Usha Uthup loves a challenge. In fact, she excels under pressure. So, when the pandemic hit and swept away performers’ applause-fuelled plans for the live circuit, the Park Street diva, who began her journey at Trincas bar and restaurant, found a way to adapt to a new normal. After all, the show must go on and this weekend is another notch in her illustrious career.
Uthup, as part of the ongoing Jim Beam Originals series of gigs, will do what she does best: croon her heart out singing nightclub tunes. “I’ve always said, the songs are bigger than the singer,” says Uthup who has been paying homage to nightclub hits since 1969. “My repertoire has a lot of memories attached to it and the nostalgia it induces in a lot of people. The appeal is absolutely retro and to revisit [the past],” she says ahead of her gig to Music Plus.
It’s been more than five decades of performing in more than 18 global languages across the world, but Uthup who’s always adorned in opulent Kanjivaram saris and a sizeable bindi has never pandered. “The fact is when you see me performing and when you hear my voice you will find the original Usha Uthup spin to it,” she says revealing the setlist to include favourites like ‘Fever’, ‘Bésame Mucho’ and ‘Those were the days’. But a highlight will be the Swahili anthem ‘Malaika’. “These songs will live forever and I’ve experienced a fantastic journey performing these songs, and so even the audience has lived that journey,” says Uthup.
Now with the pandemic lasting more than a year and a half, Uthup has reinvented herself to take virtual performances as par for the course. She’s certain she’s mastered it some extent. Virtual shows have become a way of life but it’ll never get easier not seeing the audience that’s being performed for. “It’s is truly a challenge, especially for a live artist who needs people in front of them,” says Uthup adding that she’s a people person through and through. “Music is not my business, communications is. So, I’m always thinking about how better to communicate with people, even those I can’t even see.”
But Uthup is also a consummate optimist. Virtual performances have not been a shock or a last resort but a chance of discovery and an avenue to endless possibilities with wider audiences across different platforms. “It’s been fantastic so far and I love enjoying whatever I am doing,” she signs off.
Check out Usha Uthup’s performance of the nightclub era here