Her hallmark has been her versatility. From rendering soft romantic numbers to singing Bhajans with a religious devotion, Sailabhama Mohapatra has been able to carve a niche for herself in the industry due to her hard work and passion for music. With more than 300 playback songs in her kitty and many more live performances, she is today a household name in Odisha. My City Links caught up with the talented singer to know more about her journey in the Odia music industry.
How did you start singing, and how did you find yourself as a singer?
I belong to a singer’s family. Basically, my mother was a good singer and so since our childhood, she used to train me and my sister. That is how we started singing. Gradually, I started getting offers for radio and stage programmes and a new journey began for me. My music teachers and all those I worked with used to tell my mother then that I will become a big singer some day and here I am!
What were the challenges in the initial days?
My initial days were very challenging. Although my mother was supporting me, my father was completely against my singing. He always wanted me to focus on my studies. So I had to work hard to train myself without the support from my father. I remember I used to walk four kms everyday after school to go for my music training classes.
How did you get your first playback singing offer?
When I was 15 years old, I had come to Cuttack for a stage show. It was during that time that renowned music director Purna Khuntia noticed my work and asked me to sing a song for Odia film ‘Maa Jahara saha’ and that was how I got my first break. In that film, I got a chance to sing with many veteran singers including Truptee Das and Namita Dash.
You have been there in the industry for a long time. What are the major differences you see now and then?
There have been a lot of differences. During those days, it took a lot of time and hard work for a singer to achieve fame. But these days, thanks to media, singers are getting immediate name and fame. Besides, these days, the singers are getting a lot of exposure which wasn’t the case some years back. From reality shows to social media, singers today have many opportunities to showcase their talent.
Earlier, many albums used to be made in the industry but today there are hardly any albums being produced. Has that affected the work of singers?
Yes, of course, it has affected the work of singers because many started their career from albums. The fact remains that albums used to give singers a chance to sing different types of songs. But these days, it is only films songs where they can showcase their talent. Even music lovers have been affected. Like in my case, I know people started enjoying my songs and following me only after my albums released.
Although these days the number of Odia film songs has gone up, the quality has come down. What could be the reason behind it?
Yes quality compromise is being seen in most of the songs but it isn’t that all songs are being compromised. Good songs are still composed by our composers. But the major reason behind the deteriorating quality of songs is that most of the songs are being copied from others and being produced in no time only to complement a particular movie sequence. So, the essence of originality goes missing in these songs.
Although you sing both romantic numbers and Bhajans, you prefer singing only Bhajans on stage. Any specific reason behind it?
No, there is no specific reason. It’s just that I prefer to perform Bhajans on stage. I feel my fans and followers prefer seeing me perform Bhajans and not romantic numbers. Although I have sung many romantic numbers for films and albums, I have got name and fame from Bhajan Antakshari and other spiritual shows on television.
Is it possible to depend on singing profession alone for a livelihood?
Yes it is quite possible, and I would like to say that I am the biggest example of it. I have got everything from this industry. I have earned name, fame and money to lead a normal and respectful life in the society.
You have been a part of this industry since long. So, how has been your experience like?
When I joined the industry, I was only concerned about doing good work. I never experienced any unfair competition. But these days, newcomers are ready to do anything to secure a place in the industry and as a result of which real talents are suffering.
It is said that for an artist, love comes across as an inspiration. So, is there a hidden inspiration for Sailabhama?
Yes, it is true that for an artist, love is an inspiration, but for me my love is music. I have always been busy in my work and with my family and so I have had no time for any relationship. Besides, I don’t think I can give time to any such relationship either.
What would be your message for the upcoming singers in the industry?
My message to them is that they should not run after fame or do anything to get fame. Because they are not just responsible for themselves, they have the responsibility of the next generation as well. They should do good work and be ready to toil hard in the industry. Only then can they give a clean industry to the next generation.