Shahane fuses cultures in music
By Michelle J. Mills, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/06/2009 02:21:38 PM PST
[This article also appeared in the
Valley Tribune &
Whittier Daily News.]
Los Angeles-based Manisha Shahane has performed her eclectic blend of jazz
and Indian grooves around the world in places such as Israel, the United
Kingdom and America. Her lyrics are heartfelt and soul-baring at times,
merely observational at others. They intertwine moods, cultures and even
languages, with Shahane easily singing in Marathi, Hindi and English.
Shahane has lent her talents to a clutch of albums and released a solo
effort, "Peace in Progress," in 2004. In 2008 and 2009, she was the
recipient of the ASCAPlus Award in the Jazz and Popular Division.
Shahane is primarily a vocalist, but also plays piano and guitar. For her
performance at the Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena, she will be joined
by bassist Geoff Rakness, drummer Mark San Filippo and vocalist and flute
player Dawn Norfleet.
Shahane was born in Virgina and had her first taste of entertainment at age
6, singing in a talent show. Her musical dream came into focus a few years
"I remember the first time I was asked what I wanted to be and I said a
musician," Shahane said. "I was 11 at that time. I played piano first: that's
my main instrument. I play guitar, but I'm not a guitarist."
Shahane studied piano throughout high school and voice in college and while
earning degrees in economics and foreign affairs. She has worked in the
professional fields of business and consulting, as well as music-oriented
jobs, such as serving as choral director with Urban Voices program of the
Metropolitan Opera Guild and a musician-instructor for Rock the Classroom in
"For many people you think about using your degree to earn a particular
income," Shahane said. "Being a musician has been my focus since 2002. I
think a lot of people don't understand how much organization is involved in
the business side of music."
Shahane composes most of her music on the piano or guitar and also
experiments with a digital tabla. She doesn't have a formula to her writing,
although she is aware of patterns that may come up.
"I think sometimes what I do is like a collage, putting different things
together," Shahane said.
The songwriting varies. Sometimes the music will come first, other times the
lyrics do. She also changes her pieces over time.
"Sometimes I add things later and the song continues to evolve," Shahane
said. "If you listen to the recorded version, then you go to YouTube and you
see a live version, you'll hear a different arrangement."
Shahane writes the English and Indian language lyrics for her material, and
she also borrows lines from Indian poems, prayers and cover songs, often
creating a masala by blending lines from each.
Shahane considers herself a born and bred Southerner. She lived with her
grandmother and two aunts in Mumbai, India during fourth grade and her
experiences in both countries, along with her globetrotting, have filtered
into her music.
In India, "I had to learn the language to read and write, although I went to
an English medium school," she said. "But I still needed to learn the
language that we spoke at home and learn the script for that. Because I did
that, my pronunciation of the Indian languages tends to be less Americanized.
The switching back and forth (between languages) makes it sound like I have
two voices," Shahane said.
Shahane is married and has a 13-year-old stepson. She loves to cook. "Food is
a big part of everything at rehearsal" she said. "Even on the next album,
you're going to hear some mustard seeds popping for the food that I was
cooking for the musicians who were there during that session. We'll have to
see where I'm going to work that in."
Shahane has been working on her next effort for two years and expects to
release it sometime this year.
At the Coffee Gallery Backstage, Shahane is promising a show filled with
firsts. It will be the first time she has performed at the venue, the first
time this incarnation of her group will play together and the first time she
will introduce her alter-ego on stage, a character she wants to keep a
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