Sajeda Momin meets Shayan Italia, an Indian singer and pianist who has been making waves in Britain
He has been compared to musical greats like Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and James Blunt, but he is a Parsi lad who is hoping to crack the British pop scene — and succeeding. Shayan Italia’s debut album can already be heard regularly on popular mainstream radio stations including the trend-setting Steve Wright Show on Radio 2.
Born and brought up in Hyderabad, the baby-faced Shayan came to London in 1999, after tragically losing both his parents at a young age. “I was interested in music to the extent that I used to tinkle on the piano, but the initiative to take it further as a full-time career only struck once I was left unexpectedly with the ability to write songs after losing Mum in April 1998,” Italia says. “It was a surreal experience, to say the least, as it wasn’t like I wrote a song and everyone said ‘a good first effort’. The first song I wrote is one of the strongest written to date.”
But he did not rest on his musical laurels. Instead Italia has created a catalogue of over 150 songs since 1998 and his second and third albums have already been written. His self-titled first album, Shayan Italia, has 11 songs including Reflection, the winner of the All India Song Contest for 2006. “I just applied for fun when I was in Mumbai, where everyone said ‘Not in a million years will an English song win the contest in a predominantly Hindi speaking market’” explains Italia. “I was very humbled to win. It just shows you that Indians don’t just buy anything and everything — if a song is good, they will back it.”
Italia argues that his music has been influenced by his Indian upbringing, even though he writes in English. “My music has strains of classic Hindi music. Not in terms of instrumentation or sound, but in character. Great Hindi music encompasses three key elements: crystal clear vocals, poetic and meaningful lyrics and simple music arrangements. And I think I have successfully used all three in my songs.” Italia also produced and starred in the video for his songs. Also, using his entrepreneurial skills, he has raised $1 million through private investors to fund his debut album.
“After Mum and Dad passed away, I came to London, took a loan and registered for an audio-engineering degree course. While I was doing that, I required money to record demos of my songs — funds I didn’t have. And the bank had already loaned me money towards my college fees. So I had to think of more innovative ways of getting funding. I decided to auction a portion of my life’s earnings in music on e-Bay,” he remembers. “I got US $18,000 in seven days!” He is reportedly the first person to do this. “That was the stepping stone to making me believe that there were people out there willing to invest in my music. I then raised US $1,000,000. But it wasn’t easy. It took me more than three years to do it,” Italia says.
The young musician is determined to succeed and has the route mapped out to get there. “In about two years I intend to crack the UK market, the Europe/Middle East and then India and the Far East, ending with the US. That done, I will then release albums two and three across the same territories,” Italia says, with all the confidence in the world.