There is a reason behind singing pure and traditional Bhojpuri songs. And the reason is that all these songs should be made safe for the future generations – Sharda Sinha
Respected Bhojpuri singer Sharda Sinha stands apart in the crowd with her trademark red bindi on her forehead, red lipstick and paan in her mouth. In her spare time she performs household chores like any other housewife would, bringing tea to her guests. Whenever she gets time she always tries to know and learn something new and if that does not happen that she listens to the tribal songs sung by her maid. While talking to Sharda Sinha, you will not feel for a moment that you are talking to a famous singer for whose one glimpse people stand in line for hours. Events and shows for folk songs is organised every day but Sharda Sinha does not like to go everywhere. Even though she attends few shows she is admired by more fans than other singer. Here is an excerpt of a conversation we had with the great singer:
What new is going on these days?
What new? In my mind it is always the old that keeps going on. I am always in the lookout for traditional folk songs. I want to sing these songs and preserve it for the future generation. I am not interested in new.
There is something new happening every day. Talent hunt programmes for folk songs, release of new albums, and massive production of Bhojpuri films. Where are you in all this?
There is lot of potential in the children who are seen in these talent hunts. They, however, need to take stay away from one thing. They should not think about becoming singers by singing cover songs, by copying the songs which have already been sung by others. They should not look for shortcut to fame, as, though they may achieve quick fame but it will not last long. They need to keep practicing and have patience. They should not only sing good songs but also implement it in their personal lives. And as far as, producing albums one after another is concerned than I am never in these races. I work on my own terms and will not sing anything that comes my way just to stay in the market. I will not churn out songs like a machine for money. If I sing a song then it should be what I want. I am responsible to my fans, the public. People have expectations from me and I cannot waiver off that. Moreover, the current trend that is going on in Bhojpuri films today, I am not able to get attuned to its rhythm. There is one upcoming film though, “Deswa”, I have a song in it.
Folk songs, especially in the hindi belts, what challenges is it facing?
I am worried with the current trend and fear that it should not become a part of mainstream. The market, singers, lyricist, music directors and viewers, they are all hell bent on making folk music into highway songs. There is no connect with the soul of the music.
Folk music, especially Bhojpuri folk music, who do you hold responsible for making it a synonym of vulgarity?
Singers, music directors, lyricist, market, listeners, everyone is responsible. The situation is such that there are some song writers who lift old and traditional folk songs from the villages and claim that they have written it. Or they will write songs in which everything becomes an item. And, they are also forced by the music companies to write songs which should become popular overnight, no matter for whatever reason. I ask these new singers why they sing such senseless songs and they say that it is for money, it is for survival. And, the viewers, they also never react against such songs and this is why all this is going on.
In Hindi movies nowadays, lot of preference is being given traditional folk songs. But folk songs from Bihar fail to find a place there. Why so?
Folk music has always been given preference. And the classic songs are those which are based on classical music or have a touch of folk in it. So, if folk songs from Bihar fail to get a place there than it is due to our weakness. Bihar has songs which are as good as any, songs which are sung in the villages, sung by the farmers. But the irony is, if you do not have a profit in it, if you do not get credit to it then why would you worry about it.
Your birth is of Jharkhand i.e. in Ranchi. You basically belong to a Maithili family but you made your identity as a Bhojpuri singer. What is closer to your heart, Bhojpuri or Maithili?
In terms of songs and music, I am close to everyone but in case of my soul it is Jharkhand. In my house, as my helpers I keep girls from Jharkhand only. I find peace in living with them and talking to them. It is the feeling of staying connected to your motherland. I never try that they should speak Nagpuri in Hindi. Even I have learnt nagpuri from them and also talk in the same language. In my spare time I listen to nagpuri songs from them, try to learn it and also sing it. I like the tribal lifestyle the most. It is simple and away from anything fake.
Is the learning curve still going on?
When I got married and came to my in-laws, my mother in law would question my singing but later it was she who would find songs for me and give me to sing. She would say that her grandma used to sing these songs for her. I like Shobha Gutur a lot. I wanted to learn from her, understand. I also did shows with her but did not get a chance to meet her properly. After completing the programme, I came home and called her. I told her that I wanted to meet and learn from her. Shobhaji said – Sharda, I am going to Pakistan, once I return, we will talk. I have not got a chance to speak to her again.
Any other wish, which you could not fulfil in terms of songs and music?
Since my childhood, even before I started singing, I have been listening to Lata Mangeskar. In my study hours, I used to write so many letters to Lataji, that I myself have lost count of it. I don’t know if she received those letters or not. I will get to know when I meet her. I want to meet her in person once.
Anything else, which you want to complete?
I want to open a music institute where I can teach music to the children today. The children who learn music from there should stay connected to their soil. They should not destroy the soul of the music but should understand the value of classical and traditional folk and should work towards to preserving them for the future. This is one dream that I want to fulfil in this life.
You have been called Bihar Kokila, Lata Mangeskar of Bihar, Begum Akhtar of Mithila, Cultural ambassador of Bihar and by many other names. You have also received many awards. Which one do you like the most?
With every award and title the responsibilities increase. All these awards that I have received are the responsibilities that the society has given me.
Everyone listens to you? Who do you like to listen to?
I like Rashid Ali Khan a lot. I also listen to Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasiya, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Sahab, Begum Akhtar, these are my favourite artists. I also listen to Lataji and am a fan of Gulab bai’s singing.