Interview: Singer Sona Mohapatra On Turning RJ With Red Fm’s Show Lal Pari Mastani (Sholoana Bangaliana Exclusive)

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RED FM India launched its new show ‘Lal Pari Mastani’ with a sundowner party and a LIVE performance by singer Sona Mohapatra. The show went live last month hosted by eminent singer Sona Mohapatra herself. The launch celebrated RED FM’s humble initiative to support womanhood and the spirit of freedom and progressive thinking. Sholoana Bangaliana correspondent caught up with the talented singer about her debut stint as a RJ in an exclusive chat. Excerpts…

Priyanka Dutta, Sholoana Bangaliana- What does the colour red mean to you?

Sona Mohapatra- I also have a deep fascination for the colour RED. It symbolises many aspects of womanhood and has deep roots in our culture and mythology. Red is power, energy, the feminine divine- Devi, a fierce rebel spirit and beauty, all rolled in one! I want to break the mould of being pigeon-holed as only a ‘singer’. I am much more than that and through Lal Pari Mastani, a formal launch of my artist alter ego but a name many fans know me by for over a decade, I wish to express many more aspects of my creativity.

I assume this is your first stint on radio. How has the experience being so far?

Sona Mohapatra- I am actually hosting my own show under a moniker that my fans have known me by for over a decade, ‘Lai Pari Mastani’. The Lai Pari Mastani Show on Red FM is an extension of what I do on stage: play great live music, sing, perform, talk about topics that are close to my heart, interact with people and also curate a playlist of recorded music that I would like others to enjoy; and not the regular, everyday fare that you hear on the airwaves. To host your own show and do it well on radio does take a special blend of craft, talent and madness. I feel excited by the opportunity to interact with an audience in a brand new way, but I am not even trying to compete with the amazing RJs in their domain. My core is that of being an artist, live performer and possibly a social commentator, and that is what I will showcase on my show. I also have a style and fashion story playing out in parallel in this show, inspired by none other than Nisha Narayanan [COO, Red FM]. We both have a deep love for Indian handlooms, textiles and the sari. I will be showcasing a different one in each episode of The Lai Pari Mastani Show. I am known to be outspoken on matters that I feel passionately about, and with Red FM, I want to interact and co-create music, art and film with my audience. I am keen to hear what people have to say. I also plan to get some interesting guests on the show and you will get to hear some live musical jams, some real-time music creation and many other moments of magic. I want to make my audience part of the creative process.

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What kind of feedback are you getting from the audience/fans?

Sona Mohapatra- I hoped to bring my voice to the conversation on issues that are close to my heart. I’m known to be outspoken on matters that I feel passionately about and with this show, I wanted to interact and co-create music, art and film with my audience. I’m always keen to hear what people have to say and here, and there has been spontaneous combustion, live on the airwaves during the course of recording! I also had some interesting guests on the show, along with live musical jams, some real-time music creation & many other moments of magic. I wanted to make my audience part of the creative process & I think we did to a large measure. The feedback has been quite overwhelming. Not only me but my band mates and team members have been stopped at airports and have been asked about ‘Lal Pari Mastani’ and whether we were travelling for the same show. People have particularly mentioned liking the unplugged music that we play on every link, in every episode. That it is raw and un-produced is what they like the most. They have also mentioned loving the topicality of the episode themes, be it Social Media trolling, The importance of taking Solo Trips, The changing music scene or the show we did on ‘Marriage & how society expects women to change in particular’.

Tell us about the album Lal Pari Mastani?

Sona Mohapatra- To start with, it is not an album. It is natural that you assume that I would put out an album with a set of music videos etc all but no, it is not. Using the alter ego of Lal Pari Mastani, I have found a unique expression. I have always wanted to connect music to art, film, fashion, social commentary and bridge the past to the future. I want to go beyond music and create content that celebrates the values I cherish. So Lal Pari Mastani is my brand new artist avatar, so to say and I am going to be releasing lots more content in this phase of my career & life as an artist. Amongst other things, I am also shooting a film. The core of this journey emanates a free spirit, love and a need to be subversive and go beyond the obvious. It chooses to be layered in its storytelling. My heroes have always been Indias true-blue rockstars and harbingers of freedom and change. Be it Meera, Ameer Khusrau, Kabir or Bulleh Shah or even the poetess Andal in South India these artists were creative forces that pushed the envelope beyond just beauty and entertainment. Lai Pari Mastani will also put out a lot of music and songs that have contemporary lyrics and original compositions, which have the same ambition and soul as the heroes and sheroes I talk about!

Do you plan to continue being a RJ, if given the chance?

Sona Mohapatra- Hosting my own show with unplugged live music, a discussion on topics that needs serious thought and research and committing time to spend at least 5 hours per episode, then participating in all the marketing, promotion and social media activity on the same is no easy task especially considering I am busy touring with my band, running my own production house, Omgrown Music and in the middle of establishing my music label and content creation house. Having said that, I must say that the experience has been a deeply satisfying one!! The Red team celebrates me in entirety and it is a pleasure for me to present my views un-censored or cloaked in political correctness. To sing and play music in a real and raw manner without a re-take or even rehearsal at times is another challenge. What is amazing is that I have been playing music, both live and curating a playlist for the show which is not the usual fare that you hear on radio. So, never say, no, but I will take a break between seasons.

Apart from this, what are your other music projects at the moment?

Sona Mohapatra- I’m now in the midst of launching ‘Lal Pari Mastani’ and that is a lot of work, both artistically and also from a logistics and administration point of view. I have a team of eight that I work with and doing things completely independently without any big funding or corporate backing is no easy task. I plan to release new music, music videos, films and much more over the year & every month this year. I am also working on a world music album with music from my roots, after the huge success of Rangabati on the Coke Studio platform, this album will be called the ‘Odia Blues’. This dance album & project with a focus on Odisha & her culture, will release next year & do so internationally. My ‘The Ankahee Project’ with my band mate Sanket Sane was very well received last year & we are both working on the next leg of the same, a Marathi Fusion EP for an All India release. The first is a song & music video called ‘Lavani Reinvented’. It should release in a few months. The usual playback and sessions keep happening but they aren’t what they were made out to be in the past. The music being created in the films are mostly re-hashes of older songs or largely songs made for a male voice with very little to do with a feminine perspective. So doing a half an hour singing session for a song someone else has written and composed for a setting of a film that has nothing to do with me or my personality is honestly, neither challenging nor satisfying. Also the twiddling of thumbs wondering whether your voice will be retained in the final version cuts at least 5 others will be recorded and a lottery like feeling descends. Not my cup of tea. I was always meant to be more in charge of my destiny and I am glad to be out of that race, one that I actually never ran if I were to be completely honest!

The show’s first episode was aired on the 17th March 2018. This show is aired on Saturdays 9 a.m. and will be repeated on Sundays 2 p.m.

Wishing the feisty singer Sona Mohapatra all the best for her debut stint as a RJ!!

Interview by:

Priyanka

Priyanka Dutta takes a keen interest in lifestyle and entertainment related news. She also enjoys interviewing celebrities and other renowned personalities. Priyanka holds a post graduate degree in English and Mass Communication. Journalism is her passion and she has reported for many a reputed international web portals.

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