Interview with Rasika Shekar, A Flute Player and Singer
A Peek into Rasika Shekar's Life
Breaking new ground has been Rasika Shekar’s forte. Dichotomy is not new to Rasika, born in Dubai and raised in the US; her openness to new experiences and embracing opportunities along her journey has carved a very enviable niche in her profession as a flautist and singer. Her repertoire of work include accompanying ghazal maestro Ustad Ghulam Ali Khan for his US Tour, international concerts with Shankar Ehsaan Loy, performing live on MTV Coke Studio Season 2 and a TedX talk at GITAM university last year. Without doubt, this young talent has crossed genre’s ranging from ghazal, Carnatic, Jazz and contemporary Bollywood music effortlessly in her musical career.
Music has never been a well thought out career option, it was an inherent childhood indulgence nurtured very diligently by parents. Her mom, a musician herself who taught Carnatic and veena classes has been a driving force to keep the discipline and commitment required during those early years. Her childhood memories are a myriad collage of music classes – keyboard, violin and flute and Carnatic music and SAT Classes too! While the morsing was the one of the first musical instruments she took affinity towards, today the artiste in her is inspired and drawn to an ever expanding list of instruments like the Kora most recently and other African instruments.
Rasika Shekar learning Violin from her grandmother
Rasika’s tutelage has seen remarkable names in the industry associated with her – Ustad Ghulam Ali Khan and Shankar Ehsaan Loy. Opportunities and popularity that flowed her way were not blessed serendipity alone; it had hard work, focus and passion for music engendered in her daily life routine. However, popularity is no measure for talent and she attributes a lot of her mojo to her training and foundation in Indian classical music. Erudite by nature, she has shown proclivity towards continuous learning and believes that online courses, YouTube videos, listening to different genres of music, and investing in spending time creating a creative net of artistes, performers, event managers and directors to network with improves an artiste’s ability to grow and learn from the best continually.
An artiste journey is never structured. It isn’t fraught with appraisal cycles or promotions but continually remains fluid. Gaining spotlight is all about focus and perseverance. Rasika’s first manager was instrumental in getting her shows early on in her career and Shankar Mahadevan gave her the first Bollywood break. Rasika feels social media plays a big role in a performer’s acceptance and popularity. A recent stopover at Delhi airport saw a group ask her for a photograph after checking with her “Are you the same Rasika Shekar who played the flute alongside Shankar Mahadevan at a LIVE concert and the video went viral?”. And next moment, an elderly gentleman even came to her and said “You’re an inspiration for my daughter”. Recognition and acceptance is both humbling and exhilarating for a performer but it is transient. When the arc lights are away from you, it becomes important to manage your time. Networking with event management firms, seeking out collaborations, keeping up with PR events and appearances become critical to stay contemporary in an extremely competitive and evolving music space. An artiste may be perennial in stature but his journey is always about seasons and seasonality. There is no place for indolence in a performer’s life!
Watch Rasika Shekar playing the flute alongside Shankar Mahadevan
A cross cultural odyssey has emboldened Rasika to open up to new experiences and opportunities with little cynicism. She is as much at home while performing a flute recital at the family temple at Vallayur for the temple festival as she is doing a solo gig at the Mumbai beach with an impromptu flute recital to the delight and appreciation of the passing public. Her rhythmic affinity is evident in a busy calendar filled with rehearsals for shows, coordination with artistes, jamming, attending shows at hard rock café, and conceptualizing shows. There is never a dull moment in this artiste’s diary and she keeps her solo moments also equally engaging with travel, watching movies or generally being around family and friends. Taking a break as a performer is as important as keeping the focus. It’s all about the balance, yin and yang!
At one point a wannabe professional tennis player turned chemical engineer; Rasika Shekar is a symphony of rhythmic notes unique and hardly ubiquitous. Her journey is an inspiring take of chances turning opportunities and career meeting passion without coercion or planning. Next time you doubt your step, take a look at Rasika’s note to understand life is about possibilities and embracing contrariety.