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`Pardesi' woman is here!

In the playback world of falsetto voices and would-be Lata Mangeshkars, Sapna Awasthi has carved a niche for herself with her open voiced, down-to-earth folksongs. But she is not willing to be slotted into any particular genre, says MADHUR TANKHA... .

THE NAME Sapna Awasthi immediately brings to mind echoes of Rajasthani folk music. And now this singer, blessed with a golden voice, wants to break free from becoming typecast or labelled for one particular type of song. Though critics compare her songs with her contemporary Ila Arun, Sapna insists that there is more to her music than Rajasthani tunes. Among singers, her role models have been the late Begum Akhtar -- Queen of Ghazals - and `Melody Queen' Noorjahan, who ruled the roost during walky-talky days before migrating to Pakistan.

Sapna's playback career got off to a tumultuous start in 1992, when the much acclaimed director, Shekhar Kapoor asked her to sing for his film, "Dushmani". This was her fast track to success as her debut song, `Bano teri ankhiyan' brought her fame and glory. Apart from winning applause and kudos for this particular song, Sapna suddenly saw herself coming into the limelight. After the Karisma Kapoor and Amir Khan starrer, "Raja Hindustani" became a sensational hit, the audience remembered the film for its most-sought-after song, `Pardesi-Pardesi', and Sapna added another feather to her cap.

On a brief stopover at New Delhi's Le Meridien Hotel, Sapna heaves a sigh of relief that unlike many singers her first few songs brought her instant recognition.

Sapna says, "I immensely liked Pardesi-Pardesi as there was both pain and love in that song. Even now I listen to this song whenever I am in a bad mood. Undoubtedly this is my favourite song."

Sapna is pinning high expectations on her latest album, `Chunariya'. However, she warns that this is not a solo album. "Besides me there are Kavita Krishnamurti and Vinod Rathode. Out of eight songs in this album four have been sung by me and the remaining four have been sung by Kavita and Vinod. There is also a video of one song, which has been sung in my voice."

As to what is in the pipeline, Sapna says, "My songs will be coming in forthcoming movies like "Dial 001" and "Sultan". My songs in "Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam" were much appreciated by the audience. In albums, apart from `Chunariya' there is `Kahin diya jale kahin jiya', which is about to be released by Venus."

Many of the songs blaring from street corners today seem to be crude as they are sung in a high baritone, whereas songs sung in the past era of film music were more sophisticated. Comparing today's music with music sung in the 1960s and 70s, Sapna says, "There is a world of difference in music sung by singers during those days and today. Today's music does not have that melody which used to be in old time music. Old music has melody whereas today's music is very harsh. Today, there are many musical instruments, so that music is prepared pretty fast and it is easier for the music director. But the significant role played by music directors of yesteryears cannot be underestimated".

Is she enamoured of folk songs, one asks. Pat comes the reply, "Yes. But more so because my fans want me to sing such songs. It is also a fact that till the time I have no competitors, I have no risk. I have been greatly inspired by Daler Mehendi, whose folk songs motivated me to try it out myself."

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