A Conversation With Janani Sharma

Charlotte Drummond Outreach Director

It was a Tuesday afternoon in late July when I logged onto Zoom from my grandparents’ basement in the suburbs of Toronto to meet a lovely young woman my age, who was already radiating the screen with her contagious enthusiasm. She was wearing a white kurti embroidered with sparkling silver with earrings resembling little bells and a nose stud. Her background was decorated in fairy lights and a patchwork quilt of fabrics from salwar kameezes to saris stitched together in yellow. The colorful radiance of her surroundings perfectly represents the passion and artistry of Janani Sharma. 

Sharma, 21, is the daughter of South Asian immigrants from England who was raised in New Hampshire, and while she recently graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in engineering, her true love is music. 

“Music is everything to me,” Sharma says. “But it’s also everything. Everything is vibrations and energy. And it creates a vibrational change…To me, it’s like when somebody walks into a room, and you don’t know what it is, but they’ve brightened up the room. Their energy is so positive that it brings everyone else’s energy out. That’s what music is to me—what it does to others…It’s subtle yet so strong…it moves us to tears, yet it’s just a shift in energy.”

Music was there for her since the beginning, but Sharma didn’t always feel for music the way she does now. Growing up, her mother was a music teacher who pushed her into doing singing and dancing lessons very early on. 

“Many immigrant parents want to have a preservation of their culture,” Sharma explains. “That was a top priority for [my mother]. And that’s the case for many children of immigrants. There’s not many Indian-American girls you’ll find—at least I’ve seen—that didn’t learn classical dance or music at some point. Their parents really want them to be in touch with their culture that they’ve left behind, but that was something that brought a lot of pressure upon me as I was developing my own personal definition of what music means to me…I had to learn to separate what drew me to music instead of what my mom told me to do. I always loved music, I just didn’t like the pressure of competitions and [needing to be perfect].”

Over time, the demand became too much, and Sharma quit music during her freshman year of high school. But during her sophomore year, Sharma got the opportunity to audition to be on Zee TV’s popular singing competition show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs. Sharma decided it would be one of her last auditions because she couldn’t take the rejection anymore, but she ended up being one of the only North American applicants to get selected to be one of the Top 14 finalists. She was flown to India and spent two weeks getting to know her and her music in a whole new way.

“For the first time, I could dedicate so much of myself to music,” Sharma admits. “And even if I didn’t win the competition, seeing such drastic progress in my own ability after I genuinely committed and wasn’t running away out of fear, it became really encouraging and allowed me to really feel the music on my own. It’s like I unlocked a new level and…got to find the joy and the divinity in music…It was a universal language I finally understood.”

Sharma may not have won, but the rediscovery of her love of music was more than enough. While she was attending Northeastern, she was able to remain in touch with her musical aspirations by being part of the Berklee Indian Ensemble, practicing classical dancing and singing. She may have loved some aspects of the engineering world, but she couldn’t stray very far from her true passion.

“I really loved learning about engineering in a classroom, but once I got into the workforce, I realized that I didn’t necessarily love the reality of the workforce as a woman in STEM,” Sharma says. “[As I did internships related to my major], I wanted to share my music and develop an audience, so I started posting on TikTok. And I wanted to do it not because I wanted to blow up, but because I wanted to document my growth and feel like I had a tangible product after a day’s worth of progress.You cannot predict what will go viral…so I just kept sharing what I might stop scrolling to enjoy.”

Sharma gained a massive following on TikTok and Instagram (around 170k followers on each) around March/April of 2021, getting comments from all over the world saying that they cry when they listen to her sing. Whenever she sees those comments, she remembers how much music impacts everyone, and a lot of them are affected in the same way she is. 

“It’s not easy to articulate, but it’s very profound,” Sharma says. “Music is all about life experiences. When an artist expresses a feeling that the listener understands, it brings out deep emotions. It’s like when you hear a song about heartbreak and like the song, but you end up relating to the same song on a deeper level five years later after you’ve experienced heartbreak yourself. It’s immersive and incomparable, especially when you’re in a room full of strangers, and you’re all connected in the moment because of the music.”

Sharma continues to post on social media covers of Desi and Western songs—while wearing brightly-colored eye makeup that will make you want a tutorial—and sharing her mesmerizing voice with the world. She’s hoping to make music a full-time career, writing original songs and going on tour, and infusing South Asian music into the Western mainstream. 

“Nothing is predictable,” Sharma says. “You don’t know what’s going to happen, so you just have to make sure you’re showing up and doing the work every day. Whatever that leads you to, who knows?”

You can find Janani Sharma and her music on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube

Janani Sharma is a singer/songwriter from Boston, MA. Introduced to music right from within the womb, she has spent her whole life training in music. She loves it all, from Hindustani/ Western classical music, or Bollywood and folk dance, to Jazz and R&B music. Music runs through her body—she has performed and collaborated with world-renowned artists like Shreya Ghoshal and Shankar Mahadevan as a member of the Berklee Indian Ensemble, and she was also a finalist in the widely popular singing reality TV series, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Lil’ Champs North America. In Spring of 2021, her “I don’t believe in soulmates, but…” cover of the song Aankhon Mein Teri went internationally viral, amassing over 30 Million+ views across all social media platforms and inspiring hundreds of thousands of people to celebrate their love by using the sound. Along the way, she also completed a degree in Bioengineering! Today, Janani has over 420k followers and subscribers throughout the internet under the username @jananisings. Every day, she’s grateful to follow her life-calling of music and spread her love of South Asian culture. 

Outreach Director

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