Anuradha Hansraj: The woman behind the voice
  Aryana Mohammed
August 2019

Around the age of eight, the temple - an unknown training ground for many talented artistes - gave birth to another singing sensation, Anuradha Hansraj. Bitten by the “creative bug” at age twelve, she participated in Mastana Bahar’s, “Children of Mastana”, placing second with her rendition of “Tu Meri Ibtada Hai” from the Bollywood movie, God and Gun.

How did she do it despite never having been vocally trained? She gives a short and sweet answer: “I just started singing.”

Born in Central Trinidad (Warner Village) to Sumintra Harry and Ramsaran Rampersad, and having two sisters, Anuradha later moved to South Trinidad at the age of five. Now living with her maternal grandparents who were rooted in Hinduism, her exposure to music came in the form of singing at a very young age at the Suchit Trace Ganesh Mandir. She was actually encouraged to enter competitive singing by a family friend, one Mr. Ramdeo. He was the person who pushed her to participate in Mastana Bahar as well, where she made it to the “Grand Final Competition” by performing a duet with Satnarine Ramdeo. They placed 11th and also won the “Peoples’ Choice” award.

Although she was off to a great start and hoped to capitalize on the opportunity, she explains, “Not having accessibility to transport and the ability to move around much, I didn’t really pursue singing at the time and then coming from a strict Hindu home there was too much with the out and about, late night thing, you know. So I had to give it up.”

Fast-forward to 2019. Anuradha is now more or less a household name known for her covers of popular Bollywood songs and bhajans. Although putting a face to the name has proven difficult for some because of her irregular live performances, some fans actively seek her out to the extent that she now has five thousand friends on Facebook and only because that’s the maximum amount. This prompted her to create her fan page Anuradha Hansraj.

The question is, what changed? Why did Anuradha decide to pursue singing as a career after all? The answer is quite cute and inspiring actually: Her husband, Richard Hansraj.

She says, “After I got married, my husband was persistent. He was like, ‘You need to get back singing, you have a great voice.’ ”

Money. Manager. Motivator. A man with all those things rolled into one, he pays for her recordings, manages her as an artiste and is always encouraging her to strive for more.

Shyly, she recalls, “When I started, I had told my husband that I will record songs. If it plays on the radio, I will be satisfied with that.” So not done. “Being in it and having this love for it, you wanna be more into it.”

She thrives on the crowd response, reminiscing about how they react when they meet her, their positive responses keeping her afloat. She no longer fears being a small fish in a big pond. It continues to reassure her of the necessity and demand for producing more work.

Seven years ago she made her debut on the radio scene, working with Big Rich. However, it wasn’t easy to come by.

“I tried getting in contact with a few studios, and I wasn’t having any luck and then a friend of mine spoke to Anil Bheem, and when he heard me sing, he was like, ‘Ok yeah. Come, we’re gonna record a song,’ and I did that song in 2011,” she recounts.

The song being “Jawani Janeman”. Although the reception wasn’t too great, possibly because she was new and not associated with any other artistes, it did manage to link her to Zaheer Khan (also known as “Big Rich” of the “Pungalunks Factory”), whose response upon hearing her sing was something to the effect of, “You need to be in my studio. Let’s work together.” Her career then took off.

She has also collaborated on songs with other popular artistes such as Satnarine Ragoo, Indar Kanhai, Drupatee Ramgoonai, Kavita Marajh, GI and the late Rajin Dhanraj. She has been featured at several concerts, including a Valentine’s Day concert with Indar Kanhai and Satnarine Ragoo, and also as the opening act at the Udit Narayan concert “I love you Daddy” promoted by Missy & R Promotions, and she’s at the “Big Rich Birthday Bash” every year. She has been a part of the concert series “Sensations of Love” which is now an annual event. She has also sung at the local Divali Nagar and at Diwali Nagar Florida on several occasions. She recently performed in Toronto, Canada. She continuously performs privately at weddings, birthdays, receptions and functions with both live bands and karaoke tracks to back her up.

Stating her reason for not performing live as much as other artistes she says, “I haven’t linked with the bigger promoters yet and then because of my son, who is eleven, I tend to devote more time towards him and his schooling.”

A graduate of Holy Faith Convent, Penal, academically she pursued business studies. She also has a certificate in Psychology from the University of the West Indies. At first, she started her career at Republic Bank for a year and then she flew the nest to become the Procurement and Logistics Co-ordinator responsible for projects in the Caribbean and South America for UEM Inc., a company based in India. After spending fourteen years there, she gave up the job due to health issues. “The plan was to start back working but now I think my family has gotten so accustomed to having me at home, they don’t want to get me back to an office life again.”

She offers, “That’s why I wanna build on the singing because I know it will be flexible as well.”

Hoping to record her original songs soon, and release her own album, she divulges, “I still wanna stick to music that will apply to the local audience. I wanted to do some kinda indie pop thing with the English and Hindi in it.”

She is combining her spoken language, with the one she grew up singing to give us a new take on “Indian” music. After doing an unreleased cover of Shakira’s “Waka Waka” for her son’s Sports Day in which she replaced the African lyrics with Hindi, she is trying to build her confidence to sing songs written in English. “Although we didn’t release it, Big Rich had played it on his show and all of the DJs took that song and played it every day for a month straight,” she beams. “That gave me the confidence to perform more English songs which I do now for most of my live performances.”

Anuradha talks about being constantly amazed at how many people recognize her, from her husband’s customers at the bank who know her just by looking at the family picture on his desk, to the DHL courier who listens to her music every day with his wife.

Currently she has over twenty songs recorded. To name a few: Payal Meri, Teri Meri and Manwa Laage with Satnarine Ragoo, Maa Sunao with Drupatee Ramgoonai, Piya O Re Piya with Indar Kanhai, Chalte Chalte, Dola Re with Kavita Marajh, Chittiyaan, and, what seems to be her biggest hit: Palki Mein, which has over 100,000 views on Youtube. Additionally, she has several songs recorded that are due to be released later this year

Although she isn’t making money from this venture yet, she confidently says, “Now I’m ready to start getting out there and doing more shows, so I know it will be financially feasible.”

Her goal? “I wanna see myself performing more on stage, bringing joy to everybody and just having fun and that’s just it.”

She continues, “I came out here doing this because I loved it. Wherever it takes me, it takes me, I will welcome it.”

She believes that as an artiste she now has an image to maintain: An image to inspire younger, upcoming artistes. While she believes that image is important and flip-flops and shorts are no longer an everyday look for her, she adds, “I still enjoy going places and people not knowing who I am. Just being plane Jane at times.”

To the young blood coming up in the industry, she advises to “follow it”. “If from early you see that this is something that you wanna do, pursue it with all your heart because it’s something that I wanted to do and I held back myself for so many years and because I held back myself, that is why I’m not where I should have been by now with my singing.”

She enforces, “It’s hard work, nothing comes easy.”

Eventually, she hopes to seek vocal training so she wouldn’t have any limitations, but she knows that despite everything, she has grown from the girl who got butterflies before going on stage to now being in control and handling an audience, good, bad or indifferent.

In closing, she humbly acknowledges the influence of her fans, saying, “To me, not having much experience and not having the vocal training and still having that kind of support and that kind of response from people, that means so much.”

Look out for new music from Anuradha with collaborations with the versatile Vijay Ramkissoon and other artistes from the local Bollywood scene, and be sure to check her out on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

For bookings you can contact her on Facebook or by Whatsapp messages to (868) 768 2166.

By: Aryana Mohammed | MUSIC-CULTURE | August 2019

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