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Musical maestro Shreya Ghosal speaks about her collaboration with rapper Afroto for the song Sunn beliya

'I consider myself an artiste later. I am a music consumer and I love to listen to music' — Shreya Ghoshal

Saionee Chakraborty Published 11.08.23, 10:27 AM
Shreya Ghoshal

Shreya Ghoshal

Shreya Ghoshal is as Zen as her soulful voice, with always a smile on her lips, the same sweetness that is reflected in her signature voice. We recently caught up with the celebrated singer on her global collaboration with Alexandrian rapper and songwriter Afroto, for the song Sunn beliya, which talks about “friendship, perseverance”, as part of a COKE STUDIO™ initiative. At 2.54 minutes, the song is peppy with a heartfelt message.

How did the collaboration come about?


COKE STUDIO™ has been a household name for all of us. So, when this project came to me, I was so excited because COKE STUDIO™ has been on my playlist for so many years. And this has always been a wish because I have been a big fan of everything that happens on COKE STUDIO™. It is the first ever such project that brought back the independent revolution, so to say, because India was very film-centric. But now COKE STUDIO™ has revolutionised the whole way of listening (to music). The audience got so excited and I was one of them and always wished to do something like that which crossed the border of genres, mixed and matched different styles, (brought together) musicians from all backgrounds, from folk to rock to classical music. I think India in itself is such a huge treasure of different kinds of music.

When this project came to me, I got to know that this was a global collaboration opportunity. The whole limitlessness of it became so exciting for me. The fact I will be able to collaborate with someone who is so new to me, the sound, the language, the style and the audience....

Shreya Ghosal

Shreya Ghosal

I got to know about this fabulous artiste called Afroto who’s from Egypt. He is a cool rapper and we started working on the song with a clear message that this has to be a celebration of what we are ultimately. We all are human beings, living on this planet together and we are the ones who have created these borders and maps…. We have a common language that connects us together. Afroto didn’t understand most of what I was saying. The fact that we were able to communicate through music and create this whole song was so much fun and it proves the fact that music really doesn’t have any language.

What was the process like?

Their team was working from Egypt. There was a lot of to and fro on the tune, the line and the lyrics.... When certain musical ideas come from the other side, you start thinking and writing a little bit. There was freedom for me to try and do something different, add my colour to it to make it interesting in every sense. There were Hindi lines and also Bangla folk. I consider myself lucky that my mother tongue was also incorporated along with my national language.

Were there any challenges?

No… I think the ideation was so clear… the credit goes to the team of COKE STUDIO™ global, they thought of these two identities to come together. I feel Indian music somewhere has a lot of similarities with the Arabic side of music, like in ragas and styles of music. It looks like they got two people poles apart… he is a rapper, but the love for each other’s styles of music and language got us together and the ideation process was smooth. And even though we didn’t know the language of what Afroto was writing, I would ask what he was writing. And when we figured it out, we realised it was the same thought. It was very smooth. It did not take too long to finalise the song.

You have transcended boundaries long back with your music but do you think digital has bridged that gap even more now? What do you think digital has done to the collaboration space in today’s age?

It’s incredibly amazing. I consider myself an artiste later. I am a music consumer and I love to listen to music. So, for me it is amazing and easy to explore the music of different artistes from different countries. Some known, some unknown. It is purely on merit that I start listening to it. Then I become a fan and look up who the artiste is.

You don’t have to cross too many hurdles to express your talent. You can put up your music from the comfort of your home. I feel earlier there were some amazing artistes who did not get the opportunity. So, we never got to hear them. That was a loss. It’s a great time for musicians… and, as you rightly said, the fact that I am sitting in India and being able to access the music of Spain or Egypt or Korea, is great. This is a great time for artistes to forget about just their indigenous fans and get to the other side. It has become easier through COKE STUDIO™ and these initiatives.

I hope I keep doing more. This is a start and I hope the other artistes also get a lot of inspiration. It’s not just creating music with an American artiste. There are so many great artistes around the world. Let us just celebrate our being musicians without the tag of being an Indian artiste or African artiste.

Music has been your whole life. How do you look back at the decades? It has been incredible...

It has been incredible indeed. I feel so lucky that I was born in such an era where music has been celebrated and given so much love.... In 2002 my first film released. In actuality, I have been singing since much earlier. I have seen a lot of transitions and things, but the fact that music is constantly innovating and growing... so, for me as an artiste, I feel that I have just about started even though it’s been 20+ years. There’s so much to do and the boundaries and borders are evaporating and letting you see the other side of the world. Film and non-film, there is just a lot to do. I just feel very blessed. I have a very big family of music lovers... as soon as Sunn beliya came out, people were so excited. They started streaming and talking about it and they were so excited. There is so much newness in the song. If they are happy, then I am happy.

Tum kya mile from Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani is such a hit. And, the film too. What are your memories of the song?

It’s a beautiful song and album and it makes you feel like the original Bollywood is here. That Bollywood music and the film we were craving for, for a very long time, is here. There was a void and I felt it hit at the right place. Big congratulations to the whole team of Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani and Tum kya mile has been loved and I hope that more such music comes out, melodious and classics like these should happen more often. I feel very honoured and happy to be a part of this project.

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