room. I have been choosy about the producers I wanted to work with. I can tell you, the journey has been splendid,” adds Rinky. She also mentions that for inspiration, one need not look further than Indian stalwarts like Sona Mohapatra, Ramya Pothurri, and Anitha Bambwe. Before signing off, she advises young female musicians to find their own voice and says, “Stay true to yourself and never stress on fitting a certain societal mould.”
Meghna Dundi has been a part of a two-member outfit with guitarist Lokhi Pai and has been frequently performing in the city since 2014. “I suppose I had always wanted to be a singer. Back then the lack of a role model or a direction to pursue music full-time delayed the inevitable,” Meghna shares. She also says that she is utterly grateful to live her dream every day. When asked about a change she wishes to see in the music industry, she says “I want to see promotion of music that may not be commercially viable. Good music should reach more listeners, and not be solely based on the algorithm or the number of clicks it gets.” She takes inspiration from Beth Hart, Florence Welsh, and Diana Krall. “To sing with any of them would stun me to silence,” shares the singer.
Sravya Kothalanka is a powerhouse of talent. A singer, songwriter, painter and poet. It seems there is nothing this girl cannot do. “I can’t seem to place a finger on where and when exactly I started music. I think at the back of my head, I have always wanted to write music and get recognised for it. And, now, I love that I am living my dream,” says Sravya. But her journey was not all unicorns and rainbows. “It wasn’t easy at all. There is a certain gender suppression one faces. The way to deal with this is to respect yourself and hold onto your talent. And that’s what I did. I have tried hard to not let go of my empathy and compassion. Also, my father always told me to stay humble no matter what I do. All of this has shaped the artiste I am today,” the singer shares. She also talks about the real, simple and conscious representation of women in the music field. “More female promoters, instrumentalists and more women producers. Oh, I could go on about the changes I would like to see here.” The singer asks young girls to step out and chase their dreams and signs off after revealing her idols, “I would give anything for a collaboration with Sampa The Great or Jah9.”