Love, Music, and Stage Fright!

A lot of people, including my father, have asked me how I deal with stage fright. I’d like to quote Bob Dylan here. He once said, ‘I'm mortified to be on the stage, but then again, it's the only place where I'm happy’. That’s precisely it.

I’m a bundle of nerves right till the time I hit the first note. Sweaty palms, knot in the stomach, the fear of forgetting lyrics and missing cues- just the thought of being on stage seems like a nightmare! Yet, it’s the one place where an artiste can truly be herself- no pretence, no hiding, no masks.

Nothing gives an artiste more joy than connecting with people through their art. In my case, it’s my music. No joy is greater than watching people sing along with you, jump out of their seats and break into a jig, clap boisterously after every song, shout for an encore, jostle with each other just to shake hands with you, and queue up for a photograph! Being on stage is like having an affair with the audience. It’s the most unadulterated form of love that can ever exist. And, no amount of nerves and sweaty palms can come in the way of this love story!

The sort of mental preparation that goes in before getting up on stage feels like preparing for war! Like Richard Thompson once said, ‘To stand up on a stage alone with an acoustic guitar requires bravery bordering on heroism’. There’s a terrible fear of going down unceremoniously, and embarrassingly. One could trip on one of the many wires that crisscross the stage. Or, the voice could crack midway through a song.

Imagine messing up the tune or, words of a popular song in front of a packed auditorium. Oh, the horror! Academy award winner, the winner of multiple Grammies, and my personal favorite Adele had once said in an interview, ‘I get so nervous on stage I can't help but talk…I try telling my brain: stop sending words to the mouth. But I get nervous and turn into my grandma. Behind the eyes it's pure fear.

I find it difficult to believe I'm going to be able to deliver’. Truer words have not been spoken! But, ultimately it’s the love for music and listeners that helps us overcome all the associated anxiety. Elvis Presley sums it up rather well, ‘A live concert to me is exciting because of all the electricity that is generated in the crowd and on stage’. Singing on stage is like a drug. It gives a high and sense of thrill like no other. And, once you’re hooked on, you’re addicted for life!

I cannot thank Delhi enough for the love they’ve given me and the appreciation they’ve shown for my music over the years. But, this time around was nothing less than magical. On the auspicious occasion of one of my favorite festivals, Eid, I played live at the India Habitat Centre courtesy Impresario India. I was told there were people thronging the aisles, sitting on the stairs, jostling for space to just stand at the back. There were countless hugs and handshakes after the show was over.

The blessings, the love, the encouragement are enough to keep me going for some time to come. And, I can’t wait to be back. To bring about more smiles, give more joy, and meet many many more of you! This love story has only just begun!

Malini Banerjee is a snotty single child, mountain junkie, playback singer, Austen addict, hopes to soon finish writing her debut novel, and dreams of singing alongside Buddy Guy.
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