It’s good to hear a Contralto after so long, all thanks to Indian-Australian singer Amritha Shakti and her new single Kingdom.
Though hardly common to female singing music history, the timbre and texture of a Contralto beckons no comparison. Think Annie Lennox... or our very own Usha Uthup. In fact, the only legit answer to the question 'Have you heard of Usha Uthup?' is 'What a Voice!'. My subwoofer always slides a few inches to the left when I play her songs.
"Coming from a Tamil background, I've noticed that we rarely ever see powerful female voices or tracks - I'm talking women who channel Rajni, who sing about success and strength and power." Shakti begins.
One immediately begins to draw parallels between Shakti and Uthup, both Tamizh women, both possessing voices that make you go 'Ooh', and both sharing similar experiences with the convention of high-pitched female singing voices.
"We often only hear women sing in really high-pitched voices (not that there's anything wrong with that) about topics like love - and they almost always take on the position of the "admired", the object or the passive voice. I wanted to flip that completely on its head."
Not unlike Uthup, who began singing professionally over fifty years ago and in a time when people thought that ladies' voices should be pretty and gentle.
Shakti continues, "I wanted this to tell a powerful story. I've grown up in Australia watching Rajnikanth movies, most of the Tamil community are massive Rajni fans - so I figured, why not channel his energy in this song and write a powerful song for women? Like a female Rajni. I love how it turned out, I personally find it so energising and empowering. When I heard the beat, I immediately saw visuals of the jungle in my head, so I imagined a scenario of a fiery Warrior Queen returning after many years away. She roars - Watch me arrive, I'm like a tiger, step aside"
Enter Surrey BC-based Asad Khan, AKA Khanvict. Originally from Pakistan, Khanvict has worked hard to build his name a sound that seamlessly blends the eastern influences of Bollywood and Punjabi music with a signature West Coast bass music punch. Khanvict is now one of the most in-demand DJs in the South-Asian scene in Canada.
He recounts the time they met, "It was at Popshift Sessions Music Festival last year in NYC. I heard her sing during her soundcheck and instantly told one of the organisers to introduce us afterwards - we connected there and I expressed that I'd love to do a song with her at some point."
Shakti chimes in, "I was visiting from Australia, originally only for 2 weeks - but after I got to New York and started meeting people in the creative scene, my mind was absolutely blown and I kept extending my trip. I eventually stayed on in NYC for 6 weeks and in the last week before I flew out of New York, we had our Sessions performance. I met Asad at the event, and I honestly remember being transfixed while watching him on set - the visuals, the audio, the experience - I'd never seen anything like it! So it's honestly an absolute pleasure (and a bit surreal) to be able to collaborate with him a year on!"
Having listened to Kingdom over and over again, we've noticed how the both of them have a rare and anomalous chemistry. Khan's modern technique blends so seamlessly with Shakti's classical style. It's all floaty and dreamy, particularly with the interspersing of atmospheric elements like flowing water, matka-like beats and an amazing background vocal melody towards the end of the song. More than anything, we think this track contains some of the best sound design we've seen in a long time. There's something so Rahmanesque about it.
"We went back and forth a lot! I really admired that Amritha didn't mind doing take after take until we got it right. Tarun (Nayar, whose digital label Snakes x Ladders manages Khanvict) and James wrote the guitar riff that I think really completed the track. I went back to Amritha countless times for more adlibs, harmonies etc until we really dialled it in. I then worked on the detail sections, the 'Candy', flute samples etc and the delays combined with a more bouncy b-section - this is one of my fav tracks I've made so far!" Khan gushes, while Shakti recounts how much she actually enjoyed the process.
"I could sense that Asad had a strong vision for the song and I fully trusted that vision. I think we were both really inspired by the track and we both wanted the best for it, and importantly the collaboration was fun. On a side note, it's super cool to think that we did this all remotely!"
Kingdom is Shakti's first song in Tamil and she wanted to step outside her comfort zone and pay homage to the language which is underrepresented in the South Asian and the global music scene.
"I really wanted to celebrate it through this song. I'm hoping Tamil women and beyond find this song really powerful!"
We, at Flipsyde, are sure they will!