Singing From The Heart - Seema Mahadevia talks with You & I

Meet Seema Mahadevia, who sings for the pure pleasure of making people happy. This is especially for the older set who like to reminisce through the melodies of R.D. Burman, Asha Bhosle, O.P. Nayyar and the like. Singing straight from the heart, Seema has more than established herself as an inspired performer. Trained under gurus Sudhindra Bhaumik, Niyaz Ahmed Khan, Shakil Ahmed Khan, and presently under the aegis of Sohni Mishra, she has performed all over India, as well as in Germany, London, Singapore, East Africa, the US, and Jakarta.

A prathama in classical music from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, she recounts her journey in music that began rather late in life, and shares what inspires her.

Brief us about your early life and career.
I come from an army family. My father was a colonel. As he passed away when we were very young, our mother raised my brother and I in Bengaluru. My brother also fought for the country and won a medal. He too passed away at an early age. I went to Mumbai to complete commercial arts and later got married. I used to sing as a hobby, and hence I began learning music, although at a much later stage. It’s like I just walked into my career, rather late, but better late than never.

How did you first land an opportunity to perform?
It was through a friend, back in 2001. She informed me that there was a show to be performed in the US and encouraged me to sing there. That was where I had my first stage experience. I gradually started taking up small programmes. I did shows for army regiments in Mumbai, corporate events, and other singer-based stage shows, just like Asha Bhosle and other veteran singers and composers. I now have my own team and we travel all over the world to perform. I work with good event management companies in Mumbai too, like Cineyug.

Who inspires you?
Jagjit Singh inspires me tremendously. I was so awed by his music and ghazals that it turned out to be one of the reasons why I embarked on a journey in music. I only sing ghazals and folk music. I cover singers from Geeta Dutt to Shreya Ghoshal. I want to thank my mother, Uma Chandavarkar, for being a constant support to me. Being a strong, brave, beautiful, and fabulous lady, she is a major inspiration. I also want to thank my husband Chaitanya Mahadevia, and my children, who have been very supportive from the very beginning. They too inspire me in their own way.

What were the challenges you had to face to establish yourself?
An important factor was that I didn’t know anybody from the music industry. Whatever offers I received were only through word of mouth. Another challenge was that since I started singing very late in life (and after my marriage),

I had to practice a lot. Most people learn music from a very young age. My husband encouraged me a lot during this time. I have come up on my own, and a lot of friends supported me too.

Did you ever consider playback singing?
Yes, I did. If given a chance, I would love to take it up! However, maybe I lack the killer instinct to be out there and grab offers. I feel that I am very bad at PR. As whatever happened was through word of mouth, I never had to hanker after opportunities.

Who are your favourite composers?
O.P. Nayyar, R.D. Burman, S.D. Burman, and Salil Chowdhury. And if I had an opportunity, I would love to work with Pritam Chakraborty, Vishal-Shekar, and A.R. Rahman. My favourite singer right now is Arijit Singh. The way he entered the music industry is very inspiring.

What songs are on your playlist at the moment?
‘Moh moh ke dhaage’ and all Geeta Dutt, Asha Bhosle, and Jagjit Singh’s songs. These are always on my playlist!                              --- as told to Sumana