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Vibha Saraf: Ambassador of Kashmiri Folk Medley
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Vibha Saraf: Ambassador of Kashmiri Folk Medley

Most of us know her by the famous song “Dilbaro” in the Alia Bhatt-starrer “Raazi” but the versatile singing sensation has brought a new dimension to Kashmiri folk with her melodious voice. Vibha Saraf is not only a singer but wears multiple hats

Post by on Saturday, May 8, 2021

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Most of us know her by the famous song “Dilbaro” in the Alia Bhatt-starrer “Raazi” but the versatile singing sensation has brought a new dimension to Kashmiri folk with her melodious voice. Vibha Saraf is not only a singer but wears multiple hats of composer, songwriter and producer. She has sung in 14 languages.  She was nominated for Best Playback Singer for the 65th Filmfare Awards and Won the Zee Cine Best Female Playback and Best Female Playback for 20th IIFA. Vibha’s Kashmiri folk collaborations include "Nund Banye", “Habbakhatoon" to name a few. From singing jingles to her debut as Bollywood playback singer, Vibha has come a long way. Rising Kashmir’s Correspondent, Misabah Bhat spoke exclusively to ‘Kaeshir Koor’ about her musical destiny and her love for Kashmir.    



Q: What was your childhood like?

A: We left Kashmir when the migration happened in the 1990s. We moved to Delhi. I come from a family of teachers, principals, professors, so it was quite obvious that my initial focus was on education. I remember telling my grandfather that I wanted to be an IAS officer and I remember that I used to say at the tender age, when most people would find baffling to know that I even knew the full form of IAS.

Musical influence was there, it was with me since I was 4 years old when it was discovered that I could sing. I did my first recording when I was 10 years old for a Telefilm Habba Khatoon. It was a song in Urdu called “Shaakh pe aayi meri bulbul”. It was composed by Pandit Bhajan Sopori. The relationship with music was a subconscious relationship; it was not something that took birth after I moved to Mumbai. It was always there. I think there were only two things that I cared about; reading books outside of school curriculum and music. I was an inactive child barely playing any games or sports. I was a part of school choir; the music was always there. But I did not actively pursue it. It was not a linear decision that I have to do this only. A lot of youngsters are clear about what to do, but it was never like that with me. With Kashmiris there is a strong social construct that you must be a doctor or an engineer. But I always wanted to take up a profession which absolutely acknowledged my contribution to it. 


Q: Tell us about your first break in Bollywood

A: From what I remember I think it was in 2014, when I sang a song with Arijit Singh called “Oh! Soniye”. But even before that I did a song called “Surkhab” which was released later than “Oh! Soniye” but was recorded before it, which technically makes it my first Bollywood song.


Q: How did the idea of the Kashmiri verse “Khanmaej Koor” in the Dilbaro song for the film Raazi came up?

A: The idea came from brainstorming. Ehsaan (of musical trio Shanker-Ehsaan-Loy) had given me a call one day and he said that they are working on a situation where they want the lead protagonist to be a spy and getting married across the border; what within Kashmiri female poetry can be relevant for our protagonist. So, we brainstormed for two days; me, Gulzar Sahab, Shanker-Ehsaan-Loy, Meghna Gulzar; through the verses of Lal Ded, Habba Khatoon, finally we arrived at the folk piece which my mom used to sing in all Kashmiri weddings. The song took birth because of the Kashmiri folk melody of Khanmaej koor after which the composers composed the Hindi parts and that is how Dilbaro came together.



Q: You have sung in several regional languages. How do you manage?

A: We all have potential to metamorphosize and wear different masks; and do the job that has been given to us. I realized this when I was pursuing my Masters in Hyderabad, that I had a thing for languages. When I used to get annoying calls from my friends, I would sometimes switch to a regional IVR prompt in Telugu, and they would believe that it is an IVR and not an actual person. When I came to Mumbai, I began with advertising and I worked with a lot of brands doing entire campaigns like in thirteen languages and singing in many languages for brands and with minimal supervision I was able to deliver. It also was fairly challenging but fun.


Q: Who has been your guide, support and source of inspiration ?

A: It is a difficult question. I do not know if there is a single person. While I draw a lot of my inspiration from music in totality, the feeling that it gives me, the joy that it gives me is unparalleled. There is no one particular legendary figure I look up to. But I could say that my inspiration was circumstantial as it started from home, my Naana used to sing in the early morning every day. He always had that one thing; the discipline, because there was a certain passion. So, I think for me it is not individuals, but it is their stories and their passion and my own connection with the feelings; a fulfilment that this art-form gives me which inspires me continuously.


Q: Has your music inspired people in the valley; what do you think?

A: I keep getting a lot of support and love from Kashmir, and I am absolutely grateful and thankful for it. And the thing is that the music has no boundaries. Few days back I got a message saying that “I think you are living the dream of so many Kashmiri girls including myself who never got a chance to sing because of social and family pressure, you are incredible, and I hope you flourish with each passing day’’. This exhibits the connection music must have created in the hearts of the Kashmiris who have consumed my music and it is humbling to see that they connect with you at this level.



Q: How many awards have you received till date?

A: I have received CNN-IBN reel awards for Dilbaro. I also got a Zee Cine Award and an IIFA for the same song.


Q: Tell us something about your upcoming projects?

A: I am composing for a few independent projects and also composing some jingles. I am looking forward to lyrical collaborations with fellow musicians while I am also working on my own independent music. It is a mix of composing, singing, lyric writing all of these things for my own music and in collaboration with other musicians.



Q: Any actress you would love to lend your voice to?

A: I have lent my voice to a few actresses, from singing jingles for Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma, Vidya Balan to Karishma Kapoor. Any particular actress, I do not know, maybe Madhuri Dixit and actresses from Golden Age of Bollywood.


Q: Do you miss Kashmir?

A: Kashmir is always with me subconsciously and I try to make as many trips as possible to Kashmir. You cannot miss a person or place that is always with you. Maybe the physicality of it can be missed but it is always there with me wherever I am.


Q: Any advice for budding singers of Kashmir?

A: Do not get away from education completely, even if you have a certain passion and ambition. Work on your art/craft, hone your skills, get your basic education sorted, and get a degree. Other than that, focus on the positives around you. We all know that creativity can flourish best when provided a secure and a comfortable environment. Be it art or business we will still have to work hard. We need to know our capabilities and keep honing our talent.


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