Shubhank Sharma is a self-taught singer/songwriter/guitarist/composer from Rohru, Himachal Pradesh, India who loves everything from rock to blues to grunge and ghazals. Performing in his own band, ‘Shubhank Sharma Collective’, he has quite often been called a ‘saint’ when it comes to strumming ingenious folk melodies. This prodigious musician has confessed to having only one burning desire etched to his heart – to reach out to the world with his original blend of folk-inspired music and heartfelt lyrics. He holds the belief that a tree would stand tall and strong as long as the roots would allow. Therefore, he has held firm to his roots and has comfortably allowed them to water their striking influence to every figment of his creativity. The singer’s musical lilt has matured over the years and he has graduated to and experimented with different musical hues, keeping his intent open to anything that’ll spur originality. He has seen his share of struggle and has had a difficult time in making ends meet as a musician, but when you have grit tuning your guitar like Shubhank has, then nothing can obstruct you striking the right chord.
Team Himalayan Geographic had the pleasant experience of meeting this musical prodigy and asking him a few questions. Read on to know more about his life and experiences from this interview.
Give your thoughts about India’s music industry
I wish we had a music industry independent of the film industry as in the west. There is no TV channel at present which airs any independent music. If you look at the music industry in our neighbouring country Pakistan, you’ll hardly find any film music, but a lot of music right from the era of Ustaad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Ghulam Ali to the current generation of singers and bands. Its film industry declined after the early 70’s and thus its music industry now has its own separate existence, unlike India. Having said this, I also want to make it heard that I am not against film music. Industry giants like A.R. Rehman, Amit Trivedi have inspired millions of musicians like me, and given the chance, I would love to work with such artists. In the last decade though, the music scene has changed a lot in India, thanks to the Internet. I am quite hopeful of a better music scene in the times to come.
How important is it to learn Classical Forms of music?
Well, it depends on how you think about music. I consider myself a singer, composer, and a guitarist, as opposed to just a singer. My music is not purely classical, but it does contain a few elements of it. If one aspires to be a purely classical singer, then, of course, there is no other way than to learn.
When did you realize you wanted to take up music as a profession?
It was always there, though it was in college that I started taking it seriously. I used to sing in my childhood days and at school functions. I would often sit alone in my room with the lights off and just sing along with Lucky Ali, Kishore Kumar, Silk Route and the like playing on a cassette player. During my high school days, I came to know about rock music.
Have you been associated with any bands so far?
Yes, I started in 2005 as a rather raw and eccentric guitarist/vocalist with a highly acclaimed band in Chandigarh called ‘Seraphim’. One of our performances was also aired on the music channel VH1 in 2005-06, which at that time was certainly a big push for all of us. Currently, I am playing in a different band called ‘Shubhank Sharma Collective’, and we play my own compositions.
What is your idea of playback singing and what is music to you?
For playback singing, I’d say, just sing. For me, music is the song of life upon the canvas of experiences.
Have you ever failed at something?
I’ve failed a lot of times. In fact, I haven’t come across any fellow journeyman from the realm of a creative space who has claimed to never have failed in the pursuit of creative happiness.
How do you define Himachal’s culture in your singing?
Mountains have always inspired me in a number of ways and music certainly is a reflection of what you are. You’ll certainly see it in my first album being released in 2018.
How supportive has your family been?
Initially, they were somewhat reluctant, but now they’re very supportive.
What would you have been if not a musician?
I would have been a mountaineer or a shepherd.
What is your message to all aspiring musicians?
What are your thoughts on Pahadi folk music and its future?
Pahadi folk music has certainly changed with the advent of technology. Its future doesn’t look good as folk musicians aren’t paid well. Look at the Sarkari and Darbari festivals of Himachal. Punjabi singers are being paid in lakhs, whereas musicians from our state are not even considered worthy of being given enough time on stage. This includes all the musicians, be it folk or others. I am not against inviting singers from another state since music shouldn’t be put into such barriers, but that should not happen at the cost of our folk music and its musicians. Have you ever heard of any folk musician from Himachal being invited to Melas or festivals in Punjab or other states? The thing is, apney ghar mein koi poochta nai toh bahaar kyu poochega? If we want our folk music to stay in its original form, the government needs to understand the plight of folk musicians of our state and come to their help.