By: Jane Borges

Clichéd as it sounds, a lot of singers would confess to have learned to sing before they could even string words together. Eighteen year old Ritika Nair’s story isn’t very different.

“I would hum Indian ghazals that my father listened to,” she said of the kind of music that caught her fancy when she was barely two years old. Her parents too recall that if their daughter ever opened her mouth, it was only to sing.

Even now, the otherwise shy and soft-spoken Ritika says that she is happiest when asked to break into a song. The first year B Tech student at Waljat College of Applied Sciences gives us a demo.

Her powerful rendition aside, the constancy of her smile tells you just about everything. The 30-odd trophies displayed on her drawing room shelf are added incentives, she says.

Ritika recently did the sultanate proud when she was declared winner at a music reality show in UAE. In its seventh season now, the Sky Sangeetha Varsham 2015, organised by Radio Asia 1269 AM of UAE, saw 41 participants from across GCC, as well as India. The competition, which began in April last year, culminated with the finals in Dubai on January 2.

“It was my toughest till date,” says Ritika, a trained Carnatic singer, who has been participating in live music competitions ever since she was ten – her first as part of Muscat Idol Little Gems in 2007.

This show was nothing like what Ritika had done before with her having to sing into the phone during the elimination rounds for her judges, who were sitting in UAE.

“The radio channel would give me a call here, and I would be asked to sing my song,” she says, adding, “Since the instruments were playing on the other end and the competition was taking place on the phone, there was a lag in the music.”

“Often, I found it difficult to keep pace. I had to ensure that I kept with the tempo all the time.”

However, despite the minor hiccups, she found herself sailing through the nine rounds, held over a period of eight months.

“The good thing is that the judges would give me feedback immediately and also let me know where I faltered. This helped me improve my performance,” she says. What made it easer was that through the elimination rounds, she would sit in her drawing room and sing in front of her parents instead of a large audience. It reduced the risk of stage fright.

For the finals Ritika, who was shortlisted among eight other finalists, sang the popular Bollywood track Chikni Chameli and Malayalam song Arivin Nilave, securing the first place.

Interestingly, while Ritika had been practising classical, semi-classical and popular Indian music to prepare for the show, she is more partial towards western pop and R&B. Her favourite singer is YouTube sensation and The Voice contestant Christina Grimmie.

Ritika, who previously lent her voice for Balochi artiste Shab Sulu’s album, has also started her own channel on YouTube, where she now uploads covers of Indian and western songs from time to time.

Despite her treasure trove of talent, Ritika appears sceptical about pursuing a career in music.

All in good time, she said, “Right now, I just want to concentrate on my education. But music is always going to be what I’m most passionate about.”