Indian American artist, Vidya Iyer, more popularly known as Vidya Vox, recently became a YouTube sensation when she mixed Indian and Western beats to create memorable tracks.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Vox’s recent video featured Arjun, a Sri Lankan-born British singer with a large YouTube audience and was shot in Joshua Tree and Palmdale with choreography done by Indian American Kavita Rao, who lives in West Hollywood and contained dancers of various backgrounds including a Vietnamese, two women from Delhi, two guys from California and a hip-hop-jazz man from New York.
Vox recently released her album “Kuthu Fire,” which includes six songs that she co-wrote with her musician-producer boyfriend Shankar Tucker, who too like Vox doesn’t want to sacrifice the Indian component of his sound.
“I love mixing Indian and Western,” said Vox who learned Carnatic music as a child in Chennai and listened to hip-hop and electronic beats on her school bus after her family moved to the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Vox has been creating hybrids, mixing the music of Taylor Swift with A.R. Rahman’s, leading to nearly 300 million views on YouTube. More than 3.5 million subscribers on her Vidya Vox channel.
“It just grew, I didn’t even have time to think between 1 million and 2 million subscribers,” she told Los Angeles Times, adding that the songs and videos are meant to attract potential producers, managers, concert promoters and record labels which would feature fusion artists like her.
The eclectic musician’s first YouTube hit was in 2011, a rendition of the Indian classical song “Nee Nenaindal” after which, she made her own remix of A.R. Rahman’s “Taal Se Taal Mila,” which however was not well received.
“People said, ‘how dare you do this’ and I was like this is a Bollywood song, please relax. It’s not a devotional or religious song. It’s a movie song talking about love. I didn’t violate anything sacred here,” Vox exclaimed adding that she “couldn’t get out of bed for a day and a half” because she “was so depressed” from all the comments she received.
Vox also told Los Angeles Times that she has gotten offers to become a Bollywood actress, “people say, ‘Oh, you gotta go to Bollywood and sing these movie songs.’ That for them is the epitome of achievement. You get a song with any of the composers there and you’ve made it,” but she worries that doing so will force her to lose her creativity and she will have to sacrifice her independent music career, “maybe it’s a mistake but I’m not accepting acting offers.”
Vox met Tucker, a clarinetist raised in Massachusetts, while attending George Washington University and when she graduated in 2012, she planned to go to medical school but was drawn to music and returned to India, where Tucker was studying classical styles and had already started his ShrutiBox channel on YouTube. Shortly after Vox and her sister, Vandana, started singing classical Indian compositions which were produced by Tucker, “I thought, oh, this is cool, you can put your music out on YouTube and get messages from all over the world,” Vox exclaimed.
Later she started putting up Indian and Western mash-ups and her fan base grew mostly with viewers from India, about 70 percent. But being a YouTube artist has also meant pulling videos from her channel after copyright issues were raised by Indian publishing houses, the news report said. Today, about 50 percent of her followers are Indian and the rest from the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Trinidad and other countries, according to the Times.
They have chosen Los Angeles over New York and London as their base because video studios are plentiful as are multicultural musicians and producers and they feel artistic tolerance in the city was higher.