For quite a long time, for most of us Indian’s music began and ended with Bollywood. The sound, or rather noise, of Bollywood drowned out everything else. Even today, all day long, through the Television and Radio we are constantly bombarded with Bollywood music. However, now we have a large chunk of population that is exploring and listening to different kinds of music. It’s not just the new age punk or alternative rock but even classical music, both Indian and western is seeing a revival. Discovering Mumbai presents to you Nush Lewis, a popular harpist, singer and songwriter; whose work with the strings will definitely make you fall in love with the harp!
Nush was born in Kuwait and did most of her schooling in Kuwait itself. She moved to Bangalore to pursue Bachelors of Arts in media, psychology and literature. Post her bachelors she moved to Chennai to learn music at the KM Music Conservatory. “I come from a family that really enjoys music so I’ve grown up having music around me most of the time. But I took music seriously when I was in Bangalore studying”, says Nush. At Christ College, Bangalore, she was a part of the choir. The choir, she says, was what convinced her that music was the sole purpose of her life. “It was the one place where I would feel most happy when I was in college”, she says.
Harp happened by chance for her. She happened to watch the harp teacher perform at the annual day function at her music school in Chennai and was very intrigued by the performance. She had joined the school for major in vocals, but so impressed she was with the harp, that she decided to take harp lessons voluntarily. “I realised this was my instrument the moment I found myself practicing the harp more than my vocals”, says Nush. The decision to change her majors was then a no-brainer. Also she was lucky to have a teacher who supported her in this decision.
Nush is inspired by the sound of artists like Florence and The Machine, Sulk Station, Tara Jaff, Fiona Apple, Amy Winehouse, Norah Jones, Anoushka Shankar and others. “They all have very unique sounds and I think that’s something that has always appealed to me. I just relate better to their music and sometimes can hear my sounds in their songs”, says Nush. She has collaborated with artists like Sidd Coutto, The Whirling Kalapas and beat boxing duo Boxy Turvy. Though she has performed at a lot of places in Mumbai, her personal favourite is Mehboob Studios, which she feels has one of the best sounds in the city.
Although western classical music has been around in Mumbai for quite a long time, she feels that we need more out of our own musicians to play in these orchestral settings. “For instance the SOI (Symphony Orchestra of India) has a majority of foreigners playing in it”, she says. We need these musicians to inspire children to pick up such instruments. As we know, very few parents inspire children to play violin, cello, trumpet etc. Also there is a need for schools to inject a structured music program into their curriculum and make music education a part of everyday studies. Nush also feels that the classical music needs more exposure. “Our country is so driven by Bollywood, that’s all they listen to. We have such amazing folk music and new contemporary music that just doesn’t get acknowledged. It’s sad and something should be done”, she says.
2013 is supposed to be a big year for Nush, she is looking forward to working on an EP. She also dreams of playing on bigger stages with bigger audiences and heavier sounds. And well, for the city of Mumbai, Nush has only nice words to say. “It’s a fantastic city. I feel if you can live here you can live anywhere else in the world. This city just makes you a stronger person and because of the cosmopolitan society that thrives here, you learn other cultures and learn to be tolerant of it also”, says Nush. To conclude, she gave us a list of harpists that we should definitely check out. Here it is – “Tara Jaff, Phamie Gow, Deborah Henson Conant and Joanna Newsom are a just a few harpists names that I would like to share so people can look up what harp music is like and how versatile it can be.”
We wish this talented musician all the very best for the future. We are really looking forward to seeing her perform on stage with the biggies of the industry.
You can check out her work on SoundCloud - here