When a musical instrument is a child’s favourite toy, you instantly know they could be a prodigy. One could mistake Sneha Shankar as an ordinary 11-year-old — but only until she arrives on stage and ends up delivering a flawless performance.
Thanks to Sneha, the Pandit Motiram Pandit Maniram Sangeet Samaroh held in the city last weekend couldn’t have a better finale. The winner of mega music reality show, Asia’s Singing Superstar 2016 as well as the youngest contestant of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs 2015, she mesmerised the audience with her power-packed singing, especially when she crooned Damadam Mast Qalandar.
Born and brought up in Mumbai, Sneha is the granddaughter of the famous Sufi singer, the late Shri Shankarji of Shankar-Shambhu fame. She started classical music lessons at the age of three, learning from father, Ram Shankar. “Daddy says training in all genres is important for versatility. Every day, a minimum of half an hour’s riyaaz is a must. There hasn’t been a single day when I missed it. In fact, I ensure my father schedules his days to suit my riyaaz,” shares Sneha, who is very clear about her goals.
“I remember watching a video in which daddy was singing and I was aping him by lip syncing, when I was just 2. I started singing in sur very early on and that’s when my parents thought I should take up singing,” she recalls.
Apart from her father, Sneha treats Shreya Ghoshal and Arijit Singh as her idols and wants to be a playback singer just like them. “I follow Lata Mangeshkarji and Asha Bhosleji’s ghazals and often sing them in my shows. The dream of my dad and I is that I become a playback singer,” she states.
Does signing amongst stalwarts intimidate the little one? No, she says. “When I perform, I concentrate on my song and singing so there is no room for fear,” Sneha reveals. The presence of ace musicians like Shankar Mahadevan, Suresh Wadekar and others seem to only get the best out of this confident star.
This sixth grader is not just her family’s favourite, she is also adored by all of her teachers and no major school function is complete without her performance. No wonder, her school supports her immensely despite her missing classes due to work.
And like most children, does Sneha like cold beverages — the Kryptonite of musicians? “I don’t like cold drinks or ice-creams but honestly, I don’t mind sacrificing this for the sake of music,” she says.
Talking about her hobbies, Sneha says, “Music is my play and musical instruments are my toys. When I am bored, I play the piano and love cycling with my friends.”