Pocket Rocket

She may be tiny in stature, but Avina Shah is making huge waves on the music scene

Posted: 26.04.13

You've been called a pint-sized pop princess…
Thanks! I take it as a compliment – after all, it never did Kylie any harm! Yes I’m petit and yes I’ve had my fair share of being called tiny and cute, but it’s never affected my voice or my career…and of course I always have my faithful heels to give me a lift if needed!

We like a girl with attitude! But don’t you get fed up of being called sweet?
I’m an Aries so I have a natural fiery side, but we all have different aspects of our personality. I want people to get to know a little bit more of me through every song I release. Putting yourself out there as an artist isn’t easy – you’re exposing every aspect of your life for public scrutiny so you have to be thick skinned, but it’s all part of the journey.

You’re proud to be an independent woman. Are you more Destiny’s Child or Spice Girls?
Neither! I sing in Hindi for a start and that probably makes me a bit different to most other British Asian female artists. We all live in the 21st Century and times have changed – we’re very focussed on girl-power now. Today it’s important for women to be able to stand on their own two feet and they can achieve anything they want in life – I have nothing against men, though. I just feel that a woman’s independence is important and a woman doesn’t need to rely on a man for stability, so in that sense I’m definitely part of the new era of girl power.

Tell us about the other skills you have up your sleeve...
I’ve been a make-up artist for over ten years and have found that image, much like music, is about expressing yourself and your individuality and how you feel inside. Being a make-up artist also allows me to showcase my creative side. I used to be a dancer in kathak, street dance and Bollywood, but once I went down the singing avenue I stopped dancing as much. I’m dedicated to the industry I’m in and take so much pride in my work, to a point that I’m very self-critical.

How did you discover your musical flair?
Music has always been part of me. My sister was the singer in my family and always gave me the encouragement to go on stage. In fact, I did my first performance at the age of three, which didn’t go to plan because I ran off the stage halfway through! I’ve got some really embarrassing videos luckily Asiana Tube didn’t exist in those days!

Your debut single Tere Bina was about abusive men. Personal experience?
I know far too many women who have experienced domestic violence and it’s still such a taboo and hidden subject in the Asian community. It makes you realise how common it really is, where one in four women are abused, so I decided to sing about this subject in the hope that it would encourage women to seek help and not suffer in silence. I was inspired by the story of Provoked and admired how charity The Southall Black Sisters handled Kiran’s case so that’s why I decided to donate the profits of the single to them. So make sure you buy it to support the cause!

That’s a brave move when so many other songs are about fame, love and money these days...
I listen to a lot of mainstream music and it touches on a wide variety of subjects. I feel there’s room to bring versatility to Asian music. Listeners may think my song Tere Bina is a love song about not being able to live without someone but it’s actually saying: ‘My life is better without you’.

Ever played your own songs on full blast and had a dance when no one’s around?
I don’t get to do that often but it’s such a great feeling – hopefully you’ll do the same when you hear this track! It has a really fun video too – it’s very girly with six different image changes which are quite daring and adventurous, a bit like me!

Why does a Brit sing in Hindi?
I was born and raised in the UK, yet I’ve been brought up with a lot of Asian culture around me which is reflected in the things I do. I can sing in English, Punjabi and Gujarati but my main passion is singing in Hindi. It might not be to everyone’s taste but I think it’s important that my musical style reflects who I am as a person.

Portrait: Daniel Rachev
Stage photography: Hiten Ondhia

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