Uma Devraj: The Band And The Female Gang
- Vaishnavi Samvedi
How many times have you heard a music band with only women musicians? We can barely remember to get a name into our minds. It’s not that we have a scarcity of female musicians, the fact of the matter is we don’t have enough or equal space for female musicians to share the stage and mesmerize audiences with their magic. Bringing a touch of magic, Uma Devraj is a musician and yes, she has her band. She’s stepped beyond and self-created a position she’s proud to be at and aspires to achieve the ambition her band has set. She’s brave, creative, fearless, and true to herself, to her art, and most importantly to her music. Her interview gives you a lot to think about with her simple, straightforward, and righteous voice.
When did you start learning to play the keyboard?
The Musical interest prevailed ever since I was in school…My dad is a very hardcore music lover due to which I have grown up listening to old Bollywood songs and Raj Kapoor songs… The actual learning started with harmonium at the age of 12 under the guidance of Shri Kakaji Safaya sir. Keyboard, I haven’t taken any formal training, it’s a skill that I developed on my own. For the technical things like musical notations etc, I have been trained under Shri Ankush Hadavale sir.
What is the journey of a female musician in the industry? What are the struggles, lessons, and achievements?
The journey is not very easy as it is still a male-dominated sector as far as musicians are concerned. The most difficult and the most initial struggle was about acceptance by fellow musicians and event organizers. It initially took a bit of time for those musicians who are my dearest friends of mine now, to accept me as one of them. But, like every field, your work speaks for itself here too. You perform and you flourish, you fail to work hard and you perish. The struggles included late-night traveling, handling instruments that require quite a lot of physical strength, managing jobs (employment), and then doing music professionally. If your work is good and at par with your male counterparts, you receive immense respect as a musician in this industry.
If there’s one thing your band could change about the industry, what would it be?
Yes, I was kind of waiting for this question. My concern here is not limited only to female musicians but to the Full Musician fraternity as a whole. Yes, we chose art, but we have a family to feed too. There is a lot of difference in the remuneration of a vocalist and a musician. For every show, the time and the effort put in is the same, everyone in the band has developed their skill, worked hard, travels to the show and back home, gives out equal time for the show. So, if the individual contribution is equal then the pay should also be equal. There are many or I would say almost all bands in the western countries who pay their team members equally, may it be a vocalist, musician, or any other artist.
How do y’all keep the energy and the spirit going during the pandemic?
The pandemic did teach us a lot of things. For keeping the morale high and for not letting the frustration of missing out on shows take you over, I and my band switched to youtube. I have my channel in the name of Uma Devraj where I keep uploading videos regularly. The love and affection plus the respect received are enormous. It gave us the right push to still hope for things to be normal and resume shows asap.
Are there any upcoming projects you’d like to share with us?
As of now, I’m looking at expanding my band with more female musicians and also trying out different genres, Indian folk music being the most prominent one.