Tête-à-Tête with Grammy Award Winner Tanvi Shah


Within a short span of time, Tanvi Shah has created a huge name in the Indian music industry and also received substantial recognition and reverence from all over the world. The first-ever Indian woman to win a Grammy Award for the song Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire had not only won millions of hearts for her Spanish lyrics but also for creating aesthetic music. Tanvi Shah is indeed the pride of India. We will provide you with some insights on the Grammy winner sprinkling up ten zig-zag questions:

What made you choose music as your career path? From whom do you draw your inspiration?

Music just happened all of a sudden as it was never in my plan of action. Initially, I used to be a fine art student; I never chose it. I can say, music chose me. I am basically a designer (creative/graphic designer).

There are so many people whom I look upon for inspiration. Herein, I would mention Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw in particular because I feel that he was so principled and the way he used to believe in dedication, discipline, determination, and punctuality which I think are the four attributes all of us should have.

How did you start your journey in the music industry? Were there any struggles/roadblocks?

My musical journey started with my first song, ‘Fanaa’ from Yuva, with Rahman Saab. My training started after that song. I was never trained till then (I used to be a bathroom singer back then).

Tanvi Shah

Struggles and roadblocks- yes, lots of them! I think that if you don’t have struggles/roadblocks, you can never grow. You have to face, get up and walk again, that’s what makes us a better person. I think we must go with the flow, instead of fighting with it. I feel whatever struggles I had were really good. It was a lesson that I had to learn. Roadblocks are required for you to become wiser. So, it started with Yuva and there has been no looking back.

Apart from being a musician you were a creative designer correspondingly, how did you manage your time?

Time management is something that we all have to learn. It wasn’t difficult to juggle designing and music because while I was doing some kind of doodles or designs, there was always a tune going on in my head that was very interesting. I have been very lucky because music and design have gone together. I never found it difficult to balance out the work. Time management is very important- if you want to do it and if it makes you happy, you should go ahead and do it. So, for me, I was very happy designing and doing my music- the passion for it was there!

My musical journey started with my first song, ‘Fanaa’ from Yuva, with Rahman Saab. My training started after that song. I was never trained till then (I used to be a bathroom singer back then).

Tanvi Shah

Would you share your memories of Indian and Western classical music training?

Well, I’m not Indian classically trained. My musical training didn’t start until 2003. I met my professor, Mr. Augustine Paul who took me under his wing and I got my western classical music training from him. I did finish my 8th grade- Trinity college training vocals from there. I got to experiment a lot. I was part of the MMA choir in Chennai and lots of choirs which was nice as I got to learn to sing as one voice even though there are like 80 or 90 of them singing their different parts.

I cherished all those moments because that’s what kind of molded me. In Indian classical, I couldn’t find a good teacher here so I was always listening to all the MyStores Pandit Jasraj, Begum Parveen Sultana Ji, Kishori Amokar, etc. I used to listen to their YouTube videos and try to mimic them for the Indian part of it. So, I would say that somewhere it really helped me- so those are the memories I really have of the training part.

Which has been your prominent professional milestone?

I wouldn’t want to pin it anywhere but, definitely, the Grammy, the BMI Award, the World Soundtrack Award, the Oscars- that was definitely a professional milestone. In addition to that, our performance in Malaysia which was a huge show with Yuvan Shankar Raja and the whole stage mechanics and everything and I come out from under the stage- for some reason, I feel that was like breaking open and flying up like a Phoenix kind of a moment for me.

Tanvi Shah

When was the time you said it to yourself- I made it?

I have never said it to myself as of now and I don’t think that I would ever say it because as an artist, I will always keep learning and growing. There will never be a moment when I will be like oh, I made it! In spite of all the accolades and credits I have, I don’t feel like that because I believe there is more to do. In other words, what’s next? I have set the bar for myself- I’m not competing with anyone (the only person I am competing with is myself). I don’t want to be a part of a rat race.

There have been many times when people have said: they are doing this and you should also do that- I’m sorry, I’m not that kind of person. I am in no hurry and have started balancing my life really well which definitely makes me happy and satisfies my soul- be it music or design. At the end of the day, it’s like you being happy with yourself and your work. I believe that in the future there is something more I can achieve so I never stop dreaming.

You have sung in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Spanish, Portuguese, Afro-Cuban, and Arabic- what is your take on language in determining the melody?

Language is not a barrier- if you can sing in multiple languages, you show variety. It is a little more philosophical to say that music is something that brings people together. It is one thing that is positive and that makes you smile. Today people listen to Despacito and at the same time, they listen to Why this Kolaveri di?- so how does that even match? I don’t think that language is a barrier and I am very happy that I got to sing in all these languages and capable of singing in divergent languages (my favorite one would be Spanish though).

Tanvi Shah

I really like to sing in various languages and I think collaborations are good. Sometimes when I sing and I just break up into Spanish or Afro-Cuban or Portuguese songs, people get amused and say: how do you even know this? I work on my pronunciations- I really work hard upon it. I don’t think language is a barrier and music is an art so it can be any melody wherein you can use any kind of language.

I have never said it to myself as of now and I don’t think that I would ever say it because as an artist, I will always keep learning and growing.

Tanvi Shah

You have a prudent choice over the songs- which song is next on your list?

That would be a surprise! I have taken up a back seat and I have been watching the industry right now. I am taking it slow; I don’t feel like I have to jump into or lose out on something. Maybe there is something better for me. There are a couple of songs in the pipeline (not going to mention it as I am superstitious and I don’t want to jinx it).

10 years from now, what do you want your fans to remember you for?

That’s fascinating, I would like to be remembered as a good human being, the one who made everyone happy, for the smile and for the pleasant songs that we have created. I would be glad if they rejoiced in the songs that I did.

Any piece of advice would you like to impart to the novice musician(s)?

Always have something to fall back on. The industry, especially now, is very different. There is a lot of competition. Put in your 200%. Don’t do anything half-heartedly. Whatever you do, do it with gumption, believe in yourself. It might take time, but, slow and steady wins the race. Don’t fall for the glamour part of it, please. I have seen both sides of it. Go in with devotion, do your work with devotion, don’t have any fallout for awards.

Tanvi Shah

For example: if you are going in and doing a song, don’t go in there thinking that I am going to get this award because I feel somewhere we lose that sense of devotion when you are putting that much effort into the song. Just go with the flow and do your work. Surely, something will happen (something good will come out of it).

At the end of the day, something good has to come out of whatever you do. And also, to have something to fall back on, by that, I meant- have a side business, have a side hustle (whatever you want to call it). Moreover, don’t just believe in everything that happens on social media as it is a different world (it’s a fake world). Live your life, take a deep breath- BREATHE, go out, stay grounded and that should work.

For more updates, you can follow up the website: http://www.tanvishah.com/and subscribe to the YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/TanviShahVEVO/featured

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Storizen Magazine January 2022 Cover