Interview: Meet Nush Lewis, Mumbai’s First And Only Harpist

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“When words leave off, music begins” – Heinrich Heine

Nush & her harp, image courtesy Prashin Jagger
Nush & her harp, image courtesy Prashin Jagger

People are so fascinatingly different, each driven by unique passions. And some of the most fascinating and passionate people I have met happen to be musicians. Not too long ago, I was discussing Mumbai’s diverse music scene with a friend, when I found about a local musician I was intrigued by, one I am sure all you reader’s would love to know more about.

I speak of Nush Lewis, singer, songwriter, music teacher and Mumbai’s only harpist! She paints quite a pretty picture; doe-eyed with a head full of curls, just the sort of angelic damsel you would imagine playing an instrument as mystical as the harp. Here is an excerpt from my interview with her.

I’m sure you get asked this question a lot, but I have to know. How did you decide to pick up the harp? What drew you to this particular instrument?

After graduating from college, I decided to join KM Conservatory, a music school in Chennai (which was started A.R Rahman). I wanted to further my music education and study music in a more formal environment. I joined the schools as a vocal major.

But, to be honest, things weren’t going in my way as a vocal student. So I started playing the harp to distract myself. I was curious about the instrument at first, not very serious about studying. But after my first lesson there was no turning back. I just changed my majors. Best decision ever!

Who would you say has been your mentor through the journey from being a student to a performer? Has anyone is particular shaped you as a musician?
Alison Maggart, the harp teacher at KM Conservatory has been my only harp teacher. She’s been my mentor and guided my along the way. Even today, every time something big happens in my life musically I let her know. And of course, her advice is always welcome.

Nush at NH7, image courtesy NH7
Nush in performance, image courtesy NH7

Where do you typically perform? Music clubs? Corporate gigs? Do lots of people invite you for private performances, say for an art opening or a book launch?
I do get a lot of inquiries for corporate shows and private performances but I prefer not to take them on. In such situations a musician is just an ornament in the room, which I choose not to be. They may even pay better but aren’t gratifying. I enjoy playing at dedicated music spaces or clubs. In Mumbai Mehboob Studio & Blue Frog are welcoming and fun venues to play at.

Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists or are you strictly a soloist? Could you name some local or international artists you particularly enjoyed collaborating with?
I love collaborations because they take me out of my comfort zone. It’s great to work with other artists! I had a great time collaborating with Mumbai based singer/songwriter/musician Sid Coutto. It was interesting to work with a beat-boxing duo, Boxy Turvy and The Whirling Kalapas. On the international front I collaborated with Last Mango in Paris from London on a private project.

Nush in performance, image courtesy Sound Box
Nush in performance, image courtesy Sound Box

Your twitter profile tells me you are also a singer and song writer. At the moment what inspires you to write music? Does the music you write have any recurrent themes and would you place yourself in any genre bracket?
Most musicians will tell you that inspiration is everywhere, it really is! I find my inspiration in dark places and I find a strange comfort in sorrow. That’s the zone I work in for mow, but of course, things are bound to change. If I were to put a genre label on music it would have to be ‘Minimal Acoustic’.

You’ve lived in both Mumbai and Bangalore. What do you have to say about the local music industries in both the cities? Are they distinctly different?
Both cities have their charm. Bangalore is less fast-paced, but has some great world class musicians. Bombay however, really has a way of keeping you on your toes. The competition here is a real driving force.

Do you teach music? How can a student get in touch?
I do not teach the harp. Because, believe it or not, the instrument isn’t available in India! Plus I don’t yet feel fully equipped to teach. However, I do teach elementary music and piano. I work and teach exclusively with the Furtado’s School of Music.

Lastly, when are where is your next performance? Would you like to share a few dates with us so we can come attend a performance?
I’ll be performing at the first yoga festival, Zambhala, in Goa on the 22nd of December.

So all of you attending Zambhala or holidaying in Goa around the time (I bet a lot of you are) make the time to watch Nush is action. And for those of you who can’t wait to hear her in concert, log onto her website, and have a listen! Her quirky original composition Bright Orange Tea Cups is my favourite.

Image Courtesy: Nush Lewis, NH7

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I'll chat with my imaginary pet dog and perfect a handstand while the rest of you act like grown ups.

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Salonee Gadgil

Salonee Gadgil
I'll chat with my imaginary pet dog and perfect a handstand while the rest of you act like grown ups.
  • Anushree

    Such a fantastic find !