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Interview With YouTube Sensation Vidya Vox

Courtesy of Vidya Vox
Courtesy of Vidya Vox

If you spend a lot of time scrolling through Facebook videos or searching for videos of the chart-toppers on YouTube, you would almost certainly come across a video from Vidya Vox.

It would have caught your interest when you saw the name of a popular song in the title, attached to another song you may not know. You click on it, probably expecting a mediocre cover at best. But suddenly, you become enthralled, as the English song gently fades into a Hindi or Tamil song so seamlessly that you are hardly able to point out the differences in the songs.

The music would be different too; elements of Indian Classical sounds merge perfectly with the beats of your favorite songs. Both the songs become one — a Vidya Vox creation that proudly showcases her Indian-American heritage.

Vidya’s mashups have become increasingly popular over the last two years, allowing for great success. She launched her YouTube channel in 2015, and since then, she has gained over 3 million subscribers and around 350 million views.

Born in Chennai, Vidya grew up in Virginia and later moved to Los Angeles. Originally, she endeavored to study medicine and earned a degree in psychology from George Washington University. While working towards this, she decided to pursue music as a full-time career. As a child, she had already studied Carnatic classical music, so this gave her the perfect background to find success in the industry.

Her most successful video is her mash-up of The Chainsmokers’ Closer and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’s Kabira. The video currently has 51 million views, and the number goes up every day.

Vidya has also released Kuthu Fire, an EP, which received great reactions from fans. In the spirit of the mashups that propelled Vidya to the forefront of YouTube stardom, Kuthu Fire features original songs that reflect her Indian-American heritage with a genre-mixing and culture-blending sound that is all her own and universal in its appeal.

The original songs on Kuthu Fire, written and produced by Vidya and composer Shankar Tucker, are inspired by Indian folk music and feature Indian folk instruments fused with electronic beats and hip-hop style arrangements, sung predominantly in English.

Vidya Vox has embarked on a tour, with performances all over the world. South African fans have already enjoyed her stunning performance, and the reactions are only positive!

Until she reaches your city, you can bide your time by listening to her songs on repeat.

(Read on for an exclusive interview with Vidya Vox!)

How did you come to pursue music as a career?

It was more of a journey. I was doing my college degree in psychology, looking to pursue the medical school track. I love science. However, I collaborated with Shankar Tucker in college, and that changed the course of my life. He showed me that I could potentially create my own songs and have people around the world connect with them. I didn’t have to wait for anyone, and he was doing just that with his creations on YouTube. He really trail blazed that path as there wasn’t really anyone at that time doing that in Indian music.

Why did you decide to create mashups instead of original songs or even straight forward covers?

Mashups are a lovely blend of who I am — of my upbringing. They felt natural, more so than straight covers. I didn’t start out creating original work because I didn’t know exactly what direction I wanted to go in. Mashups were great for me in that way; I could dabble in many different genres and see what I liked and what felt natural. Now I know what I want to say with my music and am discovering who I am through that process

What inspired you to create and release your original songs?

It’s been a process. I’ve been sneaking in original songs like “Come Alive” mashed up with Indian songs here and there to dabble in it. Shankar and I have been writing original songs since we started the Vidya Vox channel, and it’s great to see how our style and process has improved since then. I know now what I want to say with my original music, and my experiences inspire me to write songs.

You seem to be combining the two cultures that you have been exposed to, Indian culture and Western culture. Is it a difficult task to find a balance?

Absolutely. It’s really easy to swing too much on either side, so I usually need to step back with each song and make sure it’s balanced. This is much easier with a mash-up cover, of course, but much harder with original music.

As an Indian living in the United States, have you ever experienced difficulty in establishing your identity?

Growing up, I had a very rough time with this. It always felt like two separate worlds at home and at school. I was constantly trying to hide one from the other. This only changed in college, where it was multi-racial, and I had a lot of Indian friends. I joined a Garba-Raas team and started participating in all the Indian organizations on campus.

Currently, racial tension is rife the US. Has this ever affected you or your music?

I luckily didn’t experience much racism or teasing past middle school, and I’m grateful for that. It definitely affects me overall because people tend to forget that we are all one and exactly the same, no matter the skin color or country we are from. It’s really shocking that these large tensions exist today. It was always thought of as something my parents’ generation fought — something of the past. It’s up to our generation to really love one another and fight and speak up for equality.

How do you choose songs that go so well together?

It really depends on two things: tempo and scale. Those are the basics. If they can be similar to both songs, that is a great start. Then there are more subtle factors, like feeling and production style. However, most of the production Shankar has done recently is usually quite different from the original, so that’s not a factor anymore.

Have you ever received any backlash from the original artists of the songs you use?

Not really, quite opposite actually. Many have reached out saying how much they love our renditions, which is the best feeling ever.

You have collaborated with many people. How do these collaborations happen?

I usually only collaborate with friends or friends of friends. I’ve known many of the people on my channel for years, either through my time in Mumbai or through Shankar. I love collaborating because it adds a different texture and feel to the song.

As a YouTube artist, is it easier or more difficult to further your career as a singer?

That’s a great question. It really depends on the end goal. I really want to continue doing originals, so I’m not sure yet. It’s great that there is a subscriber base from the mashups. However, we’ll see! Original music is a different ball game, it really shows your heart on a sleeve.

Every YouTuber has to deal with the dark side of the comment section. How do you deal with internet trolls and hateful comments?

I try not to pay attention to them. I think that’s the best way to deal with it. I stopped reading comments on my videos last year. It’s just so easy for people to get you down with something you’ve been working hard on and are proud of.

Who are your inspirations?

Musically, so many! Everyone from AR Rahman, Major Lazer, Adele, Beyonce, MS Subhalakshmi, and Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande.

Have you ever considered taking the next step into Bollywood?

I’m not opposed to it if the right project comes along! I think right now the next step comes from creating my own music and putting out what I love. I want to enter a project where I will have a creative say, and nothing like that has come up so far!

Your YouTube channel currently has over 3 million subscribers. You’ve performed at the White House, and you have Hrithik Roshan as a fan. These are major achievements. How does this make you feel?

It’s been amazing, and sometimes I can’t believe the experiences I’m blessed with. I’m just really happy that everyone is connecting with the music. There is nothing more I could ask for.

How did you deal with the process of becoming famous? Has it made a big change in your life?

I don’t really think about it – to be honest. I live in Los Angeles, so unless you’re Brad Pitt or a Kardashian here, nobody cares which is great! I can focus on what’s most important, which is creating a great live show and working on my music.

How was your experience in South Africa?

I just finished the concerts there, and it was everything and more I could have asked for. The love and the people were amazing! It was the first shows of the Kuthu Fire Tour — something that Shankar and I have been working on and rehearsing since May. I couldn’t have asked for a better place or an audience to debut it for.

What can your fans look forward to in the future?

More original music and a kickass live show! I hope to do a full-length album in the coming future and more live shows.

Kuthu Fire is available on iTunes and Spotify, and the music videos for each of the songs will soon be available on YouTube.

Watch the official music video for “Kuthu Fire,” the first song from the EP, here.

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Written by Aishvarya Singh

Aishvarya Singh is an aspiring writer and law student. She is into books, Bollywood and social justice. When she’s not writing, she is either binge watching series or reading. She lives in South Africa, and no, she does not have a pet lion. Find her on Twitter and Instagram: @ai5hvarya
Email: aishsingh113@yahoo.com

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