"I was this small-town guy with no exposure"
Shashwat Singh is making waves in the music world after the release of AR Rahman’s 99 Songs.
The playback singer is a product of AR Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory in Chennai.
Shashwat met the renowned musician in the past and the pair worked together on various Bollywood songs.
But for the soundtrack of 99 Songs, Shashwat is the leading singer and expressed his gratitude towards AR Rahman. He said:
“Amid so many amazing singers out there, I feel honoured and privileged that AR sir decided to go with my voice for this movie.”
On leading an entire album for the first time, Shashwat said:
“There is a huge difference between singing one number and doing an entire track.
“You know you are the voice of the lead actor, and you have to know the story to understand the character.
“Sometimes you are privileged to get the video clip from the film and observe the actor’s expression while singing, which makes it easier for you to emote.”
The soundtrack has a variety of styles but Shashwat adapts to each track well.
However, he admitted that his first career choice was not music.
An ACL injury prevented him from joining the Indian Army. Shashwat then undertook an internship in sound engineering under Nitin Joshi.
But Shashwat Singh realised he did not want to be “a technical guy inside a studio”.
His sister, TV actress Nidhi Singh, advised him to try AR Rahman’s institute.
“I had never been to Chennai, it was a new experience for me.
“I was this small-town guy with no exposure, and at the music school I had these instruments in front of me and I started exploring with wonder.
“I enrolled for Western classical music, which helped me understand my voice.
“The intention was never to be spotted by AR Rahman, I was just a dedicated schoolboy who was trying to learn different things and exploring different instruments.”
Being mentored by AR Rahman shaped Shashwat’s career. He elaborated:
“There is so much I learnt from him, He talks in spurts, it could be anything, sometimes it is a philosophical thought that’s on his mind at that moment.
“I have seen AR sir in different forms — spiritual, musical, as a performer on stage — in every form he is teaching you a craft, and in-depth knowledge.
“He once asked me what runs in my mind before I go into the studio to record a song.
“I said, ‘lyrics, the context and my expression and the technical bits…’ he said one is supposed to have all that in mind anyway, but my voice should heal the listener.
“Till today I remember his words before recording a song.”
Shashwat Singh has performed songs in various languages but in his opinion, he finds Malayalam the easiest of the South Indian languages.
“I have a certain knack for sounds. Even when I was untrained in any form of music, I would play the guitar and the keyboard and associate everything to the sound, nothing with theory.
“I realised I had a natural understanding of harmonies.”
Shashwat’s love for harmonies led him to AR Rahman’s NAFS, a band of 10 of his students who specialised in harmony and sans instruments.
NAFS was led by the US-based musician Arjun Chandy.
In 2020, Shashwat released four singles. He has more in the pipeline for 2021.
He said: “That training helped me later in making my independent music.”
Shashwat said that it is the most exciting time for the independent music scene in India, adding:
“Not just Mumbai, you see indie musicians coming up with videos from even small places of the country, which is amazing.”