Akshay Sharma aka Mr Shay

"How my creativity could inspire people, make them cry, make them see a different perspective, make them learn about a new culture... I do what I do because the arts has the power to change lives"

Image: Ben Bray

What do you do?

I always find this question hard to answer as a multi-arts practitioner…who likes to do everything. But for the sake of professional business spiel, here’s my well rehearsed elevator pitch.

I am a community arts practitioner who specialises in urban music and media under my creative social enterprise, The Underground Creatives.

I run workshops and projects for young people from music production, to lyric writing to video production. I produce live music shows; my current show is called, Whistle Drop Tour: Hip Hop Edition, which features 3 amazing artists taking children and families through an educational tour of Hip Hip culture and music. I create short films with children, young people and their communities, which focus on social topics and issues that are important to them.

As well as delivering community projects, I create music as an independent artist. When I am Mr Shay, words are my playground and I string them together to make structured sentences and stanzas which sound rhythmic and catchy, better known as poetry and rap. As a music artist, I love to make and rap over Hip Hop beats and as a poet I love to construct intricate rhyme schemes and playful verses. I just love the creative process and I’m so excited by the idea of sharing meaningful messages through the vehicle music and creative writing. My latest project as an artist was a collaboration with An Indian Summer (England, Leicester) and Bandish Projekt (India), where we fused Indian classical instrumentation and vocals with spoken word, rap and electronic beats.

How did you get to where you are?

I have always been a creative soul, way back into my childhood; I was always acting on stage or rapping in the playground. I was also very strong in academia, particularly the Sciences. There came a point in my life, when I was 15 years old, where I had to make a decision between two career paths. The Sciences or The Arts. I chose both and throughout college I would yo-yo between the traditional science building and the contemporary arts building, studying, Biology, Chemistry, Art & Design and Drama. My mind was focused on getting into Medical school, but my heart was set on a career in something more creative. Cut a long story short, I ended up starting my own creative social enterprise shortly after college.

With support from Leicester’s Curve Theatre and The Mighty Creatives, I was able to develop The Underground Creatives. My first show was a fusion between the Sciences and the Arts; a one man stage show addressing the topic of sexual health in teenagers and young adults, conveyed through acting, dance, beat-box and rap. The show toured around Community Centres and NHS health events in Leicester and was the first step to my pathway in initiating social change and commentary through an arts enterprise.

Why do you love what you do?

I love people and their reactions. When I was a child, the applause and whistles translated into positive energy which made me feel good. My self esteem would sky rocket and I would feel a buzz like no other. Later in life it became less about how it made me feel and more about how my music or film or message made others feel. How my creativity could inspire people, make them cry, make them see a different perspective, make them learn about a new culture.

Now I centre my creative work around enabling children and young people to have the same connection with the arts. Whether it’s the creation of a song or a collective album, or a poem or a short film based on identity, the end outcome is a part of them being offered to their audience. Something that they can feel proud of and something which allows them to be seen or heard. I do what I do because the arts has the power to change lives.

Why are you based in Leicester?

Leicester is where I hold all of my most precious memories. I pass the Royal Infirmary, the hospital where I was born, to delivery a guest lecture about entrepreneurship at De Montfort University, which neighbours it. Not only does it nest my best memories, it continues to be a beacon of hope for diversity.

A city which speaks countless languages and beams a rainbow of cultures. I walk down the iconic Golden Mile and I’m reminded of my rich Indian heritage, so far from where my ancestors came from, yet so close to its authentic roots. Leicester is small yet mighty and resilient. I’m extremely proud to represent this city through my creative work.

What next?

You can keep up to date with my latest creative projects via my website www.undergroundcreatives.co.uk. Connect with me as a music artist on my socials.

Here are some tracks and live performances fresh off the press:

An Indian Summer Festival 2020

Home Crowd x Bandish Projekt, Mr Shay, Sitar Music Society, An Indian Summer

Cosmopolitan Arts Festival 2020

Social media accounts to follow:

Facebook: /MrShayArtist

Twitter: @Mrshay_artist

Instagram: @Mrshay_artist