“When I released my first video, I didn’t even have enough money to buy a camera, so I bought it on a credit card!” she admits, immediately stressing that she doesn’t recommend that to anyone. Still, despite the challenges, Vidya Iyer — better known as Vidya Vox — has managed to go from being a psychology student at George Washington University to performing on her very own tour. Plus, in just about two years, the YouTube channel that turned her into a talking point has gained more than two million subscribers. Through it, she has released numerous ‘mashups’ — covers of English pop songs fused with Indian ones — some of which have gained recognition from the original artistes.
Born in Chennai, Iyer had already been learning Carnatic music for a couple of years when, at the age of nine, she made the move to Virginia, USA, with her family. She never thought of it as a career until she collaborated with clarinettist and composer Shankar Tucker, in her junior year of college. “It changed my life,” she divulges. “It was something I was wrestling with as a student gearing up for medical school. I was scared out of my mind to make the jump.” But jump she did and, looking back at her three-city tour in India, she doesn’t regret it one bit.
Currently working on her EP, Kuthu Fire, and developing a new live show around it, the 26-year-old is grateful for being able to put her own spin on songs that she loves and introduce her followers to desi sounds and culture. “Many are surprised that I sing Western pop, because they expect only Indian music. When they hear the combination, they’re surprised…in a good way,” she laughs. “I just want to continue being a part of people’s playlists. It’s like sharing a part of my soul.”