Music Review: “Attuned Spirits,” Vasuda Sharma

The record condenses the singer/songrwriter’s musical journey through classical music, jazz, blues, rock and even folk giving you a spirit-lifting experience

Sharin Bhatti October 21, 2022
  • Songwriting
  • Production
  • Lyrics
  • Arrangement
Picture: Darshan Savla

Picture: Darshan Savla

Few years ago, singer/songwriter Vasuda Sharma was faced with the daunting task of choosing between falling into the labyrinthine, formulaic world of Bollywood singing. Or she could rediscover her own voice post her band Aasma, that was born out of a reality talent show more than a decade ago, split. The guitar slinging, looper-friendly Sharma chose the latter more uncharted journey, something that saw culmination in her debut album “Attuned Spirits.” Here is an artist who in the eye of stardom trained her melodic, honeysuckle voice and channeled her classical and devotional music learnings, jazz inspirations and that angsty Alanis Morisette lryicism into Vasuda Sharma 2.0. The new upgrade is everything her former “popstar” avatar wasn’t. And that is evident through the 11 tracks in her album. Recorded between Mumbai and Boston, Sharma’s songs feature artists from both the cities lending their violins, cellos, synths, keys, guitars and percussions to “Attuned Spirits.”

Album artwork

Album artwork

If you happen to find yourself cueing into the record on a road trip, you’d best picture a mirage with Sharma on a soapbox in an elevated park performing each of the songs for you as you snake around solitary paths. In itself “Attuned Spirits” is a mellifluous, slice-of-life journey. There’s the open invitation to the spirit of letting yourself go (opening track Maajhi), discovering love for Hindustani classical sangeet (Girdhar, Barsan Lage Nayan, Laagi Lagan), traversing through plains of folk music (Maula, Dhola) and then the introspective journey of finding (Calling Out To You), holding on (Keep The Faith), losing (Cruel World) and regaining (Never Lose Heart) yourself. The heavy instrumentation, arranged by Sharma, in her songs compliment the vocal melodies beautifully. You hear rock, jazz, blues, Persian, Rajasthani folk, ragas from Hindustani classical and even beat box blend around Sharma’s vocals. Each instrument and style of music is there for a reason and there’s complete justice for it’s inclusion.  Sharma has fearlessly borrowed from everything her ear has taken to and attuned her spirit to absorb and exude in almost a cyclical fashion.

Girdhar is a perfect example of her improvisation skills. The Meera bhajan is probably something Sharma grew up listening to in her hometown Mathura. But instead of the tanpura, sitar and tabla, you hear the melody through sax, guitars and drums with jazz stylings. Her vocal instrumentation alternated with long sax and guitar solos adding to a kind of a melodic sequence. Not overdone fusion, no underwhelming confusion - Girdhar  is one of those tracks that could easily make it to a live stage of the jam show Coke Studio @ MTV, instead of the overbearing hasty productions one hears often.

Just when you think you are comfortable with the pace of her album, Sharma changes things in the final three tracks. Keep The Faith is fleshed out as a rock song born out of a loop station and ample frustration, Cruel World  returns a smoky jazz bar feel to record. Never Lose Heart is a pop-rock track heavy with the use of synth-pop and Scribe frontman Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy’s a capella beat box. Both songs have been produced by musician Dhruv Ghanekar.

Sure Sharma’s vocals might have a little more reverb than we would have liked, mostly to add depth to her otherwise sweet voice. Some songs feel a little lengthy and could’ve cut down with a instrumental verse or two, but that’s all part of the existential experience of this road trip with “Attuned Spirits.”  So sit back and enjoy the ride. We guarantee you’ll be revisiting the road soon.

  • You can buy “Attuned Spirits” here.