For singer and songwriter Vibha Saraf, originally from Fateh Kadal in Srinagar, the journey of music began when she was just four years old.
Vibha, who became popular with the Bollywood song “beh chasey khanmoj koor” from film Raazi in 2018, says it was during a train journey along with her parents at the age of four, that they realized her inclination towards music.
“It was during this journey that the co-passengers were playing ‘antakshari’ when I joined them and sang a few lines. Everyone in the train bogey appreciated my effort. In hindsight that moment was where the realisation of my love for music began,” says Vibha.
Vibha has had a half a decade long corporate stint as a marketing consultant in several cities across the country. Even while she was busy doing marketing reviews for advertisers, Vibha did not part away with music.
“I had a very hectic job and worked 18-20 hours a day but it was a company initiative which pulled me towards music. This was a singing competition and while I was aspiring to be a brand manager, this initiative became a stepping stone for my foray into the music world,” says Vibha.
Vibha, who has done her master’s in media and communications from Hyderabad, says that although she was quite aspirational, while being part of the corporate sector, being unable to be completely content led her on a different journey.
“I shifted to Mumbai in 2013 to try it out in singing. Prior to my professional shift to singing, I started doing voice-overs for ads etc. I also did voice-overs for multilingual projects. However, it was back in Hyderabad during my masters that I realised that I can act out multiple languages that were otherwise alien to me,” says Vibha.
Vibha’s career has witnessed a transition from voice-overs to playback singing. To her credit, Vibha has sung several Bollywood songs which became an instant hit and has also had collaborations with independent artists. However, this daughter of the soil feels Kashmiri music has helped her rediscover her “subconscious self”. “I sing Kashmiri folk oriented songs because I feel this genre is a bridge to world music and has a great soul-soothing appeal. I also feel this music needs to reach out to people” says Vibha.
This talented musician who is also a songwriter, composer had learnt her Hindustani classical music from Delhi, says a formal training in music has helped her come a long way.
“I would say formal training in music helps one orient to channelize your talent but it is equally important to be receptive to other genres and schools of thought in music,” says Vibha.
For Vibha, music is in her genes as many of her family members could sing well albeit never thought of making a profession out of it. She says although Covid-19 has taken a toll on daily life, the situation owing to the pandemic has opened up several opportunities for artists. “The pandemic situation has opened up many possibilities for someone to record songs from a home studio set-up to even write their own songs. This situation has made artists more self-sufficient” Vibha. Vibha says there is a need to provide a boost to the local platform and create a music eco-system where a common Kashmiri associated with music is benefitted. “Let us open the window where talent is recognized and goes beyond the realms of the Valley. We all need to work in tandem and only a joint approach can help us popularise Kashmiri music and local talent” says Vibha.
Vibha who has also written a Kashmiri song for a Telugu film says the fame she got from singing popular Bollywood songs has made her more responsible.
“I have the opportunity to introduce the song “khanmauj koor” to the composers who bought a different colour to the traditional song” says Vibha. She says the fact that veteran song writer Gulzar penned down the Hindi part of the song was a heartwarming thing to happen.
“I along with the music composers Shankar, Ehsan and Loy and the director of the film ideated and brainstormed for a couple of days for the song. The song had to match the situation in the film and it absolutely did so” says Vibha.
Going a step ahead, Vibha says she is keen on working with music composers from the southern part of the country. “I feel there is a great scope for me in collaborating with the film industry in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka etc. But the Mumbai dream remains my aim” says Vibha.
Vibha’s message for aspiring singers and songwriters of Kashmir is that while you remain associated with brands and commercial music, “developing your own ideas as an individual to express through music and song writing must not stop".
Vibha is fond of almost all genres of music and has drawn inspiration from several singers and songwriters cutting across lines. “I am also fascinated by many poets across the sub-continent. It is their words that lend gravity to what we sing today” says Vibha.
Vibha along with her co-singer Harshdeep Kaur bagged an IIFA award in 2019 for a song for the film Raazi. Besides, the duo won Zee Cine award and an award instituted by CNN-News 18. In 2020, Vibha was again nominated for IIFA for the song "kab say kab tak" which she co-sung with Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh. Vibha signs off saying awards and rewards are always welcome but it is important for a singer or a songwriter to keep marching forward.