Chai with Manju: Singing Superstars – Shirish Nimgaonkar

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Shirish-Nimgaonkar
Photo by Rasik Mehta

Shirish Nimgaonkar is a composer, singer and founder of the music band “Kashish” and has performed extensively in the United States and internationally. He was the winner of one of New England’s best musical contests called “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa.” Professionally, he is a managing director at an investment bank in Boston, who describes his ability to work very hard as his biggest strength and losing his blackberry as his biggest fear.

How were you introduced to singing?

My parents and grandparents all had a strong interest in music. So they encouraged me to start learning music at a very early age.
Did you have any formal training? If yes, from whom, and at what age did you start?

I started learning music when I was around 4 years old and later earned a “Sangeet Visharad” in Indian classical music — vocals (equivalent to bachelor’s degree in music) and “Madhyama Purna” in tabla. I also learned the harmonium and keyboard for a while.
When did you first perform on stage and what song?

I think I was around 6 years old when I performed Raag “Durga” on stage for the first time.
What do you think is unique about your approach to singing?

I love singing classical and semi-classical compositions and, of late, have been experimenting with a combination of Indian semi-classical music and Western beats.
How do you prepare before going on stage or before a performance?

Professionally I travel quite a bit, so I try not to travel at least for a week before my shows. Of course, ongoing practice is very important for voice training.
Which artist inspires you the most?

My favorite Indian singers are Mohammad Rafi for his soothing versatile voice and Manna Dey for his classical mastery. Among the newer artists, I admire Rahat Fateh Ali Khan for his unique blend of Hindustani classical and modern music and Shankar Mahadevan for his amazing diversity in vocal skills.
What inspired you to start your own music band?

I started the music band “Kashish” (meaning “attraction”) around three years ago to bridge my passions for music and community service. All team members of Kashish have received training in classical music (Indian and Western) and share a deep passion for social causes. Some of the full time musicians from the Berklee College of Music have also joined Kashish. Our music transcends the boundaries of cultures, generations and time. We have original compositions in Indian and Western music, fusion music and also perform Bollywood music extensively. You can get more information about the group at www.kashish­tunes.com.
Which performance did you think was your best or most satisfying?

Kashish recently performed at a fund-raiser for the American India Foundation, one of the leading U.S.-based foundations focused on catalyzing social change in India. We experimented with a diverse combination of Indian classical, light and Western compositions that were aligned in their Ragas (combination of notes) and Taal (beats). It was a unique and very creative experience and was received well by the audience. We also helped AIF to raise over $1 million that evening and that was very satisfying.
Did you ever think of singing as a profession?

Perhaps, in a few years, I was quite honored to be approached by two music directors from Bollywood a few months ago, for their upcoming movies. But music requires sustained practice over a long period of time and I know I have a lot to learn.
How do you balance your passion for singing with work, family, etc.?

It has been a challenge devoting as much time as I would like to music. But I know that it’s a journey.
What are some of your future goals?

To continue to combine my passions for music and community service.
And finally, here is his instant response to Rapid Fire Questions:

Music is … My Blackberry with me all the time.
Fame is … fleeting.
Money is … weather App — useful to have.
Love is … sweet and sour.
Secret of a good marriage is … flirting and trust.
My best quality is … patience.
My biggest fear is … losing my Blackberry.
My biggest strength is … ability to work very hard.
My next show is … Kashish: A Journey of Music in Spring 2013.
My last word today on Chai with Manju is … fabulous and enticing.

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