Imagine singing on stage since your childhood and all of a sudden one day losing your voice. This is a scary thought for any vocalist. Vasundhara Vee has endured this trauma and come back stronger.
One of the best jazz and soul voice of the country, Vasundhara was a practice freak. She would practice for hours at end due to her obsession with perfection. This is not a rare thing among vocalists and even musicians but when done the wrong way, it has adverse effects. Voice unlike any other musical instrument, cannot be repaired easily and quickly.
“Losing my voice was my biggest learning. It was the toughest time. I can’t even tell you how horrible it was. But I learnt that I will have to lead a new life which will look nothing like my old self,” said Vasundhara.
It was a terrible phase for her because she had to cancel gigs which seemed unprofessional and was struggling with her body. The doctors administered her with steroids to reduce the inflammation and wanted to conduct a surgery. Vasundhara was sceptical about it as her voice was her identity since she started singing at the age of 3.
Getting her act together, Vasundhara started looking out for teachers and trainers who could help get her voice back. She finally found a saviour in Boston, USA.
“The first thing I learnt when he was giving my voice back to me is that you better respect your system. If you do not have respect for your system, how will you make music? I realised, I will have to start honouring my voice,” recounts Vasundhara.
“Going back on stage was very scary because my voice had changed. When my technique changed it opened my voice and it took me a while to get used to my new voice. If you hear my older recordings and if you hear my recordings now you will find a lot of difference. So I had to make peace with my new voice. I cannot even explain how lucky I am.”
It was during her stint with her school’s choir group that Vasundhara leant the basics of music. She learnt to sing gospel, jazz and soul. The wonderful thing about choir is that it does not glorify an individual. It makes one a part of a bigger group which helps when an artist performs in a band. Choir also opens up a vocalist to different styles of singing and adapting their nuances rather easily.
“I find choir as one of the most effective tool to teach to EQ because our voice has an inbuilt EQ which we learn to tap very well in a choir. When we sing with each other in a choir, our voice tones are going to match. Choir teaches you to colour and nuance your voice and that’s super powerful as a singer,” asserted Vasundhara.
Jazz and Soul
Choir is the perfect way to start and master jazz and soul as it is more about vocal colouration. It was very popular genre but later it became a niche one. It is an umbrella concept encompassing various genres. But some people think that it is just about swing while others consider jazz as jazz rock fusion.
Vasundhara took to jazz and soul naturally. She started getting invited by jazz musicians to sing with them when she was still quite young.
“I am old school. My primary love is good melody, story and lyrics. Whether that is a rock song, jazz song or blues. I categorize myself as a singer. It is not just jazz. They started type casting me very easily because I got booked for jazz,” recalled Vasundhara.
Vasundhara Vee – the artist
Over the years, Vasundhara has established herself as one of the finest voices in RnB, jazz and soul ensembles in the country. She has been singing, recording and performing with eminent musicians such as Ranjit Barot, Etienne Mbappe, Dhruv Ghanekar, Louiz Banks, Loy Mendonsa, PurbayanChatterjee et al. Through her band, Merkaba, she sings songs for community healing and self-reflection. Merkaba also involves leading musicians like Sanjay Divecha, Gino Banks, Sheldon D Silva and Rohan Rajadhyaksha.
The gig circuit needs more jazz gigs because people can experience the interaction that jazz offers. It gets people drawn to it no matter how long the song is. Although it is common to see people frequent jazz gigs now who have never listened to jazz earlier or regularly. This engagement has developed through the efforts of the musicians like Vasundhara. The band has to engage with the crowd and create an association between them and their music.
“My main grouse of spreading jazz in the country is that a lot of musicians think that they are educating people through their live gigs. This is not a classroom. You need to do your best and channel the joy that you feel people will connect to. They might not go to a jazz gig but they will definitely come back to watch you sing. There is no need to educate the masses in a club, have fun, entertain and connect,” stressed Vasudhara.
Along with singing and performing, Vasundhara is also a visiting faculty at NMIMS School of Performing Arts.
She trains her students to follow the basics of singing like:
Being from the old school of thought, Vasundhara believes technology should be used as a medium to explore musical horizons. Its use should be limited and vocalists need to utilise the microphone as a tool to enhance their voice. To perfect the voice practice is the key for her.
“What is amazing for the young generation of musicians is that they have got the access to every genre of music. They are intense and focused. They need to spend a good amount of time with the instruments and have to put their phones away,” asserted Vasundhara.
At this point during our conversation, the tables turned. Vasundhara is penning a book about the various career opportunities in the music industry. It was now my turn to answer questions put forth by Vasundhara Vee, the author.