Sometimes you write letters to your younger self. Or at least think about it. But Mumbai-based vocalist, voiceover artist and music educator Vasundhara Vee has taken the concept to the next level with her debut book, Big Dreams, Bold Choices, a one-of-a-kind handbook for indie musicians. A book she could have used when she was starting out at the age of 15.
“I got lucky because I got to work with those who were better and more experienced musically. Still, there was no clear path to follow, which would get demotivating and confusing at times,” says the singer, 34, who honed her skills at Delhi choir Artistes Unlimited, before launching herself with her first ensemble Adil & Vasundhara.
Fifteen years of collaborations, shows and corporate gigs, as well as teaching has more than prepared her for this long-overdue manual. The fact that it reads like a journal of someone who’s explained the missteps she’s made makes it all the more relatable.
The first thing to know? To be irreplaceable, you need to have a clear authentic stance. “Like Parekh & Singh – they are above competition today because they have been polishing, distilling and purifying their craft,” says Vasundhara. Secondly, schooling is key. But you need to choose between the music school or mentor model. “Classes only arm you with tools, which you need to start applying,” cautions the former NMIMS faculty member.
Shock and awe
So, what’s the key mistake youngsters are making? “They are too excited about playing live and earning via it, because of which they lose out not only on money, but on timing their debut. Build your craft for two years so you can send shock waves when you debut. You will earn more, make a bigger impact and be able to sustain it,” she explains. This is a lesson she learnt from her own debut – an inexperienced one at a recording studio when she was 18; and the live performance with her first band, when she was used to singing on a stage.
Another place she feels she went wrong was not putting muscle into promotions, especially on social media. But that’s the last step – first you need to create good music. “It’s not about fame. You need to know how to connect to people, discover your style and tap into that,” she says.
The biggest hurdle aspiring musicians need to fight still is the social stigma. “The stigma is there due to confusion – some families believe the artist is a seer, some think of them as entertainment crew, others still think they are people with weird moral standards and then there are parents who simply want their child to be famous,” says Vasundhara, confessing that one of the reasons she wrote the book was to address parents.
But the biggest question has always been finances. “You need to understand that you are a creative entrepreneur and it’s actually quite viable,” she says, citing examples of music directors who build a foundation in the indie circuit, which acts as a fallback as they go mainstream. Also, don’t play gigs randomly. “Even today, if a big company wants you to play for free and you do it, they may not pay you post-Covid. What you do now will impact how you grow,” she warns.
“Besides, being specific about the kind of people you work with not only helps your craft, but also builds a community,” she adds.
And isn’t bringing people together exactly what music is about?
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From HT Brunch, October 11, 2020
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