By Neha Kirpal
Can a career in music also be a source of personal growth? What are the challenges women face in the industry? Noted female musicians take us behind the scenes of their world. This is the third of a three-part series (part one here and part two here).
Mumbai-based Nirmika Singh is a poet, lyricist, singer and music critic. She has to her name an album, Jhoothe (2016) and multiple collaborative projects with Bollywood greats like AR Rahman, music director Clinton Cerejo and brands like Amazon India and Hyundai among others.
For the anthem of the Marvel Studios’ conclusion to the 22-film series, Avengers: Endgame, AR Rahman specifically roped in Nirmika to pen the lyrics. She is also working with Rahman on other projects, and is part of a rare breed of female lyricists in the industry.
Says Rahman of his young collaborator: “Nirmika is a lyricist who understands modern sensibilities and is also well-versed in the world of poetry and songwriting without letting go of the old soul of Hindi and Urdu poetry – she does all this with ease!”
Nirmika is also the only music influencer to have a partnership with Facebook India as part of her monthly chat show #BackStage. She also hosts Rolling Stone India’s Twitter show, #RollingWith. She recently launched her poetry project, #AurSuno, which has caught the ears of industry bigwigs for being a bold, feminist voice.
“Music can be a source of both personal growth and social consciousness. For me, the experience of listening to music from around the world – and recently visiting places of the birthplaces of jazz (New Orleans), blues (Memphis) and country (Nashville) – has made me more empathetic and sensitive to the diverse voices and perspectives of different people. These qualities only further fuel my own creativity. As a lyricist, I feel music is a sort of refuge for me where I build fantasies, destruct enemies and fall in love. I think without music, my life would be a sad story,” says Nirmika.
As a lyricist, she believes there aren’t enough women role models. “So, it is easy for any woman aspirant to view a creative job like ours as restrictive and prohibitive,” she says.
She believes that creative fields like the business of music production and lyric writing operate in a way that there are no official wage regulations, and artists command or demand fees based on their stature and experience.
“Considering there aren’t enough women composers or technicians in the studio and on stage in the Bollywood and indie circuit, I cannot say for certain if they earn as much as men. Maybe those at the top do,” she muses.
Nirmika feels that the challenges for women in music are similar to those in other creative fields with the added element of late nights, long work hours and erratic schedules.
“Not to mention the collaborative nature of the job, which requires a close relationship with peers, sometimes even blurring the boundaries between the personal and the professional. Plus, the ‘glamorous’ nature of the job, which a lot of people may not consider ‘respectable’,” she says.
All of these fluid working conditions can sometimes make the field restrictive to women, she avers.
Photography by Prashin Jagger
This is the final part of a three-part series ‘Siren Song’ first published in eShe’s August 2019 issue