“J’aime Pouvoir Changer, Faire Ma Voix Passer D’un Register A`L’autre.” The prestigious French magazine ‘‘Le Mag’’ wrote about Dr Shailesh Shrivastava, a renowned Bollywood playback and folk singer who has a wide range with a silky and sensational voice. She has emerged as a vibrant vivacious singing sensation with time. Fusing the trendy Pop Idiom while still retaining the pristine purity of the Folk Form has been her forte.
Be it playback singing, folk, bhajan, or ghazal - Dr Shailesh is a versatile genius. She is unusually gifted in her voice which continues to be melodious as ever. She is one of the leading folk singers who is set to preserve this ancient heritage of our country. Such is the magnetic and magical impact of her velvet voice that she can immaculately bring alive the vitality, vigour and eternal grace of the rich folklore of various regions. Not only can she captivate the audience by her singing, but also impress them with her talent as a music director by instantly putting their poetry and ghazals to charming tunes in which she sings the lyrics.
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CitySpidey caught up with Dr Shailesh Shrivastava who rendered her services as Director and Producer in Asia’s largest National Network Channel ‘‘Doordarshan’’, Mumbai for more than three decades. She produced many programs like National Program of Music, Dance, Documentaries, Film Based Program, ‘‘Rangoli’’. She is a recipient of Sangeet Natak Academy Award 2012 from UP government and Junior Fellowship from Govt of India, Ministry of Culture. She has a rare collection of Indian folklore, nearly 1,500 from UP, western Bihar and other States. Times Music has already released albums ‘Chatani Chataka’ and ‘Hai Daiya’ featuring her. In an exclusive interview with Shri Ram Shaw, she shared her thoughts on how to preserve Indian folk traditions, culture, role of media and Bhojpuri Folk.
Q: You are perceived as a multifaceted personality - a thinker, writer and singer. How do you see yourself?
Dr Shailesh: For me, music is a way of life, a journey, a mission in which I am exploring my inner self and the beauty around me. Life is a continuous celebration and music is the best way for expression. I was born on the 6th of April, 1959 to a distinguished family from Ballia of Uttar Pradesh. I was trained by Padma Bhushan Pandit Rajan and Sajan Mishra of the Banaras Gharana in the guru-shishya tradition (parampara). I have done a doctorate in ‘‘Folk and Media’’ from SNDT University, Mumbai.
Q: You’ve been ranked as an A-grade artiste of the All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan, Mumbai. Critics and connoisseurs consider you a versatile vocalist with a wide range. Your view?
Dr Shailesh: I have sung in many languages like Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Bhojpuri, Awadhi, Punjabi, Sindhi, Haryanvi, Himachali, Dogri and Marathi. I have had the privilege to perform in the world Hindi conference at Mauritius in 1993, the Asian Music Festival, Bali, Indonesia, in 1996, Shark Taranalori Festival Samarkand (Russia) in 1997, the USA in 2003, Trinidad & Tabago, Guyana, and New Amsterdam in 2005. I am an empanelled artiste of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR).
Q: You have had the privilege of performing and propagating the pristine purity of folk songs at multiple prestigious platforms. What has that experience been like?
Dr Shailesh: I have performed for the Sahitya Kala Parishad, the Punjabi Academy and the Hindi Academy, New Delhi; the NCPA, Mumbai, the World Trade Fair, New Delhi and at the Badal Raag Festival in September 2007 at Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal. I participated in leading Music Festivals like Ganga Mohotsav at Varanasi in 2000-2003, the Lucknow Mohotsav 2002, the Jhansi Mohotsav 2000, the Ratlam Mohotsav 2003, the Fatehpur Festival 2003, the Shruti Festival 2004, (Khandwa), the Lokotsav Chindwara 2006, the Minjor Festival Chamba, Himachal Pradesh. I have also had the privilege of performing in the Ashoka Hall at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi.
Q: But you have also sung for Bollywood films too, apart from several popular TV serials and commercial advertisements…
Dr Shailesh: It is the dream of every singer to be associated with films. I lent my voice as a singer for films like Banaras. There was also a duet song with melody maestro Sonu Nigam ji. Himesh Reshmiya ji composed all the songs in the Urmila Matondkar and Ashmit Patel starrer film. I also sang in Baazar-E-Husn – songs composed by renowned music director Khayyam and Sasure ke kode, song in the movie Miss Tanakpur Hazir Ho composed by music director Palash Muchhal. I’ve sung as a playback singer for serials like Maila Anchal, Himalaya Darshan, Gayab Aya (1st Animated Serial of India), Lok Lok ki Baat, Ye Hui Na Baat, and various advertisements.
Q: What propelled you to write the book Bhojpuri Sanskar: Geet Aur Prasar Madhyam?
Dr Shailesh: In my research I have made an effort to understand Indian Culture by focusing on the culturally-rich parts of our country (Eastern Uttar Pradesh /Western Bihar) with a view to keep in mind the current cultural situation of India. This is a sincere effort to make today’s youth understand what we are losing. Our cultural values are deteriorating every day. Culture is an intrinsic part of rural India which comprises 70% of India’s population. Our rich culture has ceremonies, ritual songs, enriched heritage and combined family traditions.
Bhojpuri is a language spoken by the people of Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Western Bihar. The Bhojpuri community is culturally very rich. There are rituals right after the conception of a baby till a person’s death. There are 48 rituals to be followed. But, in reality, we follow only 16 rituals like garbhadhan, marriage, the tonsuring ceremony and the death ceremony. On the occasion of any of these, folk songs are sung which are very melodious and soothing. The Bhojpuri community is enriched with a variety of folk songs, like Sohar, Khilona, Lullabies, the Sanskar Festival, Devotional, Harvest, Seasonal, Labour, Death Songs, etc.
Q: Don’t you think that culture in India is taking a new turn and is losing its rich roots and heritage?
Dr Shailesh: Yes, with developments in today’s scenario, culture in India is also taking a new turn and is losing its rich roots and heritage. The media has played a very vital role. All India Radio and Doordarshan is an integral part of India’s media. The motto of AIR/Doordarshan is – Information, Education and Entertainment. All India Radio has been able to preserve our culture in the form of recordings and subsequently preserved them in their archives, whereas Doordarshan has nothing like this. In competing with other private channels, AIR and Doordarshan have lost roots of their main motto. I hope my work will highlight all these points and help in preserving this beautiful tradition of our country.