The Anushka Jag Project

When it comes to American music audiences, there seems to be a consistent schedule by decade of noticing one or two female artists from outside the states and embracing them fully. Alanis Morissette and Celine Dion (of Canada) in the 90’s. Shakira (Colombia) and Rihanna (Barbados) in the early 2000’s. While Adele had received success in her UK homeland, it was 2009 when she hit her stride of acceptance in the US. Attention is turning towards a new female artist from yet another exotic location to those in the States, Anushka Jag from Mumbai. While the influence of India’s music is part of her DNA, she was weaned and raised on Western music and it’s the pull of this style that has created her unique artistic personality. Working with some major heavyweights in the American music industry (including many Grammy Award winners) indicators are pointing to Anushka as being that “once in a decade” find that US audiences latch onto once or twice per decade. Speaking with the accent of an American perspective but possessing that indescribable difference and magnetism, Jag is a likely contender to take a place among these other female artists as the 2010’s round-out towards the next decade.

In an era of instant pop celebrities, Jag has followed the tried and true template of building a fanbase through touring. A great success in her homeland of India, the influence of more Western mainstream music beckoned her to perform internationally. The singer’s concerts in Singapore, Europe, and beyond have exponentially increased her admirers. Following in the footsteps of such music legends as Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, Morrissey, and others; Jag has performed at iconic venues like the Troubadour in London and the Hootananny in Brixton (voted as London’s top live music venue and the Best Live Music Pub in the UK).

An aspect that many of Anushka’s fans find so attractive is the inclusion of humor into her lyrics. During a time when so much of the discussion of world events is spoken in a grave tone, her music provides some positive respite. Although it’s her ultimate goal to be positive and lighthearted (for the most part), this isn’t an outcome which is achieved without great skill. To assist her, Jag has an impressive team of songwriters whom she works with constructing music for the upcoming “Anushka Jag Project.” Wendy Starland, an accomplished singer/songwriter/producer, began co-writing with Anushka after witnessing her incredible vocal talent. Credited for discovering Lady Gaga, Starland’s stamp of approval in the Western music industry serves to vet Jag as one of the most important voices to enter the market in some time. Further cementing the reflection of Gaga’s career is Anushka’s professional relationship with Jennifer O’Neill. After spending seven years as an A&R with Clive Davis at both Arista and J Records, followed by a stint at Columbia and TVT Records (working with Pitbull, Lil John, and Keke Wyatt), Jennifer is also credited for discovering and mentoring Lady Gaga for a number of years and touring with her on the global “Monster Ball” tour as well as working with Kelly Clarkson. O’Neill has co-written many of the songs on Anushka’s forthcoming release in addition to providing A&R and Artist Development guidance. O’Neill confirms that she expects Anushka’s record to accompany the platinum plaques on her office wall alongside those she has received from artists such as Whitney Houston, Santana, Sarah McLachlan, Kenny G, Pink, Toni Braxton, Puff Daddy, Notorious BIG and many more. Other songwriting team members include: New York based songwriter and producer Kyle Kelso (best known for co-writing the hit song “Stole the Show” with Norwegian DJ Kygo) and Isaac Hasson (musician, songwriter, record producer), co-writer of Demi Lovato hits “Here we go again,” “U got nothing on me,” and Selena Gomez’s “I promise you,” “More,” and “Live Like There’s No Tomorrow.” Lending more credence to the impact the public is expected to feel from Jag’s music is her collaboration with recording artist and Grammy award winning record producer John Jones, known for his work with Duran Duran, Fleetwood Mac, Celine Dion, and numerous others (Jones won a Grammy for producing Celine Dion’s album Falling into you which won album of the year and Best Pop Album as well as Duran Duran’s multi-million selling comeback record The Wedding Album, featuring the award-winning song “Ordinary World.”)

It’s a valid question to ask why so many of the music industry’s most notable professionals are so interested in this artist from India. Perhaps the most important of these is the unique and innovative approach which Jag possesses. There’s an obvious influence from her home country while it’s also apparent that she loves the music that many of us in America have always known. Filter these two concepts through the prism of Jag never formally studying songwriting until quite recently and the result is an artist who speaks (or sings in this case) in a manner that is not derivative and yet pays respect to the great pop, r&b, and rock artists of modern era music.

In addition to the aforementioned affinity for humor, Anushka’s songs are endearing in their ability to communicate vulnerability. Producer Dustin Brown (known for his work on CW’s Dynasty reboot) proclaims “Anushka is one of the most potent and vulnerable lyricists I work with, and a brave inspiring artist. Her talent is matched only by her work ethic.” The connective tissue between music artist and listener has always been the public profession of feelings that we all keep private. Whether it’s anger, despair, or love, the open profession of these inner fears is the liberation that anthems are made of. One of Jag’s favorites of her latest songs is “Taboo.” She describes, “Taboo is about feelings for someone who is totally out of bounds; scandalous feelings. The Indian elements in this song are the Tablas [Indian percussion]. The tablas were recorded in Bombay by a respected Indian classical Tabla player. We blended this with modern production, creating a pop song with a very sensual vibe. The hook is very catchy with lyrics like ‘Words unsaid like a bullet in my chest that rips my heart in two — I am so into you but these feelings are taboo.” The 1950’s inspired 6/8 “Love You Like You Never Left” is contemporary in production and instrumentation but implies the longing of a torch song from the past midcentury. An exotic embrace of her Indian roots comes in the form of the tune “Rebirth” which the singer notes, “It also uses Indian instruments, including the tablas. The rebirth theme is very Indian, since the Hindus believe in the idea of being born again. However, this song is actually about overcoming difficulties and being reborn by setting the past on fire; an idea anyone can relate to. The bridge of the song is special as we used a Buddhist Chant ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ which means ‘emerging from the mud and becoming a lotus [padme].’ I love the honesty of presenting the ideas I grew up with and placing them in the context of a very modern world.”

One of the most endearing qualities of Anushka Jag is her transparency and authenticity. She is an artist who refuses to pretend to be only one thing. A singer/songwriter who fully embraces both where she is from and where her interests lie currently. These attributes have caused industry icons as well as the public to fix their gaze upon her. We live in a time when many women and many artists are told who they should be; Anushka Jag is defiant of all who would impose a label on her because the only one she will accept is “Anushka.”

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kkingme2003@yahoo.com

Kelly King writes for numerous popular online media outlets in addition to being a staff writer for NYC & LA based/internationally published Drumhead magazine.