When she first heard her voice on Tesher’s Jalebi Baby in November last year, Shweta Subram immediately knew it was going to be special.
“He's an excellent producer,” Subram, who recorded the hook for the song in her home studio in Dubai, tells The National. “I knew this song was going to be big.”
Sure enough, the Punjabi-English track became all the rage on TikTok, with more than 3.7 million videos on the social media app. It’s been streamed more than 46 million times on Spotify, and 97 million times on YouTube. Jalebi Baby also spent more than 24 weeks on top of the Official Charts Company's Asian Music Chart Top 40.
Encouraged by its success, Canadian rapper and producer Tesher released a new version, featuring hitmaker Jason Derulo, in June. The official music video for the song premiered on YouTube on Tuesday.
Subram, who recorded her part in October, says she was introduced to Tesher’s music by a friend and got in touch with him early last year.
“I really liked his work and reached out to him, especially since he's a fellow Indo-Canadian,” she recalls. “Tesher told me that he appreciated my Bollywood work and may see an opportunity to work together in the future. Then he followed up and asked if I would be willing to be a background vocalist for Jalebi Baby.
“I had not done background work before, but I thought why not and agreed to it. When the song came out, I was surprised that my voice was actually used as the leading hook.”
Subram, who has sung for Bollywood films and performed around the world, was paid “a token amount” for her voice, but says she accepted the project “to support a fellow musician”.
While she wishes, however, that she was informed her voice was going to be the main hook, Subram says she’s glad to be part of a viral tune.
“Many people have reached out to me and told me that they love my voice in Jalebi Baby and would like to see more of my works with Tesher. Many have also asked me why they don't see my name in Spotify or in TikTok or Reels, to which I do not have an answer. However, because of this song, I have earned the nickname of Jalebi Baby,” she says.
“I want to congratulate Tesher on such a great song and on his rise in the music industry.”
Subram, who was raised in Dubai, started singing when she was 5 years old. Her first public performance, at the International Indian Film Academy Awards in Toronto in 2011, landed her a number of projects, including the soundtrack for Bollywood film Hawaizaada in 2015.
She has since recorded a number of musical projects in Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Sindhi and English.
In 2013, her song with The Piano Guys, known for their piano renditions of pop hits, went viral. Khushnuma, an adaptation of Don’t You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia mashed with Hindi lyrics, has been viewed more than 21 million times on YouTube.
“The guys were easy-going and open to experimenting with new ideas. We had a fantastic time recording the song and shooting the video – it felt more like a party than work. These guys are extremely talented and it was an honour to be chosen for this project,” she says.
Subram, who moved back to Dubai from Canada last year, says she’s always felt a connection to the city.
“I also wanted to be closer to Mumbai, where the Indian music industry is based. Had the pandemic not been there, I would have been spending a lot of time shuffling between Mumbai and Dubai,” she says.
She’s also been working on her own music.
“I have [a song] that I am targeting to release post-Eid Al Adha, before the Indian wedding season," she says. "I’m also looking at collaborating with like-minded musicians and also hoping to sing in diverse languages and showcase my musical talents.”