Sona Mohapatra on her Times Square Billboard debut: This is a validation of my constant hustle | Hindi Movie News

Singer Sona Mohapatra is making India proud ever since she earned her Billboard debut in Times Square, New York, with the release of her self-directed single ‘Aisa Na They’, composed by Ram Sampath and penned by Amitabh Bhattacharya. Becoming the first independent music artiste from India to achieve the milestone, Sona has also made it to the Spotify EQUAL campaign, joining the likes of global independent artistes.

The songstress celebrated her new achievement by treating her fans to yet another peppy single ‘EK Din (Manhattan Memories)’, ETimes reached out to Sona who happily shared interesting details about her latest music, Billboard achievement, future projects and more.

You recently made your Times Square Billboard debut. How did it feel?

To be woken up in the middle of the night to see photographs of my face on a billboard covering a skyscraper in one of my favourite cities, New York, was a surreal feeling. To be one of the first independent Indian musicians to be given this place is a Pop Culture milestone because it paves the way for artistic expression of various hues and colours, free from the cookie-cutter formulas in musical mainstream success. We are slowly coming out of a very tough time together as a society but this phase in India has been the very best for independent music releases without the big banyan tree of Bollywood taking away all the media and audience attention/sunlight with its big promotional budgets!

I feel truly proud of having a first movers advantage by consistently putting out original music via my own indie label Omgrown Music over a decade. This billboard is a validation of that constant hustle of never giving up on the power of music and self-belief. My allies have stood by me through thick and thin; I am grateful.

Also, I see this as a bigger victory since I am the face of the global EQUAL campaign that recognises the need for equal opportunities for women in mainstream music. India has been faltering in this with recent numbers like only 8 odd songs in women voices in every 100 releases and hardly any solo female songs that are picturised or promoted. It’s difficult to build fem brands with such a lopsided system that was much more balanced until the ’80s.

What kind of reactions did you get from people?

I have received a lot of love and over-the-top happy responses, not only from the fans of music and people who celebrate an Indian independent musician on the global stage, but also from peers–both men and women who have watched me hustle every day to put out original music. The fact that I use my stage and voice to speak up for matters beyond music, to create awareness and encourage my audience to have conversations about critical matters makes me proud; I believe my heroes, inspirations in the past and present were such artistes. I am glad to be following their path of bringing about a positive change through my art. This billboard in the iconic location of Times Square is also a recognition of that.

The credit goes to your song ‘Aise Na They’. Did you think it would turn out so big while shooting?

Well, ‘Aise Na They’ was the cherry on top of the cake for sure but it was the consistency of putting out song after the original song for years, running my own indie label and also producing-creating my own visual content including innovative music videos all year through the pandemic and even before that. This includes the ‘Lal Pari Mastani’ project. In this year alone, music videos like Nit Khair Manga- India’s first Art-Music collaboration with painter Asit Kumar Patnaik, Heere Heere – a fashion-music collaboration with designer Anand Kabra, directed by Ram Sampath and then ‘Aise Na They’, a completely DIY music video shot in the Sikkim Border and Darjeeling while I went on a solo trip during the second wave! Most of my big-time industry friends thought I was diluting my music-star status by putting out a largely ‘phone-selfie’ plus ‘tripod/monopod’ shot music video but I felt otherwise! I did my own hair, makeup, styling and also learnt to colour correct and all else in post-production. I enjoyed the process of being self-reliant – Atmanirbhar being the key! (smiles)

I’ve never listened to others and always followed my heart; I’m so glad that I did. Artists need to pivot depending on the times and this simple video won over the younger generation because of its lack of ostentatious frills. That lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya can tell you a whole film story within 5 minutes is the magic of this song, the music by Ram Sampath, with flute and mandolin, gives the song a sound of the hills. The blessing of being able to work with such master-craftsmen, I would say genius is a gift and opportunity that I never take for granted!

Tell us something about your upcoming work…

My self-produced documentary feature film – ‘Shut Up Sona’ just won a National Award after several accolades in the international film festival circuit; I await its release in India. I have also started shooting its sequel ‘Please Sing Sona’ and I’m happy to explore storytelling and music from a driver’s seat in brand new genres like documentaries. There are talks of me hosting a travel-music show for an OTT platform.

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