In a big win for the independent musician community, Delhi-based independent Kashmiri musician Pragnya Wakhlu was elected as a member to the prestigious GRAMMY Recording Academy. Earlier this year, she made Kashmiris proud when her Kashmiri- English fusion album "Kahwa Speaks" won two prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke awards for Best Music and Best Cinematography.
Adding a new feather to her cap her latest album’s "Lessons in Love" is selected for consideration for the 64th GRAMMY® awards. In a chat with Kashmir Ink Correspondent, Saqib Malik, Wakhlu shares how much this milestone matters to her.
Q) Please tell us more about the nominations and how much importance does it hold for you?
Earlier this year I was elected as a voting member of the GRAMMY® Recording Academy . This is a first for a Kashmiri artist and an Indian independent musician with no record label backing. With only 4% Asian representation in the Recording Academy this is a big step forward in ensuring diversity and representation of traditionally underrepresented countries. I’m happy and honoured to represent the voices of the minority on a global stage. It’s the start of changing the way the world looks at and perceives music from India.
My latest album "Lessons in Love" was selected in the ballots of the 64th GRAMMY® awards, the world's largest music awards in multiple categories viz. Best Global album, Best Global Performance, Best Music Video, Best New Artist, Best Improvised Jazz Solo, Best Pop duo/Group Performance, Song of the Year & Album of The Year .
This is a big deal for me as an artist. It’s always been a childhood dream to get my music to the GRAMMY’s but this holds more importance to me as my journey will pave the path for other Independent artists from the country to take their music to a global stage. There is a lack of information on the whole awards process in India . I hope to create more awareness through my journey so that others to follow suit.
Q) How important a milestone is this nomination in your journey of music?
It’s a huge milestone because this has been my dream since as long as I can remember. I think a lot of times one is afraid to dream big for oneself because of the fear of failure or rejection. A lot of times you don’t even try to aim for big goals because of the fear of people laughing at your dreams..but as Azim Premji once said “If people aren’t laughing at your goals, your goals are too small”. I think once I overcame my own self-doubt and ignored the people laughing at my dreams, I dream bigger, aim for the things I really wanted and manifest them. It would be great to actually win a GRAMMY for the country.
Q) When did you develop interest in music and in what way do you think you have achieved as a singer songwriter?
I had an interest in music right from my childhood days. I started training in Indian classical music at a very young age. I learnt how to play guitar at the age of 16. I’ve created and played in bands throughout my engineering college days and I.T. career before I took the plunge and quit my job to pursue music.
My greatest achievement as a singer-songwriter is the ability to create music that helps people process how they’re feeling , become aware about social issues I feel strongly about , learn something new about Kashmir or simply inspire them.
Q) How much importance does Kashmir hold for you as an influence to you and your music?
Kashmir is home and my connection to my home is strong, so it’s always a part of me wherever I go. It reflects in my music as well. My second album ‘Kahwa Speaks’ was dedicated entirely to taking the good things about our people and culture to the rest of the world. What’s great, is to see how people from different parts of India and the rest of the world respond positively to the music and stories of Kashmir at the shows. A lot of people that attended have taken a keen interest in the language and our culture, non-Kashmiri speakers sing along in Kashmiri at gigs and some people even went and bought books on Lal Ded.
Q) What is the way forward in your musical endeavour?
I just launched my first Kashmiri music NFT collection on a celebrity fan engagement website called Fantico - India's First Curated Celebrity NFT & Fan Engagement Platform. I think NFT’s are the future of music.
My NFT collection includes two animated videos of my Dadasaheb Phalke Award-winning song 'Katyuchuk My Love' which is a translation of the poetry of famous Kashmiri poetess Habakhatoon.
I’m working on different collaborations with several musicians from the Recording academy from across the world for release next year. My band The Kahwa Speaks Ensemble is planning to record and release a new single. I’m also working on a rap and spoken word project in different languages and have a few hindi songs for release.
Q) Your message for budding musicians of Kashmir?
Venue owners and event managers are going to ask you to play Bollywood and a lot of covers for gigs but always try to get your originals in the set. Don’t let anyone discourage you from playing your own music. A lot of artists get stuck in the trap of singing popular music and then stop making music of their own or don’t dedicate enough time to it. It’s important to create a unique identity for yourself at the end of the day and stay authentic to who you are. Once that happens you become irreplaceable because you’re doing something that just you are known for .
Keep practicing and improving every day. Listen keenly. Don’t keep waiting for something to happen; create your opportunities for growth. At the end of the day your career is in your own hands.