Written by Monali Bordoloi and published on 30 June 2021.
In an exclusive interview with ParentCircle, Antara and Ankita Nandy talk about their musical journey, the idea behind their viral balcony concerts, and the support from their family through it all
Both of them are cute as buttons, and when they sing, you are bound to be mesmerized by their lilting voices. During the lockdown, these sisters from Assam decided to use the balcony in their Pune home as a stage to croon some numbers and entertain people back home. Then, they put it up on social media and it went viral in no time. After that, there has been no looking back with their musical gigs in various languages clocking millions of views. Yes, we are talking about the viral singing sensation, the Nandy sisters!
In an exclusive interview with ParentCircle, the sisters talk about the inspiration behind their music and thank their fans for showering them with love. They also introduce the person who takes care of the decor and their costumes for their balcony concerts!
Watch the full interview here.
Here are excerpts from the exclusive video interview with the Nandy sisters:
Antara and Ankita: Rather than cool teenagers, I'd say we were studious, serious teenagers. Our school years had us rushing to school and back home, going for tuitions, music classes, and then coming back, eating, sleeping, and getting back to the grind the next morning.
Antara: I always knew I had to be a musician, so I dedicated a lot of time to serious musical training. I joined music classes at the age of four and a half; I was training under Ustaad Rashid Khan in Hindustani Classical music. I went on to learn Hindustani Classical at ITC Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata. Later, we were both students of KM Music Conservatory, which is Rahman sir's academy in Chennai. We were training in Western Classical music.
Ankita was always the smarter kid, although she was following the same schedule as I was. She always seemed to have some extra time, I really don't know how. In high school, we started spending a lot of time with each other, singing and documenting those as videos. That was the time when we first put out our videos as Nandy Sisters on social media where we'd sing songs using random things that you can find just lying around the house.
Ankita: Yes, random things such as cups, slabs, and chopsticks. We'd use the salt container as a shaker. Our motive then was to tell people that if you really want to make music, you can make it through anything; you can make it anywhere and anytime. You don't necessarily need musical instruments or other musicians to come and accompany you all the time. And we went viral.
Antara and Ankita: Of the songs we did during those time, Rahman sir's Humma Humma was the first song that went viral. It had us singing with cups. Then, we sang Piya Tu Se Naina Lage and we incorporated chopsticks and cups in that. Then, we did Pinga ga Pori and a couple of more songs.
After that, we had to take a break because I was in class 12, Ankita was in class 9. Later, I moved to Pune for my graduation. Ankita was in class 10. During those three years, we were distant from each other; I was busy with college and Ankita with school. But now thanks to lockdown, we have all the time to spend with each other and then the 'balcony concerts' happened. And we are more than happy. We are back to singing with each other and getting so much love.
Antara and Ankita: The idea of balcony concerts actually came to us when the lockdown began. We are from Assam and when the lockdown started, it was Bihu time. Bihu is the main festival of Assam and we were missing going back home and enjoying the festival. So, we decided to have fun at home. We just decided to sing our favorite Bihu numbers on the balcony and before an imaginary audience standing right below and cheering us.
We had our parents on board and my mom decided to drape us in traditional Assamese attire. Bihu music involves a lot of other traditional instruments like dhol, pepa, gogona - we didn't have those. All we had were our voices and our little ukulele. So, we decided to make full use of those, and we sang our hearts out. We made a little video while we were having fun and casually put it on our social media platform. With zero expectations, might I add? And before we knew it, people had started retweeting, reposting, and sharing our videos.
A few eminent people from Assam retweeted our videos. After that, our relatives started calling us and sending us messages saying, 'hey I received your video on so and so group,' 'Oh I saw it there. It's there,' and before we knew it, we had already hit a million views. We were shocked! That was when we knew that people were really enjoying our music and that we have to keep this going.
As we moved forward with the balcony concert series, we made it our aim to spread positivity and happiness during these grim lockdown times. Our aim had become to spread smiles and we started doing that by catering to as many languages and regions in India as possible. So, what started off with Assam moved on to Bengal, Kerala, we sang in Malayalam, we sang in Telegu, Marathi and we are going to sing in many other languages. We are very excited to take the series forward.
Antara and Ankita: Of course, social media is a wonderful and huge platform for every content creator in the nation today. You can create your own platform. And once you have your content out on social media, you never know where it will reach. You get so many people to watch your content. You do not have to physically go to people and make them listen to your stuff anymore. All you need to do is tag the right people and then you're just there.
Antara and Ankita: The main reason why we actually chose the ukulele was that we are two really tiny-looking people. We are five feet something and we just wanted something that would look as tiny as we do and doesn't cover us completely, which the guitar does. So, the ukulele absolutely went with our height and it is a cute little instrument that we absolutely love. Easy to carry around, very light and we love its sound. Because of its nylon strings, it sounds super sweet and it completely went with our vibe; the kind of music we like singing. It is an instrument that we are intrigued by. It has so much to offer, we are still exploring the instrument.
The other instruments that we play are the guitar, a little bit of keyboard and a little bit of tabla. That's about it.
Antara and Ankita: 'Maa' is an original that is very close to both of our hearts. When we composed the song, we were inspired by our mother. She's been our guiding force from day one. She is the strongest woman we have seen, and we are fortunate enough to have her. So that's a major inspiration but as we kept writing the song and we realized that everyday woman plays so many different roles and unfortunately people don't usually take the time to thank them. They play the role of a mother, wife, daughter, friend and if they are working, they are managing the highest posts in the corporate world and when they come back home, they can still be the best mother. Yet, this is just taken for granted.
So, we thought of making a song about this. We just wanted to thank our mother and all other mothers out there. That was the basic idea and we are so glad that people liked our song. Also, it is very special to us because this is our first project as a duo composer. We'd been doing covers before but this is the first song that we composed and wrote together.
Antara: I have been balancing my music and my academics together from a very tender age. After our balcony concerts started getting so much love, it has added some more responsibility on our shoulders.
Ankita: It's something that is a little new to me, but we are able to manage it as we abide by a proper schedule. We have been doing that for a long time now.
Antara: Yes, striking a balance is the key. Ankita is a science student, she is going to be appearing for engineering courses soon. I have just completed my graduation. So, we are trying our best to balance studies and music. Not being lazy really helps!
Antara and Ankita: We have just completed Episode 13 of the balcony concerts. We tried to sing in as many languages as we could and as we move forward, we plan to do more. The only fixed plan that we have right now is to sing in more languages, keep spreading smiles and positivity and adhere to the requests that we get.
Antara: Let's first talk about physical fitness and then we are going to move to vocal fitness. Physical fitness has been a struggle for me, I have been an obese kid.
Ankita: You were not obese; you were an overweight kid.
Antara: I have been a foodie, so being fit and being a foodie are things that just don't go well. I have had a tough time, but you just need to know you have to be healthy. I had put on a lot of weight as a child and that hampered my singing. I couldn't breathe and breathing is a super essential thing when it comes to musicians. So, being fit is something that you just need, cutting down on your oil intake, sweet intake (which is a struggle for us,) and incorporating physical exercise. We wake up in the morning, go for a run, do high-intensity workouts, keep a check on our diet, and remember to enjoy ourselves.
About vocal fitness, Ankita has been a lucky kid. She hasn't had to struggle with that. I am a person who catches a cold easily so every winter I'd be down with cold and cough and it would stay for months. I wouldn't be able to sing, so we had to be extra cautious. Now, since I take all the precautions, Ankita takes them with me too.
Ankita: Precaution is better than cure. So, we wrap ourselves in woolen garments from top to bottom like Eskimos in winters, drink a lot of warm water and warm liquids and that's about it.
Q: Your balcony concert on the Malayalam number, 'Jimikki Kammal' crossed a million views. How do you select a song for your performances?
Antara and Ankita: Yes, Jimikki Kammal did cross a million views and we are happy. In fact, not just Jimikki Kammal, but around 12 episodes of ours have crossed the million mark. We are so grateful for that. We would like to thank everybody who has been sharing, liking, resharing, and watching our videos.
Ankita: As far as choosing the songs are concerned, we first try to close in on the language that we want to do and after that, we put out a story or a post on our social media account, asking people to suggest their favorite songs in different languages. We have to enjoy singing the song, so once that's sorted, we are sorted.
Antara: I really fall short of words whenever I am asked this question. I've been an ardent follower of Rahman sir since I was a child. I have grown up listening to his songs and the fact that I got the opportunity to sing a song for him still feels like a dream to me. It feels so unreal, I still have to pinch myself to believe that it literally did happen. I got to sing Nis Din for Rahman sir and I will never forget the day I was called to the studio.
I got to learn something new every time I was dubbing for Rahman sir. I hope I keep getting these opportunities and keep learning and growing.
Ankita: Apart from singing, I love dancing. I have been learning Kathak for a few years now. I love shooting videos and editing them. I also love acting. I've acted in two short films produced by my school in Pune.
Antara: She has been editing almost all the music videos that I put up on my YouTube channel. She is also the tech wizard of our home, which is why she is going to be pursuing engineering. We never know what new hobbies she is going to come up with!
Antara and Ankita: Our family functions as a team. We have our separate functions and we just take care of those. Ankita and I are in charge of the musical part. The rest of it - the background, the dressing everything else is taken care of by our parents. Papa takes care of the technicalities, like what device we are going to use to shoot. In case of a gig, the microphone, the wires, the hardware, the internet connection, the iPad, etc.
Ankita: Our mom takes care of our outfits and the background. If you have watched our balcony concerts, you would have noticed that we try and keep changing the background a bit. We decorate it a little differently for each video - all that is done by our mom. She comes up with ideas and dad decorates.
I think everyone in our family is musically inclined. Both our parents have a good ear for music. My dad has not been formally trained but if you give him some strings, he can play with ease. Our granddad used to play the violin, my mom is a trained Kathak dancer and my aunt used to be a singer. So, it's always been there in the family, but no one took it up professionally.
Antara and Ankita: We ourselves are still learning, we have just started off. And we have a lot to learn yet, but from whatever little that we have been doing these few years, I think, all we can say is, enjoy it. When you enjoy it, you can just be sure you are putting your 100 percent into it. Never slack down, never take breaks, wake up every morning, get back to the grind, don't slack down, do your rehearsals, and I'm sure it's going to pay off. And we are hoping our effort pays off too.
Jui Nandy: It gives me a lot of satisfaction because I have seen their hard work. They always wake up early in the morning to practice. They are always focused on their music; you will see them either talking about music or surfing the Internet to learn new things about music. It gives me immense pleasure when people recognize their effort and shower them with so much love. This is only the beginning, and they have to grow in their career.
Jui Nandy: All mothers want to dress up their kids and make their kids look good! I check out how celebrities and teenagers dress up these days and try to put together a look for them.
Jui Nandy: My priority in life has been always my daughters and if you maintain a good schedule and plan it meticulously beforehand, these are manageable things. It's not very difficult, you just have to plan your schedule well.
Jui Nandy: Well, yes, the social media world is attractive, and yet, it has its pros and cons. I always tell my daughters to see people who have already made it big in their lives and then choose their path. When you think of legends who have already made it big, it would make you humble. So, I always tell them this is just the first phase of achieving. If you think you have achieved everything, you will not grow. Every time they achieve something, I always make them see that they need to perfect their game. My children are pretty grown-up, they understand everything now, so it is not very difficult.
Jui Nandy: It was really a big surprise for me when my daughters dedicated that song to me. I was touched. I was emotional the first time I watched the video. But I am really grateful, and I loved the way they did not limit the video to only me but dedicated it to all the mothers in the world. That's so nice of them and I really appreciate their effort.
Touching words coming straight from the heart of a mom! With a strong pillar of support like her, we are sure the Nandy sisters will reach for the sky. Here is wishing them much more success in their musical journey!