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Sona Mohapatra: Unveiling the Melodic Magic

In the diverse tapestry of Indian music, few voices resonate as boldly and distinctly as that of Sona Mohapatra. Known for her powerful vocals and fearless personality, Sona has carved out a space in the Indian music industry, enchanting listeners with her enthralling performances and soul-stirring tunes. Sona Mohapatra has succeeded thanks to her ability, tenacity, and enthusiasm for music from a very early age. During an exclusive interview with TINDS, she shared with us her story of coming this far and becoming the music sensation that she is today.

Sona Mohapatra: Unveiling the Melodic Magic
Sona Mohapatra: Unveiling the Melodic Magic

TINDS: Tell us a little about our childhood.

Sona: My father was in the armed forces of India, he was in the Indian Navy, so I had a rather  itinerant  childhood. We never stayed longer than two years in one particular place, and while changing schools may be upsetting for most kids, I welcomed the adventure! r. My childhood also included going to Africa and being there for a while, which was intriguing because it was such a raw and wonderful learning experience with an exposure to a culture, music and people that made an indelible mark. I also lived  across  India and I am truly a child of the nation. My parents, who are music aficionados, brought their love of music into our lives. Because of that, I wasn’t only listening to the usual radio or popular film songs or what people end up listening to but music of many genres, languages and cultures. We’re three sisters, me being the middle one, and I was always kind of bossy. I was very strong academically and led the school in basketball and  as a School Head Girl , and I was insanely productive being involved in a lot of extracurriculars. I think having a very active d childhood has helped me a great deal as an adult.  It has equipped me to handle a life where i wear multiple caps ;  being a producer and partner of Omgrown Music, a label, a traveling musician, running  my own production company and management company  with 18 hour work days and incessant travel.

 

TINDS: What inspired you to get into music initially?

Sona: From early childhood, I always knew that the stage was my home. If I climbed up the stage, I was able to hold an audience singing or let it be storytelling or anything else, and I just felt ten times more the human that I was in a very lovely way because I felt very comfortable and at ease when it came to going on stage. I do see myself as a performer above this huge thing that people run after which is playback singing which is basically your ticket to fame and glory in India. Still, I see myself more as a live performer rather than just a recording artist. I enjoy the thrill of the stage & live audience much more than the studio.

Sona Mohapatra: Unveiling the Melodic Magic
Sona Mohapatra: Unveiling the Melodic Magic

TINDS: How did you decide to pursue this as a career?

Sona: I grew up being made to feel that my voice is not suitable for the masses for sure because my grandmother used to make fun of how hoarse and low and bass my voice was, and there wasn’t that much encouragement because there were these standards about females and how they are meant to sound. I think the only one who loved my voice while growing up and believed that I should think was me, and I felt my best when singing to myself. I think becoming a professional singer got delayed because, in a middle-class family, you’re expected to go and be on your own, and a certain stability is expected of you. I did an engineering degree but simultaneouslyI kept pursuing the arts. I came to Mumbai, and I think there was no particular moment in time when I decided that music was what I wanted to do. I always felt that, eventually, I’d find a stage. I wasn’t sure how, but the live stage was the greatest place for me.

 

TINDS: How has your cultural background influenced your music?

Sona: I come from a state called Orissa, which has a wonderful history and legacy in the fine arts. You will see a lot of architectural similarities in Bali Indonesia and Orissa where I come from for instance. My ancestors were the first seafaring maritime kingdom who traveled to these islands carrying their art & aesthetics. I haven’t really lived in Orissa beyond a few years, but visit often and obviously, your roots do influence you in terms of the stories you hear and the music that you have heard while growing up. I’ve been a thinking musician in that sense because even during my first album, I did not leave it to just the singing aspect. I love creating the look of my video. I produce my own videos and conceptualize them myself. I take pride in the fact that I don’t just sing a song and get out and leave it to somebody else. I run my own music label and put out my own music outside of the Bollywood releases, which makes you commercially viable as an artist. I make sure that I put out my own music independently very regularly, and that is where I get to experiment or express myself as an artist.

Sona Mohapatra: Unveiling the Melodic Magic
Sona Mohapatra: Unveiling the Melodic Magic

TINDS: Do you think your engineering and marketing background shape your music career and entrepreneurial Ventures?

Sona: As I said, I was academically oriented and lived in a time in India where I was more inclined toward the arts. I got into some very prestigious colleges like the National Institute of Design and the School of Planning and Architecture. Still, my family believed that I should pursue an engineering degree instead because it would be easier to get a job and get paid a salary. So you take things not because you like them but because you can do well in them, and I did well in them, but I think it taught me a lot. At a harsh engineering college campus, I was made to feel unhappy and was  ragged brutally about my personality. Science education really helps. This discipline requires a particular number of hours and develops logical, analytical thinking. I think all of that helps me manage larger teams rather than just singing and waiting for others to develop tunes. I’ve always wanted to manage my own team, dream big, and develop my career without others. I think a lot of that did come from the fact that I felt secure that I had an education that I could fall back upon or use to my advantage.

 

TINDS: What kind of challenges have you had to face establishing your production house OmGrown Music?

Sona: Music is hard to make now. Most Indians desire free music. It is difficult to monetize your music and make money from it because people often believe music should be free. How do you tell people you make your own music videos without a culture of value? It’s hard to repeat. People are willing to sit in Starbucks and spend 500 rupees or whatever your end is for a coffee, but they won’t pay a tenth of that for the music they consume. In fact, there is no culture of buying concert tickets. They expect sponsors and others to give that experience to them for free. I think we’re still evolving there, and these are the challenges of any independent label. I think even huge labels struggle to monetize music, pay their bills, and justify their existence.

Sona Mohapatra: Unveiling the Melodic Magic
Sona Mohapatra: Unveiling the Melodic Magic

TINDS: How do you think your collaborations with international artists have impacted your artistic growth?

Sona: I love collaborations because they introduce you to other music styles and listeners. Ive enjoyed collaborating with the legendary Aussie band INXS on a song called Afterglow which you can find a music video of on youtube, playing a live 3 hour concert with the BBC Philharmonic in London was another exciting experience and there was so much to learn there because a 125 piece orchestra is very different from a 7 piece band !  I also collaborated with this very young Indian origins artist, Abby V. Despite being from Canada, he’s a prolific classical musician and social media sensation. I learned a lot from a young musician who is literally from another world, even whose influences and practicing methods are different. So, even hanging out with musicians from diverse genres and places always teaches you new things, which excites me. It pushes you to get better at what you do because, in return, you should also be able to add value to the collaboration, which is basically an organic process. I got to meet several very interesting people, and I love meeting new people and exposing myself to new experiences and cultures. 

 

TINDS: Tell us a little about your documentary ‘Shut Up Sona.’

Sona: I don’t think I set out to make any film with a message. I set off to make a film that captures my life and travels and the fact that I have a deep love for my land and my influences and music. As documentaries go, you don’t script it or you don’t plan it, you don’t Stage the events in my life. It has a lot of music and a lot of travel as a band and provides insight into what it is to be a female artist in a landscape like India because that’s my reality. The way many things happened in that period of my life resembles Shut Up Sona, which seemed like a very proper title. It’s ironic. But yeah, it’s still a love letter to India in a sense. My biggest realization after shooting across 17 cities & small  towns  in India for 2 years was that Indians are amongst the most generous of hearts, the poorer the more so, always ready to share whatever little they have.. It’s been over a year and a half since it was released & can be watched on Zee TV premium or Oculus VR. We were fortunate to win at some of the top film festivals of the world & then even a national award for the film.

Sona Mohapatra: Unveiling the Melodic Magic
Sona Mohapatra: Unveiling the Melodic Magic

TINDS: What advice would you have for aspiring musicians and entrepreneurs?

Sona:  I would think you should take up music because it’s like breathing to you. You don’t want to do anything else, are willing to work very hard for little returns and not because you think it can become a great business venture.  You’re one in a million, so I think you don’t choose music; instead, music chooses you. Having said that, I also believe that every musician should take the time and make the effort to understand the concepts of IP (intellectual property), how to register and protect your rights, and so on and so forth. Counting on others to read the fine print for you isn’t a great idea.

 

Find Her

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sonamohapatra/?hl=en

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheSonaMohapatra

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sonamohapatra

 

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