A captivating singer and a charming performer, we know Kamakshi Rai best for taking The Stage by storm! The half Mangalorean, half Punjabi, Punekar from St. Mary’s had wowed the world and made Pune proud when she made it to the top four on the reality TV show. Since then life has been all about singing, writing music, jamming and performing. We finally got a chance to a catch up with this busy bee for a quick chat.
Growing up in a musically inclined family, Kamakshi tells us that there was always something playing in the background. “As a kid, I wouldn’t go to sleep unless they played my favourite Bryan Adams cassette!” If it wasn’t playing music, Kamakshi’s mom, who is also a singer, would be singing in the background – needless to say, that was a huge influence for her.
Kamakshi was often torn between her music and academics; she has a degree in Computer Science and an MBA, but music still won the battle. In school she was always the first to take part in singing classes, choirs and musicals. In college, she would often bunk classes for jamming sessions and inter-college competitions.
Her singing career began on a YouTube channel, through which her first label signed her on. Though the label didn’t release any of her music, it was still a valuable learning experience, which helped her immensely when she was recording TV jingles. “I learnt a lot through that experience,” she says, “because there was a lot of studio recording involved. You know you can hear every little inflection of your voice in a studio.”
The greatest challenge for her, she tells us, is that the field she’s chosen is uncertain at best; there’s a lot of competition and so many factors that play into the success or failure of any musician that aren’t in your control. It’s a tough field to sustain in. It was a scary decision to quit her 9-5 job as a studio manager to go to The Stage, but surely a good one!
“It was insanely cool to be a part of India’s First English Music Talent Hunt, and to finish as a runner-up was completely unexpected,” she says. With all these great singers from across the country, and the 4 judges who were a BIG deal, it was really nerve-wracking for her at first. “It gave me a whole new perspective, especially when you have only a minute or two to make your mark,” she says. “It was just a really good experience to be recognised for English music in India.”
Thanks to the show, she could finally ditch her 9-5 routine and concentrate on her music. She does a lot of TV commercials and voice overs for different brands, like Tata Motors, Bajaj Allianz, and Raymonds. Currently, she’s part of an acoustic trio who do their own renditions of English and Hindi music in their own sultry, jazzy way. They have performed a couple of gigs around town and are looking to expand it. She’s also planning to record her own music soon, so watch out for her album!
“Music has permeated into every aspect of my life,” she says. “It’s no more a separation between work and my life, music is my work and life; it’s become who I am and I’m really happy!”