Well-known Ghazal and Sufi singer Vatsala Mehra is inextricably linked to my journalistic career. It was in 1983-84 that I was assigned my career’s first feature interview and that was with her. Thirty years later as I listen to her latest Sufi number “Laleiyan Jogi Naal”, it strikes me that she has not lost any of her mellifluousness and vigor.
Based in McLean, Virginia for a long time, Vatsala remains deeply wedded to Sufi and Ghazal singing and frequently does concerts and studio recording of her Ghazals and Sufi songs. I interviewed her for an upcoming diaspora portal. I am not at liberty to publish the content from that interview before the portal comes alive but as someone who has known her for three decades it is only fair that I write about the new song. ‘Laleiyan’ is now available on iTunes and Amazon.
The popular Indian ear is tuned to a sharper register in their female singers. Vatsala has a deeper, huskier voice. I asked her if that has been an asset or a liability?
“Initially,it was a liability as the music companies would request for a higher range voice. Today, it is an asset and I can actually sing with the scale I choose to, especially for Sufi numbers which are the closest to my heart,” she told me.
Sufi and Ghazal singer Vatsala Mehra
Vatsala is a well-known and highly respected name on the capital’s and New York’s cultural scene with performances at the Kennedy Center. She could have easily based herself in Bombay and made a successful singing career in the movies. Instead, she has chosen to stay committed to Sufi and Ghazal singing outside of it. I remember her telling me in my first interaction how Sufi singing transports her to a different realm. “It is just pure joy when you sing Sufi,” she had said.
Her latest video here was shot and put together during her brief visit to Mumbai last year. It is a happy number despite the fact that the theme is heavier than the visual mood might suggest. Vatsala is a happy performer and her long years of having been on stage and in public eye has given her that ease. After she shot the video she told me she was not so sure how it might look. It looks competently put together.