Q&A: From Gujarati folk songs to Bollywood hits, singer Priyanka Kher has the range – The Indian SCENE

Q&A: From Gujarati folk songs to Bollywood hits, singer Priyanka Kher has the range

Singer Priyanka Kher began performing for crowds at age 6, and hasn't stopped since.

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Born to a middle class farming family in Gujarat, one of five children, Priyanka Kher didn’t have much money to spend on vocal training and music education growing up. Though she didn’t take formal lessons until moving to Ahmedabad for work after college, Kher has been singing and performing for nearly her whole life, beginning with a live performance in front of 300 when she was just 6. Kher, a Michigan resident who attended graduate school at Oakland University, now performs regularly at cultural and private events, for crowds up to 5,000 and in front of national and international audiences. The Indian SCENE spoke to Kher to learn about her early experiences singing, her inspiration and her most memorable performances.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.

The Indian SCENE: How did you get into singing?

Priyanka Kher: I started singing from a very young age. I gave my first live performance when I was 6, in front of 300 people at school. My sister taught me a beautiful Gujarati song and all the students and teachers clapped so loudly which motivated me to perform frequently during prayers at school. My class teacher and school principal encouraged me a lot. They used to teach me Gujarati folk, sugam, prayer songs and Hindi poems with harmonium and tabla during recess time. They took me to the other villages and cities for singing competitions. I was enjoying my childhood musical journey and used to win mostly all competitions, so teachers suggested my father to encourage me to sing and study both. I was a bright student in my school, so my father put me at Gandhinagar city for higher education where I continued my musical journey participating and winning singing competitions.

In college days, I was a part of a college band and used to perform at college events and big cultural festivals like Amul Volcano in Gujarat. I was learning and singing from the age of 6 but started taking vocal training in Hindustani classical music from local singing classes in Ahmedabad. I could not take education in music from a very young age as I was coming from such a small town where there is no music school available nearby. Also, I come from a middle class family. My father is a farmer and I have four siblings, so it was difficult. I couldn’t spend money on singing training along with education until I started a job in Ahmedabad. After coming to Ahmedabad I joined many bands and started performing in live events like corporate, cultural, wedding, Navaratri events, etc. I also did studio recordings in Ahmedabad.

IS: What kinds of performances do you typically do?

PK: I have my own band named Priyanka Kher & Band. We perform at different cultural events, community events, wedding events and live concerts. We perform in small to big crowd events from 300 people to 5k people in the USA. I have performed in Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Kansas, Illinois, New Jersey, California, Mississippi, Boston etc. I have also done some private events in Canada and Mexico.

IS: What was your most memorable performance?

PK: Remembering my most memorable performance in India, I sang a prayer and national anthem in front of Narendra Modi, a chief guest at a tech-festival in our engineering college (CITC). Also, I remember my singing performance at the Raritan Center in New Jersey in 2016 in front of a huge crowd and renowned Bollywood and Gujarati industry artists. It was memorable for me because I received so many compliments from them. I performed some classic, old and new Bollywood melodies and Gujarati folk songs. The crowd response was amazing.

IS: Looking back, what would you do differently?

PK: Well, it would have been great if I could have traveled many places in India before I came to the U.S., as I believe one would know much more about different cultures, languages, people, music through traveling, but I will surely do that in future.

IS: Who or what inspires you?

PK: My parents, God and music. My husband (Vikas Patel) motivates me a lot to follow my passion. He is an engineer and filmmaker. We both belong to the art field, so it’s very easy to understand each other’s work.

IS: What is next for you?

PK: More music videos, songs and collaboration with renowned artists on my YouTube channel, which has over 2.5 million views from all over the world. I am very much excited for our upcoming short film named “Agan Pankhudi.”

IS: What don’t people know about you?

PK: Apart from singing I also like to write lyrics for songs. I have my own production company named “Priyanka Kher Productions” in the USA. I also produce music videos and small film projects under my company. I do all the live events under this company in the USA.

Priyanka’s Favorites

Favorite Song: There are so many songs. I can’t say just one, but I like the music of A. R. Rahman, Pritam, Sachin-Jigar & Amit Trivedi 

Favorite Cuisine: Gujarati & South Indian food. It changes a lot.

Favorite Thing to Do When Not Singing: Writing lyrics for songs, watching movies, cooking favorite foods, traveling, cycling, outdoor sports.

Favorite Place On Earth to Visit: Leh Ladakh, Switzerland, Hawaii and many more. Nature attracts me a lot. I love all the places where there are mountains, water, trees. I get peace, inspiration and different energy from such places. 

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