Unnati is a London-born singer and musician, the scion of Indian classical music royalty - and a woman of remarkable gifts. The gift of song: hers is a voice that mesmerises, seduces, thrills. The gift of music: Unnati’s genre-crossing compositions are grounded in tradition and mindful of the now, and what lies ahead. Age-old folk tunes are modernised, painted with fresh colours. Influences from around the world nestle alongside elements inspired by pop, rock and jazz.
Unnati (it means ‘prosperity’ in Hindi) has the gift of charisma, of enigmatic presence: from jazz clubs to international festivals, Westminster Abbey to the Royal Albert Hall, her live shows are notable for the ways in which they uplift, offer solace, encourage reflective thought. Unnati’s gift of curiosity: for music, people and possibilities. Her spirituality, lovingly tended. Her radiant energy. Her music’s capacity for healing.
Little wonder, then, that Indigo Soul, Unnati’s 2020 debut album, continues to receive plaudits and capacity-star reviews from print, radio and online media in Britain and the subcontinent. Or that videos for tracks including Hindi pop ballad ‘Ye Raatein’, in which Unnati wears a jewelled headdress, her nails adorned with coloured feathers, and ‘Teri Yaad Aati Hain’ – a Sufi song previously selected for the Buddha-Bar: The Ultimate Experience box set – are on heavy rotation.
Indigo Soul was the stunning result of a career that has unfurled like a lotus flower, right from its roots in Unnati’s musical childhood. One of two daughters born to the renowned Nitai Dasgupta (1934 – 2003), a Bengali vocalist, teacher, performer and recording artist who introduced Britain to Indian classical music (having learned himself from the great Ustad Amir Khan), Unnati was sung to as a baby. Aged four she made her vocal performance debut before a crowd of 3,000 at Bhaktivedanta Manor in Watford, Hertfordshire, and grew up performing with her father in his shows across the UK and Europe.
Alongside constant observation of Nitai Dasgupta’s breath-taking skill and technique, and while living in a North London household that hosted both her father’s students and musician friends/collaborators including sitar legend Ravi Shankar, Unnati received the sort of training that might only be obtained in India. Her voice gained in dexterity and power, increased its clarity and sweetness. She found inspiration in the work of the great Sufi singers Abida Parveen and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – as she did in albums by Beyoncé, Norah Jones and Alicia Keys. A burgeoning interest in experimenting with sounds from all over complimented her deep love for the Indian classical tradition, made her Hindi-language lyrics all the more prismatic.
In 2002 Unnati co-released the album Vishwa: The Universe of Music with her older sister Preeti, also a singer, then embarked on a wildly successful tour of India. In 2005 Unnati was one of six semi-finalists in the Glastonbury Unsigned Artists competition, and a highlight on the compilation album that followed. Determined to further develop a unique contemporary sound drawing on Sufism, devotional bhajan songs and Indian classical styles such as ragas, a heritage transmitted through intensive practice, Unnati set about collaborating with a diverse array of artists. She continues to compose new songs on her piano.
Recent highlights include performing at Westminster Abbey as part of a memorial service for famed director Lord Richard Attenborough, with a rendition of ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’, a bhajan that featured in the Attenborough-directed Gandhi. Unnati’s voice appeared in a sound installation in the South Asian Gallery in the Victoria & Albert Museum. Unnati has since been the opening act on the main stage at the 2019 WOMAD UK festival, appeared at the London Barbican for the Darbar Festival and sold out the Pheasantry on the Kings Road as part of the
EFG London Jazz Festival.
‘Teri Yaad Aati Hain’ has been included on a Spotify playlist, Sunset Chill. Six of Unnati’s tracks now feature on Boomplay, the #1 music app in Africa (listenership: 62 million). India’s pay TV channel Hungama has positioned Indigo Soul among its top Hindi albums. Unnati has performed on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends and BBC Radio London’s Sonny and Shay. As the accolades and offers keep rolling in, Unnati continues to access her gifts: an EP magicked during lockdown with support from Arts Council England is due for imminent release.