Rekha Bhardwaj on launching record label with husband Vishal: 'Hope to seek out listeners who believe in our music'
The lockdown has allowed singer Rekha Bhardwaj, and her husband Vishal Bhardwaj, to finally take the leap and set up their much-awaited label VB Music.
A common grouse with Rekha Bhardwaj has been her infrequent singing, as she has been a vocalist for over two decades now. After her husband, composer-filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj, recently launched their new independent label VB Music, her voice may be heard more often now.
In an exclusive interview with Firstpost, Rekha talks about why they waited so long for the label to launch, how the lockdown triggered it, and the reason behind her limited discography.
Do you feel a sense of autonomy now that you have a music label of your own?
Yes, definitely. There's a great, great sense of freedom. There's no dependency on any company who will 'approve' our music, or marketing people who don't even know the 'Sa' of sangeet or the 'M' of music. Just because they are in marketing, they feel it's their birthright to comment on the music, even without understanding it. It's such a beautiful feeling to create the music we believe in, the kind we've grown up listening to, or (one) that comes straight from our hearts, rather than listening to the marketing people who talk as if they know the hearts of billions.
There's an audience for all genres, be it hip-hop, classical, ghazal or Western. I believe even if millions of people don't listen to the same kind of music, there are people who appreciate our kind of music. It's just a matter of reaching them with our label. This was pending for a long time, and I am glad it's finally happened. Vishal and I have been making music independently for two decades, but we never released them because we wanted to do that ourselves.
Has the coronavirus lockdown helped you and Vishal to finally take the leap?
Yes, the lockdown has been a big turning point for us. When we recorded the cover of 'O Saathi Re' (from Vishal Bhardwaj's 2006 film Omkara) for Zoya Akhtar and Karan Johar's 'I for India' concert at home, Vishal realised I've been recording songs for a long time, and this is a great time to release them under our label. We had always wanted to launch it without any pressure, but since there's so much homework involved, we had always pushed it to the back of our minds because we were occupied with other work. But recording that cover made us realise we can do it right now and release even the video with limited resources.
Vishal has been on call for hours over the past few weeks to make the label happen. But, I'm glad zoron shoron se kaam hua, and we finally launched with our song 'Dhoop Aane Do.' What better way we could ask for than to release a song spreading love, hope and positivity at this time! It's written by Gulzar sahab, and is the best thing that happened in the lockdown.
'Dhoop Aane Do' employs a spin on how the migrants, who had to walk for miles in the harsh sun, are grateful to have dhoop (the sun) in their lives. Gulzar's words echo throughout the video, just like his presence in the video, where he is merely observing everything around him. Is this similar to the role he plays in your life?
The format of the video is such that he has to be in the centre. He plays the sun, just like he holds the importance of the sun in our lives (illuminating and omnipresent). He's a father figure as well as a mentor. Vishal has shared all the big decisions of his life with Gulzar sahab, and has always taken his guidance. However, even his utmost presence in our lives would be less for us.
Vishal Bhardwaj told me in an interview that he turned to filmmaking only to facilitate an outlet for his music. Do you believe both of you will no longer have to rely on only his films since the label will provide you that platform now?
That's right to an extent. But he always had a filmmaker in him, I'd say. He always had a reaction towards stories so I guess he had to become a filmmaker eventually. Even though he didn't intend to become one, or didn't learn the craft or assisted anyone, music alone wouldn't have kept him satisfied professionally. He has a deep understanding of story, screenplay, dialogue, language, and poetry.
I remember during a music session of Maachis (directed by Gulzar, music composed by Vishal), Gulzar sahab narrated the situation to him. Listening to his reactions, he predicted that Vishal would become a filmmaker soon. And just four-and-a-half years later, Vishal directed an episode on television [for a show]. But I wasn't surprised, because the kind of detailing and research he brings even to his music, his inclination towards filmmaking was inevitable.
Did you feel frustrated that unlike him, you did not have a creative outlet besides probably the songs in his films?
What's unique about Vishal is his connection with the self. He didn't lose focus and perseverance even if he couldn't make it big as a composer in the film industry. That spirit stems from his sportsmanship too. He's an under-19 state-level cricketer from Uttar Pradesh. So he keeps going even though he's completely focused on the task at hand. During the lockdown, even when we were cooking together, he'd search recipes to make fun food, and would be completely invested in the process.
I'm still learning. I think I've been an artist or a singer of my own. I never tried to imitate anyone. I've never been pressurised to sing 'like someone else'. I started getting more work after 'Namak Ishq Ka' (in Omkara). After that, I made it very clear what my forte was. Whoever has called me to sing a song has composed it specifically for me. I have less number of songs but they're all very powerful, with great melody. I just work on my craft, do my riyaaz, and wait for what comes my way. Jaise koyle se aap heera banate hain, I had to undergo a similar journey. If there's a long gap, it gives you the opportunity to learn and grown in genres. If you're a student of music, you're that for your whole life.
Since you plan to release a song every month, is the idea also to maintain consistency?
We've always been consistent with our riyaaz, and even our recording. Yes, we want to release one song every month because it's been years we haven't released anything independently, since Ishqa Ishqa (her debut album in 2005). It's just that we have so many songs to share. That's the main reason we want to release them, and not for any consistency.
What are your plans for VB Music? Do you also intend to introduce new talent who do not fit into the industry's rulebook? Do you also want to promote regional music and ghazals — two areas that you have successfully ventured into?
We do have it in mind — to introduce talents whose music we connect with. We are already listening to some singers, and plan to collaborate with them soon. Right now, it's very early to say if we're going to promote other languages because we haven't decided exactly how to go about the label. We haven't given it a thought yet. We're just following our heart, and doing everything that's possible. We don't want to make music for the billions out there. We just make music that's close to our heart. It soothes our soul, and so we hope it'll do the same for some of our listeners. With this label, we do hope to seek out those listeners.
Images from YouTube.
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