Rising in the East: Shayaan Oshidar is taking on the world

Shayaan Oshidar is the Indian artist you need to add to your playlist | Soho House

Supported by Bowers & Wilkins, Soho House catches up with the Mumbai-based artist about bridging the gap between Indian and English music

Friday 8 April 2022    By Praachi Raniwala

‘My foray into music was inevitable,’ says Shayaan Oshidar (aka Shai) as we settle into a quiet nook at Soho House Mumbai’s third floor for our interview. The independent singer-songwriter, who has just performed as a Soho Rising artist, says her childhood subliminally shaped her for her current career path; her father is an avid patron of world music and her mother trained in Indian classical. 

After studying at Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA), the Under 27 member now divides her time between her hometown of Mumbai and London. When she’s not producing her own music, Oshidar writes for the likes of Nicky Romero, W&W, Ayokay, Jay Pryor, Freedo, Moti and Frank Walker (she has more than 70 million streams for tunes she’s written). She can also be found recording for Netflix’s Lucifer and ITV’s Love Island UK and USA. 

In 2021, Oshidar released her first single ‘All Dressed Up’, followed by ‘Read Your Mind’ – both of the Hinglish (Hindi and English) genre. Her third single, ‘Jaane Doon’, comes out next week and is her first Hindi track. But don’t write her off as an Indian artist creating music just for her home base. Oshidar’s sound is rooted in Indian culture, but with a global world view. So the vibe for her latest release, as is true of all her work, is decidedly international. 

In a way, she bridges the gap between India and the UK, using crossover pop music as her medium. ‘“Jaane Doon” is Afrobeat and Latina inspired. As a human, I’m very international. I don’t fit in a box because I’m a bit of everything,’ she says. ‘I value my culture because have so much to share. But I am also constantly learning, and finding different stories and cultures to connect with. My work reflects that.’

Shayaan Oshidar is the Indian artist you need to add to your playlist | Soho House

How would you describe your sound?
‘It definitely has a pop vibe with R&B undertones. On the one hand I’m a romantic, and the other more Rosalía badass. That’s why I love working with Indian and Western producers simultaneously – so there’ll be a flute going alongside R&B pop beats. My voice is very UK dance too, and that’s just one more facet to me. So it’s really a mix of life and influences. But I’m first and foremost, a songwriter. Storylines are very important to me. I try to put as much of what I want to present in my music, so there’s Hinglish lyrics with bits of my Iranian heritage.’

Was being a songwriter always part of the plan?
‘I started writing poetry early on, which eventually evolved into songwriting. I love it because I get to hear stories and learn about new cultures every day. I studied it at university alongside singing and production. And at the end of my third year, seven students got a chance to write with Sir Paul McCartney, and that was my first “big little thing”. It was a half hour session, where we each got to show him one of our tunes, and then he would kind of rip them apart a little bit. But the feedback I got was positive, which was very cool as it gave me the reassurance of being a good songwriter.

‘I also started a band called Hicari in my third year at university. When we began sending our work to producers, a lot of them came back asking for the songs. It happened very organically, and it was like, “So I guess we are songwriters now”. We had a few big ones with some really cool dance people like Nicky Romero, W&W, and Jake Miller.’

Shayaan Oshidar is the Indian artist you need to add to your playlist | Soho House
Shayaan Oshidar is the Indian artist you need to add to your playlist | Soho House

What did living in the UK make you realise about the music scene in India. And what about the Indian diaspora and their take on pop back home? 
‘When I left for the UK, I suddenly missed everything about India, and it made me find more value in my own country. It was like, there’s so much culture and music that isn’t elsewhere. That’s when I decided to do Hinglish.

‘The Brit-Asian artists definitely bring in a fresh perspective – there’s so much sick stuff they are creating, I love it – but I also do feel they’re still living in the Shahrukh Khan era. Their perception of pop music in India, as well as their own sound, can be a little dated sometimes. There’s some catching up to do, it can definitely be cooler. I understand it’s an emotional take, as they try to hold on to their culture from a different country. But I do feel it can be updated with what’s going on here, just like how we’re constantly updated with the West.’ 

Shayaan Oshidar is the Indian artist you need to add to your playlist | Soho House

Do you think the Indian music industry is a privileged one, and was it hard to break in?  
‘That’s such a good question. I wouldn’t say it’s closed, but there is still a lot of focus on all-Hindi music by the major labels. They are more driven by what will work with the masses – which I get – but at the same time, sometimes you just want to take a risk.

‘The pandemic surely changed things in favour of the independent scene. Without many new movies, it was quiet on the Bollywood music front. And that turned out to be a great opportunity for artists like me. Zoya Akhtar’s film Gully Boy also changed things and rap suddenly became huge. People are getting more and more open-minded, which is helping the independent scene grow.’ 

Is there an industry stereotype you want to break away from? 
‘I find a lot of artists are just known by their songs in India. You often don’t know the artist at all. And many Indian musicians don’t have a signature personal style either… that artist persona is missing here. The boys all look cool and the girls look sweet, but they aren’t bringing personality to their visual image. Rosalía, for example, always has these ginormous, statement nails. It’s what I am trying to do with my bindi – something I’ve been wearing since my university days.

‘Because while, yes, it’s about the song; it is as much about the artist too. What are you all about? What’s your story? Why did you write the song? All my tracks are about me or a story that resonates with my identity.’ 

Shayaan Oshidar is the Indian artist you need to add to your playlist | Soho House
Shayaan Oshidar is the Indian artist you need to add to your playlist | Soho House

What’s next for you?
‘I am a very malleable person, and I enjoy a lot of different things within the creative space. I’ve always known that I would do many things as opposed to just songwriting or singing. I am an actor as well, and am pursuing opportunities on that front too right now.’

Tell us about your Soho Rising gig at Soho House Mumbai?
‘I hadn’t performed in so long due to the pandemic, and it just felt great to be in front of a live audience. It was the first time I had done such an intimate solo gig. I played with one of my best friends, Reuel Benedict, so that put me at ease. As much as I enjoyed performing, I also really loved the audience interaction, who were so lovely. I also previewed “Jaane Doon” for the crowd, which was perfect for the gig because it was so intimate. I saw smiling faces, and that made me happy.’

As part of her Soho Rising House tour, Rimon performed in Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona, Istanbul, Rome, and Paris. Presented in collaboration with Bowers & Wilkins, Soho Rising is our platform for championing the best emerging talent around, giving you the chance to see the stars of tomorrow first. Previous guests have included Arlo Parks, Griff, Holly Humberstone, serpentwithfeet, and Moses Boyd. 

Shayaan Oshidar’s latest single ‘Jaane Doon’ comes out on 12 April on all streaming platforms. 

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