Over the years Sonia has received numerous awards and titles and two of her outstanding awards are the Yuva Srujan Puraskar by the Department of Art and Culture, Government of Goa and the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar by Sangeet Natak Academi, Government of India, besides others. The road to fame and recognition, however, has not been easy. Her story is an inspiration to all to follow one’s dreams and not give up. Sonia shares with NT
Sonia Sirsat is aptly referred to as the ‘ambassador of Goan music to the world’ and has performed not just across the country but the world over. Her name in Goa is in fact synonymous with fado, (a music genre which can be traced to the 1820s in Portugal). A fadista of repute, she is the only Goan who has showcased fado overseas. In a bid to promote this genre, she has been conducting training and introductory classes in different parts of the state. A prodigious singer with an extremely versatile voice, Sonia sings in 13 different languages.
There is much more to Sonia than meets the eye. Only few are aware that before singing professionally, she was known for her oration and elocution skills and had won the first prize in an international competition held in Hawaii in 1997. Sonia also holds a LLM (Masters degree in Law) and was a visiting lecturer at Salgaocar’s Law College for four years.
While still pursuing her Bachelor’s degree, she joined the band Status 4 at 22 years of age. “Being a doctor’s daughter there were certain questions raised initially. People were rather taken aback and wondered what I was doing singing in a band. In fact my father who was in the Rotary club was often asked, ‘So what is your daughter doing or what has she studied?’ I am sure it was not easy for my dad to answer these questions.” However, she says she had the full support of her family. “My family were convinced that music was where my heart was and hence fully supported me. My brother was my biggest supporter and always encouraged me.” In time she had to give up her teaching job as her music and singing career took off.
The second biggest and hardest obstacle Sonia had to face was when within a period of three years, her father fell sick and her brother passed away. The time was fraught not just with handling the grief but also the difficulties of handling all the responsibilities that come with being the head of a household. “This was the most challenging time for me. Balancing both the home front and my career was difficult,” she shares.
English, Konkani, Hindi, Marathi and Konkani are languages Sonia is fluent in but Portuguese, when she first began to sing fado did pose a problem. “When I started singing fado, I was not a Portuguese speaker, so singing it was not easy. I had to first get every fado translated and explained before I could sing it, so that I could understand what emotion the song conveyed. Also memorising the words and pronouncing them right was another hurdle,” she reminisces. Unable to speak the language fluently also meant she could not communicate easily with her peers when she used to go to Portugal. “I use to find it very difficult to put my points across to people who did not speak English very fluently.” Focus, determination and sheer hard work along with practice and more practice saw her through.
Signing off she says, “Overcoming hurdles is facing hurdles and not dodging them. Every path has obstacles but facing them and finding ways to diminish their intensity is the only way to move forward.”