Meet Aastha Mohapatra, Hindustani classical singer and Odisha’s 1st Opera singer
Bhubaneswar: They say music defies the barriers of languages, cultures and borders and a 20-year-old Aastha Mohapatra from Odisha has proven it just right as she is dubbed as first Opera singer from the state.
Music has been Aastha’s defining career from a tender age of nine. Her journey from Hindustani classical music to Opera and later being titled a ‘soprano’, is fascinating. Over the years, the young Opera singer has performed on several fora and received several awards and she credits majority of her successes to her vocal trainer Situ Singh Buehler, an international Opera singer.
In a conversation with Sambad English, Aastha Mohapatra talked about her journey, achievements and aspirations.
Aastha was born in a family of civil servants. Her father is a civil servant and mother works in the development sector. Growing up in a household of academicians, police officers and government officials, she was always motivated to follow the footsteps of her family members in serving the society. However, she had also developed an inclination towards music at a very young age.
“Music and art have always been integral parts in my family’s legacy. A lot of my family members are trained Hindustani classical singers. My mother is a sitarist and she also sings. Recognizing my inclination towards music, my parents put me in for Hindustani classical music classes when I turned 6. That was the beginning of my career in music,” Aastha said.
After moving to Delhi with her parents and younger singer, Aastha joined her school’s choir. A couple of years later, she was selected as a member of the prestigious Mozart Children’s Choir of India, an initiative started by the Austrian Embassy and sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar. There she got exposure to western classical music and opera.
“I was among the 500 students who had auditioned for the choir. I was not familiar with western music then. It was only with my knowledge of Hindustani classical music, I made it through,” she added.
During the initial phases of her western classical music training, Aastha sang in choirs, orchestra and chamber music. Attending a lot of workshops by foreign musicians opened the world of opportunities and possibilities for the then nine-year-old.
In 2011, Aastha performed at the Rashtrapati Bhawan when Pratibha Patil was the President of India. Later, she also got to perform at several embassies.
Apart from being a meritorious student and a soprano, Aastha is a trained pianist. She also plays ukulele. She sings in four different languages- French, English, German and Italian. Currently, she’s exploring other foreign languages like Czech, Russian and Japanese.
“Along with music, I have always been passionate about languages and culture. That’s probably what made me like this art form (Opera) because it let me explore different cultures and languages,” Aastha said.
The 20-year-old singer believes that if one really wants to sing in a certain language, knowing the language won’t matter if they understand the emotion behind it while performing.
In 2021, Aastha collaborated with DJ Aneesh Chengappa for her single ‘Transverse’ that streamed on Spotify.
“It was really special because I was the lyricist for it. It was actually a poem I had penned out during the pandemic. It speaks mostly about getting free of all the bond. I think penning the poem down was my outlet. The collaboration was intriguing because it was a fusion of electronic music and classical,” she said.
Aastha participated in International Art Song Festival 2021, organized by KM Conservatory and Trinity Laban London in 2021. The competition was conducted online and she received a special mention from the judges. Later, the young artiste became a part of several fundraisers and collaborated with several foundations who were raising funds to provide food and oxygen cylinders to COVID-19 affected people.
“I felt as artists we need to reach out to the society in a better manner. So, I have been doing this and it feels really great. I want to continue in the future as well …using music for a better cause, a better purpose,” she narrated.
Aastha has recently been accepted at the University of Oxford where she will be pursuing her M.Phil. in Development studies.
“Music is my major career. However, I’m also inclined towards exploring public policy. Because my family members have also been exploring their careers in this arena. I aspire to do the same,” she said.
On being asked where she sees herself five years from now, the young soprano from Odisha said, “I really wish to be out there in the global music circuit. I want to perform more and hopefully I would like to perform in the major cities of the world because that has been my dream. Basically, I want to have a lot of music, music-based friendship and just a good community of artists so I can hone my art and make the world a better place with my art form.”
Watch some of Aastha’s performances here:
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