Live performances are an ‘exhilarating experience’: Usha Uthup

By Siddhi Jain

New Delhi:  “Stage performance teaches you humility, dignity and honesty and makes you realise that the only reason you are up on stage is because of the audience and their love for you, art and entertainment,” says legendary playback singer Usha Uthup. The 1947-born artist says that performing live for an audience is an “exhilarating experience”.

Uthup, in a recent collaboration with Subramaniam Academy of Performing Arts (SaPa) India which was founded in 2007 by violinist L. Subramaniam and Bollywood playback singer Kavita Krishnamurti Subramaniam, took a masterclass on the tips and intricacies of stagecraft. The popular artiste and singer broke down the elements of entertaining on stage.

In an interview about life in lockdown and performing on both the real and virtual stages. Edited excerpts:

Q: What has been your most prominent learning during the lockdown?

A: Throughout the past year, I think I have worked the most through the lockdown. It’s been a huge learning curve for me, I have learned how to set up a small studio at my residence with the help of my recording engineer at the studio. My team has helped me with the nuances of Zoom and other online communication platforms. I have been connected to people through phones and video calls.

Another thing that I have learned and what the pandemic has taught us is to be global citizens. It has increased our horizon to think and care for people outside our social circle. To be careful and mindful of our deeds and how we impact people around us. I have also realised having a routine and being disciplined helps and is what has kept me going. I start my day by chanting mantras and taking a walk in my home. Post that I continue with my singing work.

Q: The concept of the ‘stage’ took on another form during the pandemic, with the computer and mobile screen turning into stage for artistes across genres. Your thoughts on this digital stage?

A: During the lockdown, I was able to adapt to the digital stage seamlessly through the help of my team Gautam Basu, Somresh and Rinta. Through the lockdown, even though the stage shows couldn’t happen, I was able to connect with my audience through the 6-7 songs which I recorded in my home studio and released them on the social media platforms. The response has been humongous and shows the kind of love the audience has for you as a singer. It has also helped me to be a Global artist through my work. Plus the digital stage has not only boomed for performances, but also for online learning. Through SaPa India, I am able to conduct this masterclass on Stagecraft where people can learn about posture, stage manners and other nuances which can be used not only for live shows but for virtual shows as well.

Q: You had mentioned during the lockdown months that getting on a stage to perform would not be possible for some time. Are you happy that the entertainment and cultural spaces are opening up?

A: For 51 years of my career, I have performed on stage for numerous shows. It’s an exhilarating experience of performing for the audience who are right in front of you and the musicians right beside encouraging you with each verse of the song. The stage performance teaches you humility, dignity and honesty and makes you realize that the only reason why you are up on the stage is because of the audience and their love for you, art and entertainment. So yes, it’s great we can go back to such ways of entertainment, of course keeping the Covid-19 precautions in mind. I’m looking forward to doing shows again.

Q: Please tell us about your association with SaPa India

A: Kavita has been a dear friend of mine for years and I have such high admiration and respect for both L. Subramaniam and Kavita Subramaniam. And it’s great that they have a brainchild like SaPa, an academy, which is training children as young as 3-years-old. And I am so grateful to them for including Stagecraft as a subject. It’s one of the most important aspects of being an artist apart from technical knowledge, regular practice, among others. And I’m very thankful to them for giving me this opportunity to take the masterclass. It provides an awakening to people that no matter how good a singer or an artist you are, what would you do if you didn’t have the right kind of stagecraft to perform. Because entertainment is a serious business indeed.

Apart from this masterclass, I am also designing and launching a self-paced course with SaPa India to be released shortly.

Q: About your upcoming plans.

A: I have released about 6-7 songs with videos. The only difference between me and the other artists is that I don’t actively promote them through digital platforms like Instagram and YouTube because I’m not very well versed with such mediums. And my work is not just in Hindi films, but I have done songs across Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil as well. My latest project is now with SaPa India.


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