Vidya Vox Calls Her EP Sundari An Ode To Women's Strength And Resilience: 'We Are The Sum Of A Whole'

Vidya Vox leverages her deep-rooted South Asian heritage to create a uniquely global sound, seamlessly blending the intricate melodies of Indian Folk and Film music with contemporary Pop. Since launching her YouTube channel in 2015, she has become a sensation, presenting innovative mashups and original songs that have garnered over a billion views and attracted more than 7 million devoted subscribers. Her standout track, ‘Be Free,’ from ‘Kuthu Fire,’ combines an original composition with the timeless Malayalam folk song ‘Pallivaalu Bhadravattakam,’ accumulating over 400 million views.

Her latest EP, ‘Sundari,’ exemplifies Vidya’s vision of producing original, genre-blending music that fuses modern and traditional elements. This project builds on the success of her debut EP, ‘Kuthu Fire,’ which showcases her clear, adaptable vocals and imaginative production. ‘Sundari’ continues to expand musical horizons, delving into new soundscapes and expressive territories. In an exclusive interview with News18 Showsha, Vidya Vox commented on the philosophy behind Sundari, the creative process that went into it, the collaborations it features and more.

Here are the excerpts:

“Sundari” is a deeply personal EP that acknowledges the strength and resilience of the women who have influenced your life. Can you share more about the inspiration behind this project and how your personal experiences shaped the themes explored in the EP?

I grew up in a violent home, and my mom’s bravery to leave that situation and raise us on her own inspired Sundari. In a time where she was unsupported by extended family members, and there was such a stigma around single mothers, she decided to go against the grain. To me, her resilience and strength is beauty. I wanted to explore the different facets that make us up as women, and how we are the sum of a whole. We can be ambitious, sexy, brave, and love all the different sides of us.

“Sundari,” also builds on the success of your debut EP, “Kuthu Fire,” and continues to push musical boundaries. Can you share how your approach to creating music has evolved from your debut project to “Sundari”?

Since Kuthu Fire and Mad Dreams, where I allowed other people in the co-pilot seat, Sundari has been my vision solely. I’ve worked with some of my same core team who understand my vision, & my style yet are able to push my sensibilities as a musician, while staying true to my roots. This has made for a very musically interesting record. I’m a much more experienced composer, songwriter and can play a bit of piano as well, which has helped open up my musicality so much. My process is a bit different now, whereas before we would start with instrumentation/tracks Shankar Tucker has already produced, however, with Sundari, the melodies came first, and the tracks were built around it.

You’ve mentioned that “Sundari” is an homage to your mother and the matriarchs in your family. How did their stories and journeys influence the creative direction of each track on the EP?

Their stories of self love and resiliency through tough times, while also being able to be positive really influenced the direction of the EP. My mom would have dance parties with my sister and I even in the hardest of times. I wanted to have baddie anthems such as Dangerous, but also songs that were uplifting such as Stardust and Ini Ninte Lokam. Yaazhiha is all about being so powerful in yourself that even the world shakes, and I’ve definitely seen moments that my mom has overcome which led me to inspiration for that song.

Collaboration plays a significant role in Sundari, with esteemed artists like Madhan Karky, Shankar Tucker, Nikhita Gandhi, and Rohith Jayaraman contributing to the project. Could you elaborate on the collaborative process and how each artist enriched the overall sound and message of the EP?

Shankar Tucker produced the entire EP, and it couldn’t have been done without him! He’s a mastermind at combining influences, while managing to make songs sound listenable and fresh. Madhan wrote all the Tamil lyrics for the album and he’s such a lyrical master. Some of the concepts I wanted he was able to execute flawlessly in Tamil. Nikhita and Rohith are both incredibly versatile vocalists in their own right, and their voices are golden. Their additions to Dangerous and Yazhiha really add to the spirit of the song, and they understood the assignment 🙂

Each track on “Sundari” seems to blend traditional Indian sounds with modern global influences. How do you approach the fusion of different musical styles and cultural elements to create a cohesive and innovative sound in your music?

I wanted most of the Indian sounds on the track to be South Indian inspired, as a lot of the songs were in Tamil. I wanted to recontextualize instruments such as Tappatam, Mridangam and nadaswaram in a modern context, as they are not instruments heard very often outside of their traditions. The cohesion in the instrumentation is owed to Shankar Tucker, who has a knack for imbibing a track with traditional instruments, but mixing more familiar western style elements, while making bops! I also felt like each track needs to have a central instrument we are highlighting, as to let each one shine.

“Dangerous,” featuring Nikhita Gandhi, is described as a powerful anthem capturing the strength and influence of female energy. What was the inspiration behind this track, and how did the collaboration with Nikhita enhance the message you aimed to convey?

I’ve been friends with Nikhita for many years, and I’ve wanted to collaborate with her forever. She is the epitome of the badass female energy that I wanted in the song. I wanted it to embody “you can’t mess with me” energy, which my mom also has. I played the song for her and she loved it. We wrote and recorded the verse in an hour and shot the video a few days later. It felt so natural and organic, and we felt the strength coming through the song, the hip-hop influenced production and the lyrics. It was a match made in heaven!

“Yazhiha,” where you venture into rapping in Tamil alongside Carnatic vocalist Rohith Jayaraman, showcases a unique blend of traditional Tamil sounds and contemporary rap elements. How did you navigate this fusion of styles to create a track that celebrates women as celestial beings?

As a society, we always worship goddesses, but forget that women are the very essence of the goddesses. I wanted a song to capture this quality, especially through the empowering lyrics. I wanted to have some rap style portions because I wanted to convey those lyrics in an unadulterated manner. Some of the lines in rap are along the lines of “if you try to limit /catch her, she will turn around and break you.” The entire meaning of the song is so beautiful, Madhan wrote such beautiful lyrics. It embodies who my mom is today, parts of which she hadn’t seen in herself in so long. I’ve been a fan of Rohith’s work for years, and I felt that this would be such a great song to collaborate on. His voice and musicality is so virtuosic, and he’s made the song what it is. Ultimately, Shankar’s production, with the nadaswaram, chalangai bells (I played this!) and hip hop influences, adds the powerful energy to the song and blends everything together.

Can you share a memorable moment or experience you had while creating the EP “Sundari”? Is there a particular track that holds special significance to you, and if so, why?

Each of the tracks are very special to me, as they all hold different meanings and the different emotional states I was in as we made this record. One of the best memories was when the live string trio played for Stardust and Ini Ninte Lokam. The whole session brought tears to my eyes. Another special memory was when I was arranging all the vocal layers for Stardust and hearing it at the end of the day, I was so moved and excited!

Your artistry has garnered widespread acclaim from global platforms and audiences. How do you balance staying true to your roots while also appealing to a diverse, international fan base with your music?

I’m so grateful for a supportive audience over the years. As I grow as an artist, my audience is also growing up with me. It always feels natural to me to add Indian style instrumentation or sing in an Indian language as this is how I grew up. I gravitate towards mixing influences from different musical styles as I listen to a variety of genres and artists too.

Looking ahead, what do you hope listeners take away from “Sundari”? What message or feeling do you aim to leave with those who embark on this musical journey with you through the EP?

I hope everyone feels the self-love oozing through the album. I hope they can find a song (or two!) that speaks to them on a soul level, and they know that they are badass, worthy and can do anything their heart desires. I also hope it makes them dance or take a night drive with the songs blasting.

Your live performances with your band have been described as electrifying, showcasing your dynamic stage presence. How do you prepare for live shows, and what do you hope the audience takes away from your performances?

Live concerts are a unique experience, where else do we get to connect with random people with a shared love of music, singing and dancing our hearts out? I warm up a lot, rehearse a lot with my band, steam my vocals, stretch, and eat specific foods to make sure I’m feeling my best before I step on stage. Once I’m on stage, it’s easy to give my 110%. I feel at home.

As an artist based in Los Angeles, how does the city’s vibrant music scene and culture influence your creative process and sound?

The Los Angeles music scene is like none other because it allows musicians to be experimental and is very accepting of new styles of music. There are so many incredible musicians who play different styles of music and who are all at the top of their game. We go to so many live shows here, and draw inspiration from the energies and instrumentation from the shows. We had many musicians play live on the record, and they brought their artistic sensibilities to each recording.

Beyond music, you find inspiration in sunny weather, fitness, and literature. How do these diverse interests contribute to your musical creativity and overall artistic vision?

I think it allows me to take a break from listening to music (when I listen to music, it’s purely analytical now) and frees my mind. I find it helpful to be out in the sun and read, allowing me a window into a world I can only dream of. It helps me ground me, and when I’m back in the studio to create, I feel refreshed.

In the context of your musical evolution and growth, how do you see “Sundari” as a milestone in your career, and what future projects or goals do you aspire to pursue following this release?

Sundari is a project that took over 3 years to complete, and captures who I am as an artist at this moment in time. It’s been a long healing journey to get here, and I’ve experimented and taken risks in ways that I haven’t before. I dug deeper than my personal identity to explore deeper parts of myself that I’ve avoided bringing into my music in the past. I hope to go on tour and perform this music live in person soon, and I hope to make my next album a bit lighter haha!

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By jaghit

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