From Pop Star to Berklee, Vasuda Sharma Makes Music Her Way
When she decided to come to Berklee, Vasuda Sharma '12 already had what many leaving Berklee hope to achieve. At 28, the New Delhi native had graduated university, where she studied sociology, and was enjoying a thriving career as an active musician in Mumbai. She was perhaps most well known in India for her work with the band Aasma, a hitmaking pop band that came out of the national reality show Coke (V) Popstars.
Despite her success, she wanted something more. She sat down with Berklee to talk about why she came to Boston for a year to pursue a diploma, and about how that move has since shaped her career. Edited and abridged comments from that conversation are presented below.
You were a pop star at 18. After a decade as a successful musician, why did you decide to come to Berklee in 2011?
“I was doing a lot of gigs, and I was earning a lot of money. I’m pretty much known in the music circuit here. But in terms of satisfaction as a musician, or something that you do for your personal need, [I wanted] to become better, not just bigger. So my personal need was to learn more and get inspired, more than just doing the same things over and over, earning a lot of money but just being there.
Berklee is a very prestigious and renowned college. There are students here—new singer-songwriters—who are in awe if you’ve been to Berklee, and they’re all dying to audition. They’re all dying to be there and they keep sending me mail and keep asking me questions about the experience. And I always tell them that it’s once-in-a-lifetime—that if you really want it you really have to work hard to be there. But once you get there, you’ll just learn so much. So I think everyone’s really excited if you’ve been to Berklee, especially in India.”
What did you study at Berklee and how have you used it in your career?
“I went for contemporary writing and production and I did some sight-reading classes. I had all these ideas in my head, but to put them on paper and give it to someone was a big, big deal. And before [Berklee] I would always do the guesswork. I’d give [my band] references: ‘Okay, I want you to play like this, that, that’...and they would have their own interpretation. Berklee helped me be a musician who can actually communicate what she has in mind. When that happened, I was much more confident; I was much more certain of my music. I knew exactly what I wanted. Before I would kind of leave it in the air and have all sorts of things that I might not be happy with but would still go ahead with because I knew that I was not equipped to do what was needed. But Berklee helped me kind of gain that ‘Okay, this is the song I have.’
Other than that, it’s just the experience of interacting with so many musicians from all over, especially the faculty and the people there; they’re so encouraging that you discover a lot of things about yourself. And when you find your strengths, you become more confident and that shows in your performance and in your interaction with people. So when I got back, people could see that I knew my music better than I knew it before. When that confidence comes across, I think people take you more seriously. Berklee helps you grow and people see that.”
What did you do when you returned to India?
“I did a crowdfunding campaign here, back in 2012. I managed to raise a big sum, and I released an album called Attuned Spirits, which featured 13 musicians. It’s a folk-fusion album that I released independently. And that did really well here in India. Through that crowdfunding, I was able to pay them back, so that was very, very satisfying. Since then I’ve been actively involved in the independent scene in India, with my own band [not Aasma] and with playing my own music in festivals all over the country—just my ukulele and my voice and a little bit of live looping that I do on my own. So it has just been a very pretty journey after Berklee.”
Watch a music video for “Laagi Lagan” by Vasuda Sharma: