She’s been smashing the charts with her fantastic numbers: “Lat lag gayi” (Race 2), “Balam Pichkari” (Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani), “Pareshaan” (Ishqzaade), “Besharmi ki Height” (Main Tera Hero), belting out her hits on stage across the world at her concerts and recording more foot-tapping renditions… Singer Shalmali Kholgade is the hottest and best voice on the avant garde Bollywood block.

Singer Shalmali Kholgade - of Balam pichkari fame - is the hottest and best voice on the avant garde Bollywood block.

“My mother is the sole reason why I became a singer at all,” admits Shalmali. “She taught Indian classical music at home and when she was eight months pregnant with me, she went for her music lessons to her teacher Smt Shruti Sadolikar. My mother believes that all this influenced my leaning towards music in some way. She made it compulsory for me to sit for music class twice a week for an hour, and though I reluctantly sat for it, looking back I feel I owe so much to those lessons.”

Western influence

Falling in love with music happened naturally for Shalmali. Soon enough, in college, she found herself in the final round of a solo singing competition. “I sang ‘Desperado’, by Eagles, and as I ended the song, I held the last note till I ran out of breath. I wanted to stay in that moment as long as I could. It was so fulfilling that I’ve tried to find a moment like that ever since. It hasn’t happened again,” sighs Shalmali, reliving that moment with eyes full of contentment, the singer in her heart shining.

While she was growing up, her diet included Queen, Aerosmith, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, Dave Matthews. “My older brother listened mostly to English rock and pop bands. He has been my encyclopedia of western music. His music, for some reason, was more inviting for me. I would listen to him play his guitar and sing along sometimes,” shares Shalmali. Bollywood happened by sheer chance while she was busy singing jingles, performing at odd shows at Blue Frog and Hard Rock Café, rehearsing for a Latvian Cabaret in Pune. Then “Pareshaan” happened. “I was heading to the US to pursue Master’s in vocal studies. Two demos (in English), that were meant to be used solely as audition material to get into the LA Music Academy, were sent a week later to music composer Amit Trivedi’s studio. My friend Anjo John was working for Amit and asked me for vocal demos as the composer was looking for a fresh voice at that time. I sent the demos on day one, I got a call the same day

Shilpi Madan for Sunday Herald

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