Motivational speaker, actor, writer, equity derivatives broker, and singer of devotional hymns – 33-year-old Shivali Bhammer wears many hats. Based in London and New York, she is the youngest and only artist to ever be signed by Sony Music BMG for bhajans (hymns).
Her devotional albums, The Bhajan Project (2010) and Urban Temple (2012), reached the top position on the iTunes world chart. Interestingly, Shivali gave up a career in equity trading to become a devotional singer.
Born and raised in London, Shivali comes from a family that is philosophical and secular at the same time. Her foray into spiritual music happened because of her great grandmother and great aunts, and she started making music at the age of 15. Shivali wanted to give bhajans an urban modern twist, so that people could identify with them.
At the age of 22, she pitched the idea to Sony Music, and it worked. Shivali ended up being nominated for two Global Indian Music Awards at the age of 23 and was listed among the Top 25 under 25 South Asian Artists in England.
“When I look back on that it was a magical moment, where the universe did most of the work, I had just done the preparation and arrived on time,” she says.
As a student, Shivali was deeply fascinated by both economics and philosophy. While she found economics intuitive, as it looks at the logic and process of markets and people, she felt that philosophy questions everything – a search for deeper meaning, it combines science, religion and logic.
Her creative work is all built around personal experience. When she shifted to New York for five years, she wrote an award-winning play about a British girl living in New York. She also created talks on detachment and the inner journey based on her move out of the country.
Further, she used her experiences in personal relationships and the quest for love to express the intricacy and beauty of love in the creative arts – whether through muses such as Radha-Krishna, Kathak and the use of the Shringar, or her talks on what is love.
“Creative work is based on who someone is and what they have learnt. They then merge it with their imagination to create a fictitious world with elements of profound truth,” she explains.
Bhakti (devotion) to her is thinking less about oneself and more about the other. “It makes one ‘God-like’, breaking one’s ego slowly and helping one identify with one’s own infinitude.”
Shivali feels it also purifies one’s love, moving one away from constant expectation (and therefore disappointment) to seva (service) of the other. “You are devoted, and your actions come from a place of fullness and love, not out of scarcity and need,” she says.
About balancing the spiritual with the material, and her soulful music with her glamorous image, Shivali says, “Having a Ferrari doesn’t mean you’re not spiritual. It means you enjoy a great sports car. Where the line blurs is if you think that by having that Ferrari you are better than someone else or if you didn’t have it, you would be less.”
In her personal journey, Shivali has learnt that one can work very hard on something and it still may not happen – whether it is a relationship, friendship or something professional.
“But that work doesn’t go to waste. You are redirected to another door at the right time that will eventually open,” she says. “In life, we have to find the natural rhythm of our own journey. Instead of fighting against it, we need to work with it,” she adds.
Currently, Shivali is producing her third album The Bhajan Project 2 several years after her first and second. Though music contracts are now completely different since everything is streamed, she says there have been many factors that have helped her. “If you take more ownership of your own thoughts and feelings, it means you can move through challenges,” she says.
She believes that life is short, and it is about unearthing new experiences and exploring oneself. “I just want to play in the world and appreciate that if I fall, the universe will pick me up, because it always has,” she signs off.First published in eShe magazine