'Surrender to your work,' artiste Rasika Shekar's special message to aspiring flautists in India

Fresh off the success of folk docu-series 'Equals', Rasika Shekar chats with us about her evolution as a flautist, upcoming performances and lots more...
In Frame: Rasika Shekar
In Frame: Rasika Shekar

She wakes up early, indulges in a 20-minute meditation session, reads and concludes her morning sipping freshly brewed coffee with some vinyl music playing in the background. Flautist Rasika Shekar is an old soul at heart but that does not stop her from looking for newer challenges to further herself as an artiste.

And it is her zeal to take her signature sound to places that perfectly explains her collaboration with folk singer Prahlad Tipanya for Equals, India’s first-ever folk music documentary series, where she was the only female music producer. We chat with the artiste about this remarkable feat, her evolution as a flautist, upcoming performances and lots more...

Tell us a little about your experience shooting Equals

It was an incredible experience because it was steeped in honest intention and the joy of working with a legendary folk artist was unparalleled. I will always remember the tears of joy and overwhelm I had while shooting the song. From a music producer’s lens, I saw the coming together of so many musical identities and stories and that was magical. It was personally exciting to me because crafting a folk song around contemporary musical arrangements was challenging yet thrilling.

How did you get started playing the flute, and what inspired you to choose this instrument? 

I found an old bamboo flute on my balcony in Dubai, where I grew up and I was casually posing with it for Janmashtami. My mum says I immediately took a fascination towards it and told her I wanted to learn it. I was maybe 6 years old or something. But it wasn’t until we moved to the US when I was 12, we found a teacher and I started training under her. The more I learnt and played, the more in love I fell with the instrument. 

Apart from flute, is there any other instrument you enjoy playing? 

I love any percussion instrument. But currently, I enjoy playing the piano a lot. I find myself getting lost for hours in front of it. 

What are the professional opportunities available for flautists in India? 

Plenty! There’s a diverse set of opportunities ranging from the classical music circuit, which has festivals throughout the year. There’s also the fusion and experimental space where one can collaborate with different genres. Other than live events, we have a big film and recording industry that has plenty of opportunities to offer. There are many folk-fusion bands where flute is such an integral and central part of the sound. So all in all, there are a bunch of interesting avenues for a professional flautist today. 

In Frame: Rasika Shekar
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What challenges do you think flautists face in India, and conversely, what opportunities are emerging for them in the music industry? 

I think one challenge for someone playing the Indian flute (specifically the bamboo flute) is finding resources to learn and expand from. There’s a lot of interest in the instrument here but limited resources and institutions.

What advice would you give to aspiring flautists in India who are looking to establish a career in music? 

Surrender to your work and craft and don’t be shy to experiment. There’s no rush to get anywhere. Enjoy the journey of being a musician and artiste.

You have been performing solo concerts across the globe from the US to Mumbai. What are some of the cities you have lined up next?
I have a performance in Europe coming up and then some in the US towards the second half of the year. Meanwhile, I’ve been performing across India. I have honestly had the best time performing at colleges in India. It’s the most fun and the energy is something unexplainable. I’ve always left feeling so amazed at the love people have for music here. 

Equals is now streaming on JioCinema.

In Frame: Rasika Shekar
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Mail: muskankhullar@newindianexpress.com

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