For starters, tell our readers a little about yourself, your background and what you're all about.
Well I am a Danish girl who started singing at the age of 7. My father always used to play the guitar and music became my passion in life from an early age. When I was 13 years old I was lucky to get into the chorus of Radio Denmark and 2 years later I started as a professional singer in a church chorus. Opera singing became a big interest of mine and I also flirted with many different styles of music – like pop, folk, jazz, operetta and classical music – but I decided to study Musical Theatre, because I wanted to develop myself in the fields of singing, dancing and acting.
Just before my graduation in 2001 I was lucky to get into the Danish Eurovision with the song “My heart is beating”, and then I became busy with doing theatre shows in UK and Denmark, as well as doing concerts around the world.
2005 was the year when one of my dreams came true with the release of my first solo album “I love a Piano” – containing some of my favorite songs from the musical theatre and world of pop.
But then only a couple of months later my life took the biggest change of direction ever. It happened on a trekking tour in the Parvati Valley of the Himalayas. I experienced a true paradise on earth here in Kullu/Manali, Himachal Pradesh. And when I was invited to Punjab by Hoshiarpur based Journalist Anurag Sood, who has the Apple Orchard in Kullu where we were trekking (see www.shillatreks.com for more information), I was mesmerized by Punjabi music. The rich culture, the hospitality – and this music directly send into my life from above revealed a totally new world for me. When I was offered a record contract I immediately decided to stay back in Hoshiarpur, because my heart was so much in love with Punjabi music.
You have worked with many great musicians, how was this for you and did it help you with your music singing/career?
I loved working with Jassi Brothers from Garhshankar (Punjab), who was the music director on my album “Heer from Denmark”. With his professional way of working I could relax and focus on what I am best at. Sure the excellent music from him and the musicians playing on my album has helped me in my career – but also the fantastic writers of my songs: Satvinder Bhanewala, Chann Gorayanwala, Lal Hathauliwala, Jaggi Singh and Mohan Kheharinwala. From the beginning I just loved the story of Heer & Ranjha by Waris Shah – this song was the biggest challenge for me to learn, and it is absolutely my favorite Punjabi song.
I have never heard of any white singer performing in Punjabi and hearing your album, do you know Punjabi? Or is it just singing?
While learning to sing in Punjabi language I faced a lot of difficulties, because there were so many new sounds, that I never heard before. It took a lot of patience and endless practice with my teacher Anurag Sood to be able to make the right pronunciation. After writing down the song in roman letters I always translate each word into English and write it down in my own phonetic system. I also listen to a recording of the song, so I can note it down and check if my pronunciation is correct. Also the singing style of Punjabi music is very different from Western music, so I had to train myself and listen to a lot of recordings to get the right sound. It is important for me as an artist to be able to communicate the deep rooted feelings of every song I sing, so knowing the story behind the song is a must. After this process I visualize the meaning of the song and learn it by heart. I only speak a little Punjabi though, but I am taking lessons now here in Denmark :)
Having already sung in 16 different languages and recorded albums in 5 of them, did you have any formal training in Punjabi pop and folk music? And if you did who was the 'guru'?
To learn to sing in the right style I heard a lot of Punjabi music for inspiration, and I had different people from Punjab to record my songs in their own voice, so I then could practice myself and find the right sound. Final touch was put on the songs when I worked them through with Music Master Bhupinder Singh of Garhdiwala, he would listen and rectify all my lyrics and singing down to the smallest detail.
You have sung and worked in folk Punjab and now mainstream so what would you say in comparison and differences in the two?
There is a certain spirit in Punjab that I love very much. Especially I have fantastic memories from shooting my video “Gori”. Video director Navraj Raja took me and the rest of the team around on 65 locations in Punjab in just 7 days, where I was dancing with hundreds of Punjabis in all ages – absolutely the most breathtaking experience of my life. For me the color and beauty of Punjab was revealed in such a fantastic and unexpected way.
Outside Punjab in UK and The States I have met hundreds of Punjabis as well – and when I perform I feel the same kind of loving and lively energy from my audience. For me touring abroad this spring was like still being in Punjab in many ways. But I missed living together with my Indian family where 3 generations are under the same roof. Regarding working with Punjabis in Punjab or abroad I have faced the same challenges in different working culture of East and West.
Tell us about the Response of 'Heer from Denmark'.
The response has been amazing. I have had hundreds of fan mails from Punjabis settled all over the world, and almost every TV-channel and newspaper has been covering my release and story. Also I have had offers from Canada, France, Holland, Norway, Dubai, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, UK, Germany, The States and I have been approached by the Bollywood industry.
So what are you working on now? What can fans expect from you in near future?
I am writing on some of my own songs at the moment and then I am in contact with a music director from Mumbai – and have a couple of music directors from UK in mind for my next album. It is going to be a fusion of Indian & Western music – more can I not reveal at this moment of time.
How was it for you to perform in front of desi audience on the occasion of vaisakhi in UK and the mela's that you have been doing?
In Lampton Park in Hounslow the atmosphere was fantastic – with 20.000 people in the audience who danced and sang along with me. And just walking around Southall was a great experience, while meeting my fans on the streets and talking with them – also children recognizing me and singing my songs. I had no idea so many would know me then, but what a wonderful surprise.
Also I had an unforgettable experience when I was especially invited to sing at the Vaisakhi celebrations at the High Commission in London. On my arrival I came to know that Mr. Gurdas Mann also was invited as a special guest, and since he has been a big source of inspiration, I was very excited and thrilled about meeting him in person. After my show I told him that he was like a musical Ranjha to me – I sang a little of “Heer” – and then he continued singing the rest of the song for me. What a wonderful personality and voice.
It has been rumored that you have said that you will find your 'Ranjha' in Punjab? Tell us about this, have you?
Unfortunately I have not
A final message to all the readers of SimplyBhangra?
Thanks to SimplyBhangra Readers for all your love and support all the way through my adventure so far in Punjab. Hope to see you at my coming shows. My best wishes are always with you!
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