Abhilasha Sinha on her second Hindi song ‘Jab Tum Miley’, and connecting with AR Rahman

After the release of 'Honey Bee', composer AR Rahman reached out to Sinha directly via Instagram, informing her that he’d shared her song on Twitter.

Anurag Tagat April 12, 2021 10:49:51 IST
Abhilasha Sinha on her second Hindi song ‘Jab Tum Miley’, and connecting with AR Rahman

Abhilasha Sinha. Photographed by Aryaman Dixit.

On a cold, sun-less and acutely existential winter’s day in Manhattan, Abhilasha Sinha woke up and found an email from Spotify India’s team about being part of their artist programme RADAR, which would give one of her upcoming songs a major global push.

The offer came on one of those “who am I/what am I mornings” as the New Delhi-bred singer-songwriter puts it, a time when she even vaguely questioned if she would put out any more music. “You haven't seen your family in over one and a half years. Your boyfriend/partner is across in sunny LA. You are figuring your visa situation, your future, what is for lunch. You have to do your dishes, clean your floor and find housing because your lease expires in 17 days. It's a lot,” she says.

A few weeks later, Sinha recouped and once in a better headspace, replied with an obvious ‘yes’ to the email, which has now put her latest song 'Jab Tum Miley' at over 50,000 streams on Spotify, plus over 3,50,000 views on YouTube. It helps that it’s her second Hindi song, following the fairly successful 'Tum Ho Yahaan' in 2019, which had also received hundreds of thousands of streams.

In between, Sinha – part of music circles in Delhi as well as groups such as RIVER with Kamakshi Khanna and Tarana Marwah aka Komorebi – was also releasing enchanting, emotive English indie-folk songs, such as 'Mother' and 'Hold Your Pride'. In the year of peak pandemic blues, she released a heartfelt love letter to a partner with 'Honey Bee', which caught the attention of master composer AR Rahman in January. “He said it reached him completely randomly. A song was playing on Spotify and 'Honey Bee' played next and he liked my voice. Literally, that’s it,” Sinha says with a laugh.

Rahman reached out to her directly via Instagram, saying he’d shared her song on his Twitter. Sinha adds, “You know when you send someone a meme and you're like ‘Oh my god! Screaming!’ but you're not actually screaming? I was actually screaming. I literally called my mom. I'm like, ‘Look at this. Finally some validation that you understand!’” Following a humbling conversation over a video call a few days later, Sinha confirms that Rahman did say there are some projects she could be a part of as a singer, but adds that nothing has been set in stone yet.

Whether it’s these new developments or the few years of work she’s put in after moving to New York and studying music business, Sinha shines because the music speaks for itself – 'Honey Bee' was about being close and in the same room with a lover and 'Jab Tum Miley' is about long distance love. The latter, with a guilele strummed along, brings warm electric guitar melodies and spirited swells of string elements and subtle drum work. Produced by Sinha and Mumbai-based Keshav Dhar, she rounded up Andrew Gialanella for acoustic guitar and bass duties, electric guitar from Pranav Pahwa and Dhar, pianist Pranay Parti and drummer Dan Thomas.

Turns out, Sinha recorded vocals at Atlantic Records studios with classmate Zach Kornhauser, on the same mic that greats like Aretha Franklin are said to have used. Written around the same time as 'Tum Ho Yahan', the road to releasing 'Jab Tum Miley' was longer for Sinha because she laboured over it, creating four different versions. “If I sent you a previous version of the song, you’d say, ‘Yeh kya '90s Bollywood ka gaana nikal diya?’ There were proper Bollywood strings,” she says.

Despite the quarantine measures demanding a sudden switch to bedroom production setups (for her additional vocals), Sinha thanks her collaborators and finding the right headspace for herself eventually to complete the track. “These folks sort of share that vision in some way, but also add their own flare, which makes me change my own vision,” Sinha says.

Up next, there’s a song with rising singer-songwriter Tanmaya Bhatnagar, known for tracks such as 'Kya Tum Naraaz Ho?' and her latest wistful tune 'Raat Adhoori'. The song, which details love and loss but not just in a romantic way, is part of Sinha’s upcoming English EP. Sinha says, “I love her voice. It sounds like the moon came down and is whispering in your ear. My dad always said that I have inherited his very loud voice and Tanmaya has this beautiful, floaty, whispery voice, almost like a lullaby in your ear. I think it would be really pretty, so that’s what we’re working on.”

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