Music has been an integral part of Shashaa Tirupati’s life ever since she was a child. From singing bhajans along with her mother as a two-year-old to singing in local radio stations in Canada, where she was raised, this Kashmiri girl has come a long way today, lending her voice to songs composed by her idol AR Rahman. In a conversation with us, the diminutive singer opens up about her entry into music, her connection with Rahman, working on the recreated Humma Humma and more.

When was it that you decided to take up music as a career option?
The major turning point was when Guru released. Something about Tere Bina and Jaage Hain really affected me. There is a depth to them that I can’t express and I feel such a connect with them. After hearing these two songs, I decided that this is what I wanted to do. I had to convince my parents though, because I was a top student in school.

Did you know anyone in the music industry? How easy or difficult is it for someone with no links in this field to make an entry?
Knowing people, meeting people and networking is very crucial. I started from scratch. I met people who became a medium to reach my destination — for me, a major destination was Rahman sir. It’s because of him I’d come to India, so I wanted to be ready when the time came for me to sing for him. The experience I gained from 2007, when I first came to India, till 2013, helped me prepare myself. I took part in a reality show, recorded jingles, got my first film (Bumm Bumm Bole). And for three years, I stopped singing and went into music production, assisting Tanishk Bagchi. After that, I auditioned for Coke Studio and met Rahman sir.

What was the first meeting like?
The first meeting was at the Coke Studio rehearsals. He had entered the room quietly, so that when I looked up, he was walking around the room. My heart skipped a beat and my knees were shaking. On the second day, sir looked at the choir and asked, ‘Which one of you is Shaasha?’

I thought he wanted me kicked out because I was singing badly. Slowly, I put my finger up. He looked at me, but didn’t say anything. The next day, I found some courage, went up to him and asked him why he had asked about me the previous day. He told me, ‘I heard some of your works, and I feel your voice sounds like a musical instrument (the Arabic instrument duduk)’.

After a month, I got a call from his office saying that sir would like to try my voice for a few songs. I was like, ‘Oh my God! My biggest dream has come true!’ I came to Chennai and recorded for Kochadaiiyaan (the Hindi version). But I didn’t tell this to my parents immediately. I wanted my parents to read my name in the credit list of a Rahman sir album. Because, in the industry, things are very fickle. Until you see your name on the album cover, you are not sure if your voice has been retained or not. I go to the studio, do my job and I come out.

The recreated Humma Humma, which you have sung, has crossed 100 million views. How was the experience recording it?
Humma Humma happened very unexpectedly. I got a call from the production house, and when I went to the studio, it was amusing to find out that the person who had recreated the song was Tanishk Bagchi, with whom I used to compose earlier. However, during the recording, I didn’t know which film or for whom the song was for, and also why the song was being recreated. And then, one day, I saw my name in the track list of OK Jaanu, and the visual was that of a bedroom sequence. It was only then that it hit me that I’d sung for the Hindi equivalent of Parandhu Sella Vaa, which I had sung in Tamil.

How did Tamil songs happen?
Because of my surname, people think I’m a south Indian, but I’m actually a Kashmiri. My first Tamil song was Oday Oday for Raja Rani, and my first Tamil song for Rahman sir was Aye Mr Minor (Kaaviyathalaivan). I got a lot of recognition for it, including the Mirchi Music Award. After that, a lot of people started calling me. Silukku Marame, O Kadhal Kanmani happened (I had three songs in it), Gethu, Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada… everything happened because of that.

Original Article published by M.Suganti for The Times of India.