Thursday, December 6, 2012

No explanation is necessary; here is mine

I woke up to a barrage of concerned emails today after I'd made the decision to shut my Facebook fan page and YouTube page down. Some of my friends were worried about me; others thought it was their fault.

The fact is, there's nothing to worry about. I just made a decision I'd been thinking about for months, even years now.  

I have sung Hindi songs for over eight years. I've performed all over the US, and some in India. I even got audiences with three music directors, but I never pursued those avenues further. I have sung for crowds as large as 10,000. I ended up being able to move to India because of it. I'm very appreciative of all those things.

But I have come to a realization over the past few years, and that is that I can never really succeed at it. And by "succeed," I mean "meet the standards I have set for myself."

My first show was October 30, 2004. That night, I had said to myself I did not want to be known as "that white girl who sings Hindi songs." I wanted to be known as someone who sang Hindi songs well. The first is easy to achieve. The second is much more difficult. I don't want to be a parrot who sings unknown words without understanding their meaning, good at imitating but no originality. It's been done. I don't want to be a pretty face, a gori who sings Hindi songs, Carefree White Girl jaunting off to India for "adventure" and singing for the novelty factor. It's also been done. 

I have, over many years, come to the understanding that I did not grow up with these sounds in my ears, do not have extensive Indian classical training or exposure, and so the beautiful songs of yesteryear are inaccessible to me; I cannot do them justice. I can only give a mere shadow of their subtle beauty.

And to tell the truth, the more Hindi I know, the less I like the modern songs. Turns of phrase that seemed romantic at one time (tere saath jiyoon, tere saath maroon) are so incredibly cliche, and some songs are just so stupid and immature (Mere jaise laakhon mile honge tujhko piya, mujhe to mila tu hi - seriously?). Not to mention Hinglish lyrics like "Zara zara touch me touch me touch me" which have absolutely no literary merit and don't do anything for the gori stereotype I constantly have to challenge. 

I've become quite disillusioned, to say the least. By the songs themselves, by the vocal brick walls I run into, by the fact that people are so okay with my doing this just because I'm white that I don't get any sort of constructive feedback but lots of empty praise, by the fact I have sung for eight years and I still cannot solve the vocal issues I started out with. 

I had been feeling this way for a long time, but finally realized I needed to make an actual decision about what to do with these feelings when a friend Liked one of my old videos on Facebook, which made it pop up in others' feeds, and suddenly I had 39 Likes and 38 comments in the span of a few hours. My reaction was not to be happy at all, but to cry all evening and wish it would just go away. I didn't want to be associated with that three-year-old video. It was Andrea -- nay, Adriana, the one-trick pony, the party novelty, the girl dragged, protesting, over to Vishal Dadlani at a club in Delhi and being commanded to sing on cue. The person who doesn't need to improve even over three years or eight years because HOW DIFFERENT, SHE SINGS HINDI SONGS.

Those are not the standards I set for myself. I didn't want to be appreciated for being different, or for 'just trying.' I wanted to be good at it, to sing what was really in my heart. But it's a far-off goal, unreachable as long as I cling to my quotidian life, which I have never been able to let go of, nor do I think I should. I can think of many more ways to spend my waking hours than to beat my tiny wings on this particular pane of glass. I know there's another direction I can go in. Spend more time at the gym. Cook good dinners. Translate some Bengali songs. Pick up the phone and call my friends. 

You want to hear a white girl singing Indian songs who is actually good? Listen to Nicki Wells. And then close your eyes and just listen and forget she's not Indian. Because you can. 

Now, I'm not quitting singing forever. I still take Rabindrasangeet lessons - that place I fled to when the Bollywood illusion proved itself to be so. But I do that for me, on my own terms. I'm not spreading myself too thin, trying to be everything to everyone; I am concentrating on one thing and doing it for my own love of it, not for others' admiration of me. 

I am thankful to all of those who supported me along the way and am glad for all the good things in my life that have come from singing. I know those friendships and those good things don't need the excuse of my singing to exist, and those are things I hope to keep forever.