Aparna Sreedhar, “the nightingale” who popularized Indian songs in France

The singer speaks to New India Abroad about the popularity and exposure of Indian cinema in France and her contribution in furthering it

Staff Reporter

Aparna Sreedhar, the popular Indian-origin singer known as ‘Lata Mangeshkar of Paris’, recently presented a thematic concert named ‘Journey through India’ for a packed audience at the Indian Consulate in New York. A versatile Hindustani vocalist, also known as the ‘Nightingale of Paris,’ for her mellifluous voice and rich knowledge of classical music, bhajans, ghazals, geet and folk music. 

During the event, Aparna sang well-known compositions from different states of India highlighting the distinct cultures. She concluded her performance with a medley of Lata Mangeshkar songs on the request of the audience.  

Aparna is credited for popularizing Indian music in France in the early 2000s, when Bollywood was not a familiar name there.  In an exclusive chat with New India Abroad​ she recalls her experience of performing at events organized by the Bollywood filmmakers, who were making efforts to introduce the genre in France back then.

Though a classical singer at the time, Aparna volunteered to be part of those events. “It used to be a three-day festival where Bollywood movies were screened along with music programs. Slowly the audiences were getting engaged and Bollywood gained popularity,” she said adding that visits by popular actors and actresses like Shahrukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai, to the programs often caused a sensation. 

A computer science graduate with a MBA degree, Aparna hails from a musically inclined family in Tamil Nadu. Her mother started training her in classical music as early as three years of age. Due to the nature of her father’s transferable job, Aparna was moving to different states in India, which exposed her to Hindustani classical music. At sixteen, Aparna started performing on stage and gradually moved on to become an All India Radio artist. She relocated to Mumbai after marriage and continued to perform, but it was when she moved to France in 2003 owing to her husband’s profession that her musical career flourished further with purpose.  

Speaking of the current consumption of Indian movies in France, Aparna says the situation has changed a lot. “Indian movies get released on the same day as in India. The audience base has increased. In any typical Indo-French events we have an equal number of French audience as that of Indian.”  

She further mentioned that French audiences are more inclined to classical music than Bollywood, as the former feels meditative to them, while the latter is more for dancing. 

Emphasizing that music helps her introduce Indian culture to French people, Aparna said, “The fact that we sit down on the floor and sing amazes them as they are used to seeing the singers stand and sing in opera concerts.” 

While most times, a short explanation of the lyrics and context gets the foreigners hooked, Aparna recalled an incident, where interpretation was not necessary. 

“While performing a patriotic song in Hindi at a memorial commemorating the Indian troops who died fighting in the First World War, the French army personnel assembled there felt the same intense feelings without even understanding what the patriotic lyrics meant,” she said reiterating that music is very powerful as it unites people by touching their emotions. 

This post is for paying subscribers only


Already have an account? Login