When record execs insisted singer-songwriter Samsaya (née Sampda Sharma) fix the 3-millimeter gap between her front teeth, she turned down their offers, started her own label, and named it 3 MM Records. And it’s the same sort of tongue-and-cheek, self-assured attitude that has found its way into the amalgamation of pop, hip-hop and EDM-inflected songs on the artist’s EP, Samsaya, which dropped last week. The irony of it all? Samsaya is Hindi for the word “doubt.”
Although the 34-year-old has achieved fame throughout Scandinavia, songs like “Stereotype” and “Bombay Calling” were partly inspired by the challenges she encountered in the nonnative environment—her parents moved from Hamirpur in northern India, to Norway when she was 11 months old. Says Samsaya: “If you don’t fit in or can’t find your place, create it.” We caught up with the songstress after her debut N.Y.C. concert on Monday. Here’s an excerpt from our chat:
What is your earliest memory of music? When did you start singing?
I started when I was a little kid, but when I was about 10 or 11 years old and trying to find my identity, my voice became really important to me. My parents always tried to get me to do other things—my mother is very proper and would push applications towards me and say, “We think you should become a doctor, we have this all filled out for you—just sign it!” And I was like, “There are two things that will never happen: I will never have an arranged marriage and I will never study medicine—so let’s drop it!” I had to fight for music, which only brought me closer to it.
What’s the story behind the heart over your eye? When did that become part of your look?
It started about four years ago. Music has always been about the heart for me, it’s been my best friend in a way. The heart is also an external reminder of what’s on the inside—as humans we obsess about the way we look and let that overshadow how incredible our bodies are and our ability to use them as a means to create.
Is that also the reason the guitarist in your band wears a big red helmet on stage? Or is that for ear protection.
[Laughs] I grew up between two extremely different universes. When I was 5 and went to India for the first time with my parents and the doors opened—the heat just hit my face. Compared to Norway, it felt like I was breathing in fire. I was a dramatic kid and would wear a helmet at the dinner table and talk like a was in a sci-fi movie. I got scolded for it but I think the helmet represents a lot of those emotions and also raises the question of, “Why should we not wear a helmet? Why should we care what people think? What’s the big deal?”
What do you pack when you’re touring? Is your everyday style different than what you wear on stage?
I’ve always been an outsider and I kind of enjoy that, especially when it comes to what I wear. On stage I wear things that allow me to run around, jump around, and do stage dives. I pack everything that makes me feel strong. I think it’s very important to know what power lies inside of you, how to spark that, and how to nourish it.
Listen to Samsaya’s EP with the playlist below, and catch more tunes that are currently on our radar here!