(August 30, 2022) Devika was a studious kid who devoted most of her time to academics. One day, out of the blue, the seven-year-old returned home and told her mother she wanted to learn music. Her mother enrolled her in music classes, listened to her practice every day and gave her feedback. Devika, who started off with vocal music training, soon advanced to ragas and Hindustani classical music. Growing up, she listened to a lot of diverse music that spanned different decades and cultures. It gave her an appreciation for many genres. Perhaps, this was the genesis of the fusion in all her music, which has a huge fan following today.
“I learned to love something about everything. From Abba, U2, Bon Jovi, Gloria Estefan, Alanis Morisette to Savage Garden, I enjoyed their music, tone and unique music writing. Back home, it was Asha Bhonsle, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishor Kumar, Mohammad Rafi, Udit Narayan whom I appreciated for their vocal performances,” smiles pop singer and songwriter, Devika, speaking exclusively to Global Indian.
The US-based contemporary Indian singer, who is known for the old-world charm that her renditions carry along with her spirited collaborations with a variety of artists, is back with a lo-fi Punjabi single titled ‘Dil Tenu’ — a refreshing song with stirring guitar chords and simple groove.
Born and brought up in New Delhi, Devika gravitated toward folk and ghazal music while learning Hindustani classical music. “I was deeply inspired by the sound and emotion in “Night Song” – a beautiful fusion of Eastern and Western music created in collaboration between Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Michael Brook,” recalls Devika, who went to Modern School, Barakhamba Road in Delhi.
Evolving of the artist
As a child, she performed on stage a number of times. “When I used to go up on stage confidently and sing classical music, it used to put people to sleep ! One day, I decided to sing a popular Bollywood song and everyone came running in to listen. It excited me,” recalls the versatile singer-songwriter.
In 1995, Devika moved to the US to study Computer Science and Math at Georgetown University. After moving to the US, she listened to various contemporary artists and evolved the presentation and production of her music. But her vocal style and melody always incorporated some elements from her childhood music learning and influences – be it a classical slide, a rapid succession of notes delivered as an alaap or a tarana, or a hint of a raaga or folk mode in the melody she created or some characteristic lyrics used in Hindustani classical music.
Songs of love
On the making of ‘Dil Tenu,’ Devika says experiences of certain people led her to write the song. “It’s painful when someone you love doesn’t love you back and leaves you. Their memories haunt you. I was deeply affected by those who experienced this sadness and these emotions over the last few years,” informs the Grammy-submitted singer, who is well known for her songs Kehnde ne Naina, Barkhaa Bahar and Ek Tera pyar (with Bohemia).
“The melody came first, I started humming a tune, then added a few words in bits and pieces. I started up Garageband on my Mac and found some soulful guitar chords to set the mood, plugged in my mic and started singing with the metronome, recording whatever came to mind,’ says Devika, who then started to scribble some lyrics to fit the melody. Spending a few weeks building a verse and connecting it to the hook, to get the melody and the lyrics to align with her vision for the emotion she wanted to express through the song, she reached out to Jayhaan, a music producer based in Mumbai. “He started working on production concepts with diverse beats, sounds and rough mixes until we honed in on the direction. We iterated for a few weeks on this, until the song was completed,’ says the singer with a unique voice.
Devika has had a long journey in music, starting with the release of two solo albums. The main track from her first album “Kehinde Ne Naina” was featured on Sony’s “Teri Deewani” a top-selling compilation featuring tracks by artists including Kailash Kher, Rekha Bharadwaj, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and others. Her second Contemporary Sufi album titled “Saari Raat” was released by Saregama Music and was top of the non-film music charts in India – some popular tracks include “Barkha Bahaar” and “Kothay Uttay” which was also licensed to the Barbara Mori starrer “Spanish Beauty”, theatrically released in India.
“I have collaborated with Punjabi Rapper Bohemia on many of his top charting Hip Hop tracks such as “Ek Tera Pyar”, “Dil”, “Beparwah” and “Phir Ek Tera Pyar” released by labels like Universal, Sony Music and YRF Music,” informs Devika.
Besides, she also worked with Electronic music producer Holmes Ives on electronic Indian ballads including “Jab Se Piya” which was subsequently remixed by Karsh Kale, Midival Punditz and Bombay Dub Orchestra and featured on The Buddha Bar by DJ Ravin. “This song brings together this old world charm of singing, melody and lyrics. It was also submitted by Six Degrees Records for Grammy consideration in the Best Global Music Performance category,’ informs Devika.
Her other collaborations include “Holle Holle” and “Jaaniya” with Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash on Sarod; and “Chhoti Dibbiyaan” and “Ga Sa Re Ga Sa” with Mike Klooster of Smash Mouth.
What’s in store
Devika says her music characteristically has a combination of the following elements – a deep emotional core and meaning, a distinct vocal tonal quality, and a fusion of eastern and western music in some fashion. “My deepest aspiration is to create great music that transports listeners to a different world where they can meaningfully experience emotions.”
So what more tracks are in the making? “I’m finishing up an upbeat Sufi rock track that I wrote and another collaboration with Electronic producer Holmes Ives,’ informs the singer, who is also brainstorming some new ideas with Jayhaan and Amaan, and Ayaan Ali Bangash.
Looking back at her journey, Devika says she has grown in terms of songwriting, vocal performances, and experimentation across diverse genres. “At each stage of my creative and artistic journey, I created music that I truly love, on my own terms, which gives me maximum joy,” says Devika, who is looking forward to visiting India in the near future and reconnecting with family, friends, and roots, and taking a trip down memory lane.