Swapna Abraham, a 47-year-old citizen of Dubai and a native of Kottayam, crossed a major milestone in a unique musical journey. On her way to set a world record by composing and singing 1,000 songs in 1,000 days, Swapna reached the 500th day of her landmark challenge on August 20.
What made the day more worthwhile was the presence of Yasser Al Gergawi, director of cultural events, Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development of Dubai, at the HSI Events studio where Swapna composes and uploads her songs every day. Her music has also travelled all the way from Dubai to the Kensington Palace in London and the singer is overjoyed on hearing back from the royal couple.
“Every day has been a challenge and I look forward to completing the journey considering I have reached so far,” Swapna tells TNM.
Swapna, though not a musician by profession, has been composing and singing songs for the past 24 years. She has performed on stages across the globe and has around 20 odd albums to her credit.
“On March 28, 2016, I was overwhelmed by a sudden sense of wanting to give up and retire from music after having been at it for 24 years. In that state, I did the strangest of things – wrote another song titled ‘Be Strong’. The following day, I woke up with the idea of writing 1,000 songs in 1,000 days, in real terms, a song a day. That evening, after I got home from work, I sat again and wrote ‘Crossing Over’; the following day in similar fashion I wrote ‘Blest & Broken’. By then I was convinced that I could do this for 1,000 days,” Swapna recalls.
Though not a morning person, Swapna wakes up at 3.30 am and goes live on her website with her impromptu lyrics and composition. “The challenge has set my life on a more disciplined path. I try sleeping by 8.30 pm and wake up by 3.30 in the morning. It takes me around 2 hours to complete 2 songs and another 45 minutes or more to upload them on Cloud and YouTube, which is quite a challenge especially on working days,” the singer says.
The 1,000 days-1,000 songs challenge involves composing music and lyrics with no pre-work, producing, orchestrating, singing, recording and publishing two songs a day – one regular and the other a song for children. Swapna composes her songs at the HSI studio near her home in Dubai, just to add grit to the fact that the live composition is being done at a public space.
“Though I initially began with the idea of composing one song per day, I read that somebody else was already doing it and I wanted to set a more difficult task for myself. For the last 500 days, I have been able to successfully sing and compose 2 songs every day, but on the personal front the challenges were many,” Swapna says.
“My daughter got married and had a baby. My son graduated from university and it was a big achievement for me. My father back home suffered a traumatic fall. All of this meant I had to travel. There was uncertainty with respect to flights, baggage delivery, etc. I contracted Influenza A on a US tour. If I failed to compose a song within 24 hours of Dubai time, I would have failed the challenge. But somehow, I managed to get things together,” Swapna says.
The challenge, which commenced on April 8, 2017, is expected to end on January 2, 2020, in time for Expo 2020. “I have written songs in quick succession for several of my albums. I thought this over many times and the more I delved into it the more I was sure of two things – that this was no small challenge, but that I could do it,” she adds.
A single mother and a business administrator by profession, Swapna spent a large part of her childhood and teenage in Ooty and completed her graduation in Kerala. Studying in a boarding school in Ooty, Swapna was inclined towards playing the piano and even finished her grade 5 in piano classes from the Trinity College of Music in London.
“I started writing poetry at the age of nine and started composing from the age of 15. I was influenced by my maternal grandfather who, though blind, was extremely intuitive and a devout Christian. I admired him and started with singing church music,” Swapna says.
Swapna says that though she has personally never advertised her website, the response to her songs has been overwhelming so far. “I have audiences from different time zones who listen to my songs and never forget to drop me a review.”
Swapna says that the most memorable moment in her 500-day journey has been the song she composed for the royal couple, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, on their wedding day. “I was fortunate enough to also hear back from Kensington Palace, who sent me a card acknowledging my song ‘When Harry met Meghan’,” the singer says.
Some of the highlights of her 500-day journey include The Planet Saved (about how we saved Earth from all the damage we caused it), Last Christmas (in memory of the late George Michael), Year of Zayed (in memory of the founding president of the UAE) and Zabivaka (the official mascot of 2018 FIFA World Cup).
Swapna doesn’t seem to want to stop. The 47-year-old has set a higher bar for herself from the 700th day of her challenge. “I will be doing a third song for 100 days, seven a day during the last 40 days and on the 1000th day, I will finish the challenge composing 21 in a single day,” Swapna adds.