As August 20 draws closer, Aucklanders are preparing to be enthralled by the musical extravaganza. Shreya Ghoshal is all geared up to take New Zealand by storm as she arrives in Auckland on her third visit to the land of the long white cloud. We caught up with the star over Chai Latte and among many other things, here’s what we talked about, but, first, some more to get to know the star.

Born on March 12, 1984, in Berhampore, West Bengal, to Bengali parents, Sh. Bishwajit Ghoshal and Smt. Sarmistha Ghoshal,Shreya spent her formative years  in a place called Rawatbhata near Kota, Rajasthan, where her father, who is an Electronics Engineer, was posted.

At the age of four, Shreya started learning music, mainly Bengali songs, from her first guru—her mother. At the age of six, she started formal training in Hindustani Classical Music. She learnt Classical Hindustani Music and got her initial exposure to Hindi film music and Rajasthani folk at Kota. She received training in playback singing from Padmashree Late Kalyanji Bhai at a later stage. After shifting to Mumbai she continued her training in Classical Hindustani Music with Late Mukta Bhideji.

In 1995, she won the All India Light Vocal Music Competition, New Delhi. Her first TV performance was in a programme called Awaz Nayi Andaz Wohi on EL TV. In1996, she was selected for 75th children’s special episode of TVS Sa Re Ga Ma, which she won. Later on, she won the mega final judged by an exceptional panel of judges. In 1998, Shreya started recording in regional languages (Marathi, Bengali, etc.) and finally in 2000, Sanjay Bhansali and music director Ismail Darbarji offered her playback singing for Paro in Devdas.

After Devdas, she has continuously been working and recording songs with many music directors. She has recorded film songs not only in Hindi but also in Assamese, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Malayalam, Nepali, Oriya, Tamil and Telugu.

She has been performing all over the world and captivating audience with her charming personality, ability to connect with the audience instantly, and above all, her musical ability. She has been on the judging panel for many music shows and contests.

Shreya wishes to take her musical talent much beyond film music and expand her horizon in other genres, particularly in Hindustani Classical Music.

As we spoke to Shreya, we discovered a humble, down-to-earth and a beautiful human being.

Maya: Tell us a little about your formative years.

Shreya: Born in Bengal, brought up in Rajasthan for 12 years before moving to Mumbai, I consider myself lucky to have spent my childhood in a beautiful riverside remote township of Rawatbhata, where engineers and scientists who were a part of the power plant lived, a rather academic sort of environment. But also living in a place where there were no distractions of city luxuries such as movie theatres, malls, or restaurants, our home became the hub of all cultural activities, thanks to my parents, who are ardent music lovers. I grew up loving, learning, and listening to a lot of varied and wonderful music. Mom taught me since I was little but to learn more and enrich myself in Hindustani Classical music, we found a teacher in the nearby city, and we would travel up and down. Hours of riyaz, music, and education, pretty much sums up my formative years.

Maya:  How did your musical journey begin and who were your role models?

Shreya: In 1994, I had started participating in various national level music competitions and winning a few gave my parents some confidence slowly that I probably have a talent, which must be nourished further. I was nine years old when I first won a national competition  and eventually I appeared in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa in children's episode when I was 11. That's where I was first judged by Kalyanji Anandji. He suggested my dad move to Mumbai so that I could learn from him. At this point, I must add that it was a big decision for my dad, but he did choose all this over his own career. He selflessly made this decision for me and my future. It was his conviction and perseverance that has made it all happen today. After coming to Mumbai, at the age of 13, I started recording for some non-film projects in Bangla and Marathi. At then in a few years, Devdas happened as I turned 16, in the year 2000.

Maya: How did young Shreya deal with the name and fame?

Shreya: In my initial years, I think I was too young to understand name, fame or success, or maybe there was actually no time to absorb any of it. Music moved me. I sang because I loved being on the mic, learning every day from my seniors and contemporaries. I work hard, hours n hours of studio work, singing in all languages, and eventually performing live all over the world, all this along with my school n college studies. But all the love that I was receiving from the audience was truly like a blessing. It humbled me and gave me strength.

Maya: All performers at some point face negative criticism. Why was that point for you when you felt you had given it your best but it wasn’t received that way?

Shreya: Honestly, I never felt the need to focus on what are others saying or thinking, I have always followed my heart, and I know I am sincere to my art. I try to give my 100% to whatever I take up. Positive criticism is essential for growth but only from people who are experienced and knowledgeable. Absorbing all kind of feedback all the time is distracting.

Maya: What is your favourite genre and why?

Shreya: Indian film music has all genres mixed in, that's why it's so much fun to be able to sing in it. I love to experiment and evolve. Staying versatile is essential. Soulful music is paramount for me to be excited to sing it.

Maya: How do you think music in Bollywood has evolved and changed and how does it compare to the international music scene?

Shreya: Bollywood music is unique. It imbibes the flavour of the music that is being heard and made worldwide, but in the end, we create something unique that satisfies the souls and ears of Indian listeners. It is constantly evolving in sounds and styles, but we can't take away the Indian roots in the melodies out of it.

Maya: What are your other passions besides music?

Shreya:  I love travelling whenever I can, seeing new places, learn about their culture. I also love cooking whenever time permits. And whenever I am taking those long flights, I love watching movies, reading books.

We spoke a lot more with Shreya. Watch out this space for our next issue.