Robin Barnes. Pic/Instagram
Robin Barnes calls herself an artiste who can seamlessly decipher how clued in her listeners are to her act in a live performance. However, once, during a set that particularly consumed her, she was taken aback to notice that her renditions were being met with silence. “I thought it wasn’t working; that the audience wasn’t into it. But at the end of it, they all stood up and applauded. I could see that they were simply in awe,” recounts the Jazz singer, adding, “Herbie Hancock [celebrated Jazz musician] came up and told me he loved [my songs]. He went on to narrate my entire playlist,” says the musician from New Orland, the excitement in the voice, still palpable.
Talking to mid-day on the sidelines of her act at the MTV India Music Summit in Jaipur, Barnes makes it evident that despite all the global acclaim she has received, she is fervently excited to connect with listeners personally. “You will be surprised to see how much people can tell you with their body. If they are having a good time, they will tap their feet. If it’s a sad song, they will sway. If you see them on their phones, you instantly need to tweak your playlist. For me, making that switch on stage is easy, because I’ve been doing this since I was six years old.”
The ebullient singer asserts that the experience an artiste creates for the listener is vital, but argues that “one doesn’t need an army” to make a lasting impact. “I had made my way into a Stevie Wonder concert since I thought it was a huge act. But, apart from him, there was one person on the piano, and another on the tambourine. That’s it. And yet, I have never seen so many people off their seats, because they couldn’t keep from dancing.”
On her part, Barnes says she has enjoyed many a moment of gratitude as her listeners have thanked her for giving them “an escape for the five minutes that I rendered my song”. Born to a family of musicians, she says the importance that her parents placed on staying humble helps keep her romance for the profession alive. “I’ve been singing in church since I was 10. People cry every Sunday. When you know you can touch someone’s soul, when they cry on hearing you, you’re motivated to [sing] all your life.”