By: ASJAD NAZIR
SWATI NATEKAR has delivered everything from deeply classical music to huge commercial songs with effortless ease.
Although she has released acclaimed albums and collaborated with worldclass artists, the versatile singer is at her best live and delivers concerts globally.
The British talent will deliver a free concert as part of the Mid-day Mantra series at Symphony Hall in Birmingham on March 26. Accompanied by top UK musicians, she will do a special presentation of songs celebrating Holi.
Eastern Eye caught up with the singing star to discuss her musical journey, live performance, and forthcoming concert.
How do you look back on your incredible musical journey?
I was born in a musical family in a small town of Jabalpur, India. I was trained by my mother Vidushi Dr Smt Sushila Pohankar, who herself was a scholar. Being constantly surrounded by great music created a natural passion for music. Shifting to Mumbai and then London opened a new world for me. So, it has been a great journey so far.
Tell us about some of the highlights?
There have been many beautiful memories. As a singer, composer, and songwriter, I recorded tracks such as Nadia (with Nitin Sawhney), Khwaab (with Niraj Chag) and Jakatta American Dream (number three in UK main charts). I also collaborated through recordings with Ustad Zakir Hussain, Craig Armstrong, Talvin Singh, Sonu Nigam and Muzaffer Ali. I have released my own albums and performed in Europe, Caribbean, South Africa, Karachi, and Nairobi. I composed and sang a track for the Queen’s gallery at Buckingham Palace.
How much does a live performance mean to you?
Artists either love working in the studio or performing live. Fortunately, I enjoy both. In the studio, you have all the time to rework on things you are not happy with. But during live performances, you get just one chance to prove yourself. At the same time, the energy you receive from your audience is phenomenal.
What has been your most memorable performance?
In my 45-year musical career, there are many special memories, such as performing with Nitin Sawhney in Johannesburg in front of a 70,000-strong audience or my classical performance for All Night Festival in Paris. But performing live with Scottish composer Craig Armstrong, along with London Sinfonietta 60 piece, at Barbican was one of the most memorable shows for me.
What can we expect from your Mid-day Mantra performance?
As part the Holi celebrations, I’ve specially selected thumri, ghazals, classic Bollywood, including a tribute to Lataji (Mangeshkar), and bhajans. Together, it will be a unique combination.
Is there a song or piece of music you are looking forward to performing?
It is a thumri, based upon Holi; composed by my mother and guru. People have always loved it. I’m looking forward to performing it for my Birmingham audience.
What according to you is the secret of a great live performance?
I think one has to be well prepared. For this, not just a few days, but lifelong study and hard work is very important. There are no shortcuts!
Do you ever get nervous before going on stage?
When I was young, I used to have stage fright. Watching Jagjit Singh in concert taught me how one can enjoy themselves while performing. Also, the moment I decided to focus on my performance while on stage rather than worrying about the results has been my biggest finding, which eventually helped me to overcome this problem.
Who have you loved seeing live as a music fan?
I’ve been fortunate to have heard many legendary artists live. In classical, I would say Ustad Rashid Khan, Pt Ajay Pohankar (my elder brother) and Ustad Zakir Hussain. In lighter music, it has to be Jagjit Singh.
What music dominates your own personal playlist?
Oh many! Ustad Vilayat Khan, Pt Ravi Shankar, Ustad Rashid Khan, Pt Ajay Pohankar, Lata Mangeshkar and Ustad Mehdi Hassan.
Why do you love music?
I was born into a musical atmosphere, and so music has always been like oxygen for me. Also, coming from a family of professional musicians and being raised having listened to a high standard of music, I cannot imagine my life without it.
Why should we come to your show?
Thanks to Sampad, I’m bringing a special concert to Symphony Hall, Birmingham with lots of variety. There will be something that everyone can enjoy. So, I urge people to book this free event, come and listen to me and my talented team.