SHAMIR TANDON: MAKING MUSIC & INNOVATIONS!by Aparajita Krishna June 20 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 27 mins, 53 secs
Aparajita Krishna talks to Shamir Tandon, who has heard, seen, faced music (smiling emoji) from both behind-the-scenes business of music-making to upfront in making it as a music-director.
He is a qualified MBA, done Cost-Accountancy and started his career in Merchant Banking. Musical-notes beckoned. A music-director of film and non-film music in the present, he was at the age of 31 the youngest music CEO at Virgin Music India. Here, in a 9-year stint, he grew from a marketing manager to a country head. As a very young executive he had even earlier worked at Plus Music. That is where we had first met back in mid-1990s.
After 12 years in corporate jobs, to making advertising jingles, he dived full-time into creating music himself. Shamir finally hit the film-notes in 2005 with the very hummable songs of Page 3! Kitne Ajeeb Rishte Hain Yahan Pe…! With ‘the’ Lata Mangeshkar! He went on to curating and composing Asha and Friends (No. 1 album of 2006-07) where he got Asha Bhosle to sing with Sanjay Dutt, Urmila Matondkar, Brett Lee and others. He has had other legendary singers like Manna Dey, Jagjit Singh, Bhupinder Singh, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan sing his compositions.
He is a music-entrepreneur of sorts. He has composed the non-film album for the top four winners of Indian Idol 6 and the anthem for the 2007 Cricket World Cup. International collaborations too found their place.
As a music-curator, Shamir offers consultation to many brands, production houses and agencies. He has handled artist repertoire and music consultancy for Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s album Back 2 Love (2014), which won Mirchi and GIMA awards. His out-of-the-box musical initiatives include appearance on KBC with Amitabh Bachchan in the Children’s Day Special along with the 6-Pack Band 2.0, as a tribute to the legend. It had children with special needs participate. His appearance in the Kapil Sharma Show with the Transgender Band was another novel music-initiative.
Shamir Tandon defines himself as ‘a unique person wearing and donning multiple hats and seamlessly steering multiple lanes.’
We get talking. Shamir Tandon’s very fine articulation looks back, looks at the present and looks ahead at the music-scenario with notes of candor, honesty and replete with captivating anecdotes.
Film Afwaah directed by Sudhir Mishra, produced by Anubhav Sinha, released on 3th May 2023. You are the music director. This is your 5th film with Sudhir Mishra. Tell us about the music of the film.
Sudhir Mishra’s Afwaah was primarily for OTT, Netflix release and not much for theatrical release. I am fortunate to be the solo composer of the film. There is only one song that comes in many avatars in the film. It is beautifully written by Dr Sagar from JNU. It is an anti-lori. Aaj ye basant thoda bawara hua… sung by Mame Khan and the female version sung by Sunetra Banerjee.
Lori is basically sung by a mother to her child, but this is wherein a child sings to her mother. The song explores the cacophony and devastation spread around us. Afwaah/Rumor (mongering) is taking a toll of lakhs of human-lives.
Mame Khan is a prolific folk-singer from Rajasthan. The differentiating factor here is that I have made him sing in the mandra-saptak, the lower octave. Most folk-artistes generally sing on the tar-saptak, the highest octave. This azaadi to have a folk-singer sing in low octave and create a differentiated sonic-soundscape can only come from filmmakers like Sudhir Mishra who are willing to experiment. I have given a break to Sunetra Banerjee, a wonderful singer, who is a disciple of Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty from Kolkata. It is only Sudhir who is willing to try out new voices. Most directors would have said, ‘Let’s go with one of the more well-known singers.’
With Sudhir Mishra this is my fifth outing. The first outing was in 1996 when I put up the posters of his film, Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin, when I was just a marketing manager at Plus Channel. Then I released Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi when I was the MD of Virgin EMI. My music journey as a composer started with Sudhir in a short film called Kirchiyaan. Then came Inkaar (2013) in which the theme Song Khamosh ye awaaz hai/labzon mein inkaar hai… was sung by Papon and Shahid Mallya. Then in one of his versions of Devdas, Das Dev (2018), I gave music to the song Marne Ka Shauk. And finally, this Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Bhumi Pednekar starrer film called Afwaah.
What is your overview of the current Hindi music scene? Also tell us of your assignments and innovations.
From the time COVID set-in and affected filmmaking, a lot of music companies realized that it’s time to do non-film music, the way it used to be in the 1990s. The music labels realize that films nowadays are not in the league of a Mughal-e-Azam, Aashiqui, with 10-9-8 songs. Most of the films being released are either songless, or, we have 1-2 songs, which again are not lip-sync, just as the background score. Presently, out of say 200 odd films that get made in a year, barring 5-6 films, the rest do not have the song and dance elements - barring Yashraj, Karan Johar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali films, those which come once in 2-3 years and have songs. Hence to satiate the ever-increasing appetite of the Indian consumer who wanted to listen to more music, the record companies and publishing labels realized that they should go back to the 1990s structure of creating non-film music.
Seven labels approached me during the COVID pandemic to compose non-film songs. From that period until now, I continue to serve those labels that do more than 100 non-film songs. These cover the spectrum of pop-songs to devotional, ghazals, Sufi, poetic-songs and others. I am currently busy with more than 100 non-film songs. Also, since I am heavily into brand-solutions, we do a lot of advertising music. I would be the only music-director in the country, or, probably in the world who is a qualified MBA in marketing and cost-accountancy and had the experience of managing the P&L at Virgin Records. Hence, I understand the business of brands.
One of my verticals is to create the music and solutions for brands, with music as an underbelly and a very important piece of communication to align brands that sonically create brand-identity, astitva and wajood.
Now to revert back to the beginnings and follow the chronology. Tell us about your familial background. Was music a part of the lineage or like most of us it was part of the social-cultural milieu? In school and at college festivals you would be singing and composing music?
I come from a very normal, middle-class background. My father was an accounts-supervisor in the Indian Railways and my mother was a homemaker and a tuition-teacher. I lost both of them in my teens. So, my brother and I had to make a living and figure out our lives post the passing away of our parents.
Do we have music as a lineage? Definitely not. My brother did chartered-accountancy and law. He sang Mukesh songs all his life. My Naani used to sing in the bhajan-mandalis. People would not have a bhajan-sandhya in the colony without her. May be a bit of that has come from her. Did I learn music? No. Did my parents encourage me? Yes. I do shat-shat-pranam and naman to them.
In later 1970s, early 1980s, when people were doing engineering, becoming doctors, they were like, ‘Agar sangeet karna hai toh seekh lo’. I was personally academically inclined. I was one of those studious students who got 100% in mathematics and 97% in physics. I enjoyed academics. I graduated from Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics (Mumbai). In school I used to sing Anup Jalota bhajans. In college I used to do something very funny. If there was a singing contest, back in the late 1980s, all boys would sing Kishoreda’s songs, Rafi Saheb’s, or, Mukeshji, Hemantda’s and Sehgal Saheb’s songs. By then Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan had also sprung up. I would not do that. I would write and compose my own songs and sing. That became my identity. That also won me some prizes in college. I had never learnt to sing even the first note ‘Sa’! I was so academically inclined. Aur phir music seekhne ke paise bhi tab nahi theh. Parents had expired.
I did my MBA in cost-accountancy from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in early 1990s. Also, a short course in Boston. I then started my career in high purchase lease and merchant banking with Kotak Mahindra and Birla Global Finance.
So, how did Music as a professional assignment waft in?
I was very scared to do music professionally, though I passionately wanted to do. I had no connection in Bollywood. We used to hear stories in the late 1980s, 1990s that the film industry is governed by the underworld.
I had a short stint at Plus Channel (India) Ltd. I entered as a senior manager for Plus Events, but eventually my hidden agenda was to get into the entertainment circuit, make contacts, learn. I would have these side-conversations with Mr. Amit Khanna, that if he can give me a chance in music. He would shout and say ‘Go and do what you have been hired to do’ (laughs). Rightfully so. At least I was in that milieu. I was focused. I would keep doing marketing and other P&L based jobs. I would also interact with musicians and figure out how life works in the entertainment world.
Slowly and steadily, I was able to make the jump from the managerial tasks that I did for almost 15 years to finally get into music. In the late 1990s, professional companies, international global giants like Sony, Virgin EMI etc. started coming into India. As a strategy I did a back-door entry. I got into Virgin EMI as a marketing manager and grew to be the managing director. At Virgin EMI record label, I made a lot of contacts.
At Virgin EMI you played a key role in marketing and distributing global brands like the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Frank Sinatra, Norah Jones, Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue. You were instrumental in bringing to India bands like Deep Purple, Rolling Stone, MLTR and Richard Clayderman.
Yes. As a label we did a lot of innovative things back then. Whatever got internationally released shidat se uski marketing karte theh.
Then after having spent 12 years in corporate-music work, you dived full-time into music-creation as an independent composer. Obviously the long-sitting passion beckoned. Was/is there a conflict always resting between the creative and the marketing?
I don’t see that as a conflict. I see that as complimentary. Till date there are no guarantees in the entertainment and music world and one has no clue where you will get your next piece of bread from. Hence it is important to have a well-etched operation that can navigate two different worlds, keeping music as the undercurrent. Whether you are making music for the brands or films, at least when you get up in the morning you are making music! Ho sakta hai ‘Nirma! Washing Powder Nirma!’ Wohi bana rahe. Ya ho sakta hai film Page 3 ke liye bana rahe. I see that as a very positive trait.
People today talk of changing lanes, pursuing passion! This thought dawned upon me some 15 years back. My background and living are simple, modest. In leaving my job my wife was very supportive. One thing I had with me was a degree. Agar music ki dukaan nahi chali then one could go back to a job. Instead of a GM one would get a placement as a Deputy GM. So, I decided that I will leave managing P&L, excel-sheet, power-points and creating music.
But, once I quit the full-time job, a lot of corporate companies offered me retainers-consultancies. First such assignment was with Mauj, a company also associated with Anupam Mittal’s shaadi.com. Then Universal Music invited me to become a consultant. My two sons’ fees got taken care of.
What paid big for me was that when I quit my corporate career at Virgin EMI in 2006 - I signed 9 films as music composer. I thought now I will become bigger than A R Rahman! But in 2007-2008, recession hit in, globally, and all those 9 films got dumped. I got a big jhatka. Those were big offers, like from Sunny Deol run Vijeta Films, Percept, Viacom, Sangeeth Sivan, Popcorn, Mahindra Films. But I had retained my business acumen. So, apart from relying on film, non-film music I created music-content for brands. If tomorrow I stop getting work from the film industry, I would still be doing music, not selling for an insurance company.
Your big break in Bollywood was the national award-winning film Page 3 (2005). All the songs were composed by you. Kitne ajeeb rishte hain yahan pe, sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Huzoor-E-Ala, sung by Asha Bhosle as duet, rest in recall. Do share your experience. Two great playback singers singing under your music-direction! Lataji is now in the celestial space, but her music is with us forever. How would you in your expert articulation summarize her uniqueness?
I was sitting at JW Marriott at Juhu and working on some media buying plan for my company as a media-planner. Suddenly at the next table at the BBC coffee shop I was introduced by a common friend to this gentleman who was making a film and did not have the budget. We got talking. I said, ‘Yaar mujhe bhi music karna hai. I have a salaried job, so I can do it without taking too much money from you as long as you reimburse my costs.’ That guy said, ‘Okay, I can come and hear your music. I also don’t have much money. I can’t afford big composers. So, if you can deliver, I am happy to have you.’ That gentleman happened to be Madhur Bhandarkar. Rest is history.
I scored all the songs of Page 3. Then I did the entire national award-winning trilogy: Page 3, Corporate and Traffic Signal. Madhur ke saath teeno filmein kar ke maza aaya. I was determined to get my composition ‘Kitne ajeeb rhishte hain yahan pe’ sung by Lata Bai. Lataji took some time, but she agreed. It is her largesse! Greatness. She was willing to sing for a new nincompoop like me and that was because she liked the song. She asked me to send it on a cassette to her and said, ‘CD par matt bhejo kyunki cassette par rewind kar main uss-e baar baar sunn payungi. CD mein rewind nahi hota.’ Very sweet. When she came for the recording, she brought along food for us. I would sit at her feet. She informed us and taught us things. I have stories galore with her which I can write a book on.
Latabai was not only a complete artist, but also a complete human being. A woman of substance! A real epitome of women empowerment! A very young girl who went on to feed her entire family after her father’s early death. At the age of 13-14 she first started with acting, then singing. Unlike what is talked about, she was most fond of Ashaji and loved her. Both sisters had a great bonding.
Latabai had also become very choosy and age was not supporting her vocals, but apart from Yash Bhaiya I was the only one she was singing for. I again recorded her for film Jail (2009) - for the song ‘Daata Sun Le’. I have another unreleased song with her also.
Lataji sang without asking too many questions about me. I had nothing to boast of. She just sang and did not take money from me. She said, ‘Jab tumhari film release par hogi aur producer-director paise denge, tab de dena.’ Thrice I went to her place with a cheque. She refused to take it. Finally, when the film was set for release and the song got released, she complied. She also said to me, ‘Aajkal maine suna hai ki log gaana doosre singers se gava lete hain. Ho sakta hai aap meri aawaaz udha deiin. Technology aisi ho gayi hai.’ I said, ‘Didi what are you saying?’ She said, ‘Agar aap ke paas studio ke paise bharne ko nahi hain toh main bhar deti hoon.’ And also, ‘Agar main besura gaayungi toh aap mujhe daantiyega. Tandon Saheb aapka auhada mujhse bada hai.’
All these things were ingrained in her. She would make me sit in a higher chair when I would want to sit at her feet. She would say, ‘Nahi. Ek sangeetkar hamesha ek singer se upar hota hai.’ In the beginning I would wonder if Lataji was joking with me. But no. She was very genuine. She would invite me to all the functions in her house.
My biggest Grammy or Oscar moment was when in her book by Nasreen Munni Kabir my photo was also carried. It is written therein that I am one of her favorite composers with whom she has sung one of her last songs. She must have worked for nearly 1000-1200 composers but in the book photos of just 10-12 composers are printed. Mine is among them. This is not an experience that money can buy. Main toh unke charano ki dhool ka pani piyoonga. She told me, ‘Aap itna achcha compose karte hain, haalanki aap baar baar kehte hain ki aapko sangeet nahi aata. Lekin aapki composition mein itna thehraav hai, itni cheezein hain. Toh aap chahein toh apni naukri hatayiye. This is your calling.’
One day Lataji came for my recording and said, ‘Meri tabiyat theek nahi.’ I asked her why did she then come? She said, ‘Nahi, aapko lagta ki main aapko ullu bana rahi hoon. Issliye main Peddar Road se Andheri aapko ye batane aayi ki meri tabiyat theek nahi.’ Mera haath apne maathe pe rakha aur kaha, ‘Dekhiye mujhe bukhaar hai.’ I said you could have told me this over the phone. She said, ‘Nahi. Phir aap ko lagta ki aap naye composer hain aur main bahut badi Lata Mangeshkar hoon toh nakhare kar rahi hoon.’ This was her greatness. She gave me respect. She gave me what was beyond my dreams.
Your special collaboration with Asha Bhosle deserves a separate question. Apart from the film songs, you curated and composed the album of 2006-07 ‘Asha and Friends’ where you got Asha Bhosle to sing with Sanjay Dutt, Urmila Matondkar, etc. You also got Brett Lee and Robbie Williams to sing with Asha Bhosle. Give us an insight. Also ‘O Sikander O Sikander’ sung by her, Kailash Kher (2006) was a well-received private album. It had music by you. What makes Asha Bhosle as uniquely contemporary and innovative as she was in the past.
I had decided that the song Huzzor-e-Ala in Page 3, I would only get sung by Ashaji. Else I will change the song. In 2004 emailing, recording songs via Hotmail was a new idea. She was in San Francisco. I sent her the link. She said, ‘Wait karo. Main aayungi toh record karoongi.’ I said, ‘Wait karne ka time nahi hai.’ Then she went and recorded the song in a studio there. She didn’t even know me. She liked the song and so she recorded it herself along with a foreign sound-engineer. Upon her return she told me, ‘Look, I have sent you the song but it is the first time in my life that I have recorded by myself with a foreigner sound engineer who did not know the language and without any presence of a music director, lyricist, film director. I just heard your link and rendered it all on my own.’
Then she shared an anecdote, as to why she complied doing so. The story goes that Pancham Saheb had once told Ashaji, ‘Look Asha, if you have to remain relevant in an industry then be prepared that the new composers will bring new, new technology via which they will make you sing. And if you refuse to do so, then you will be out.’ Ashaji replied, ‘Main toh marte dum tak out nahi hongi.’ So, we all have to learn a lesson from this. That if you don’t shape up you are shipped out. Ashaji implemented that. That was her badapan aur buzurgiyat. I am like an adopted son to her.
In my eyes Asha Bhosle is a management and marketing guru. She is the only singer on planet earth who has reinvented herself in every decade of her career. And her versatility is at another level. The way she sang for say Madan Mohan or O P Nayyar is so different from the way she delivered for R D Burman, A R Rahman. Then ‘Khallas’ in 2002 in the film Company, with Sandeep Chowta. Then with me. She never criticizes change or the new generation. She exposes herself to a lot of international music all the time - from Gloria Estefan to Mariah Carey. And she is amalgamating her Indian classical prowess with that. That is why she is who she is!
I achieved one more feat! I made both the sisters, Lataji and Ashaji, sing together in a film after a very long time.
The other chosen picks from your film repertoire would be, Corporate (2006) - Lamha Lamha Zindagi Hai (Asha Bhosle), Traffic Signal (2007) - Na Jis Din…(2007), Jail (2009) - Daata Sun Le ( Lata Mangeshkar), Ragini MMS (2011) - Itne Kareeb Aao, Inkaar (2013) - Inkaar Hai, Piku (2015) - title song remix, Bank Chor (2017), Daas Dev (2018), Welcome to New York (2018). Then music in films like The Body (2019) - Main Janta Hoon (Jubin Nautiyal), The Interview: Night of 26/11 (2021).
The films you have listed are correct as my filmography. But I do have a grudge. The mainstream Hindi cinema has always evaded me. I have been doing films with Madhur Bhandarkar, Mahesh Manjrekar, Sudhir Mishra. But commercial cinema has not come to me. I am very patient. I would also like my songs to get sung by the Shah Rukh Khans, Ranveer Singhs of the world. But whatever I have done has its own identity. It is nice to feel that even without the stars my music got its legs and travelled whatever little I have travelled. Innings have yet to start.
How do you assess yourself as a music composer?
I am a natural composer. I have not learnt music. If someone tells me Yaman Raag mein banayiye, Bhopali mein banayiye, Raag Lalit mein chahiye, Komal Gandharv lagayiye, ye sab nahi hota hai. I make direct composition and later the people analyze what it is.
I am blessed. Without having learnt music my music has got published and sung by the most erudite singers, not only in India but globally. Lata Bai sang the first song that I composed in my life. Aur Jagjit Singh Saheb! Asha ji continues to sing for me. Manna (Dey) da’s last song was with me. Bhupiji’s (Bhupendra) last film song was with me. I cannot even call all this a dream come true, because I never dreamt that they would sing for me. Why would they sing for a nincompoop who has never put a Sa in his life? I can’t play a single instrument. Bas hai jo bhi hai!
Tips’ A Tribute to Jagjit Singh has 12 songs from the formidable Jagjit Singh’s repertoire being re-created/sung by 12 renowned singers in a contemporary style. Music has been recreated by you. Your tribute to Jagjit Singh obviously speaks of your enduring respect and admiration for this path-making singer-music director, along with his creative partner and wife Chitra Singh. Tell us more.
We called Jagjitji, Papaji. I knew him since the age of six. Vivek Singh, his son, was my school-classmate. We sat on the same bench for 11 years. We were also together in Sydenham College, Mumbai. Unfortunately, he then passed away in a road accident. I was very close to Papaji. He used to love me. Main tab se unke music, awaaz ka aashique hoon jab humein saaki mein nukhta bhi lagana nahi aata tha. His voice was so mesmerizing that even at the tender age of 10-12 we loved those songs, melodies. They would bring tears in my eye. Humne unko nichor ke, ghol ke piya hua hai. Kumar Taurani Saheb could have asked anyone to do a tribute album on him and any musician would have done it. I don’t know how it fell into my lap.
The Live-In song is penned by Javed Akhtar, sung by Mohit Chauhan and Nikita Gandhi. This non-film, rock song is composed by you.
As a composer I did not get the opportunity to work with Javed Akhtar. Pehle unhone kaafi resist kiya shayad (little laugh). But finally, when I communicated my credentials to him in detail then he got confidence and he wrote for me. Rest is history. I got Mohit Chauhan and new girl Nikita Gandhi to sing. Toh badiya laga. Uske baad toh Javed Saheb ki aashiqui badh gayi hamare saath. Uske baad humne ek vigyapan bhi saath kiya hai. Hoping to do more work with him.
Legendary Manna Dey also sang for you.
After 17 years of giving up his singing career he agreed to sing under my baton. To become a great artiste, you have to be a good human being somewhere. Mannada would reach for the recording before time.
You released an anti-piracy song for which the top singers of Bollywood collaborated. Salaami Ho Jaye! Sung by Sonu Nigam, Shankar Mahadevan, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shaan, Mohit Chauhan.
There was a time when our music industry had almost come to a standstill and was about to shut down. People were going back to selling soaps and detergents. Aap gaana release karo aur piracy kills it. I felt like bringing the entire industry together and educate the consumer. Police aur court interventions do not work in all this. Best is soft approach of reaching the message to the people that without paying for a song and listening to it is wrong, and duplicating a cassette into copies and buying-selling is very wrong. This message we communicated through our salami song.
You have been innovating music with causes and concerns. Novel music initiatives.
I am the only composer on this planet using music incessantly and consciously to spread awareness. I believe that edutainment and infotainment via music and entertainment is most far-reaching. Its efficacy doubles up. Through music you tell people to give respect to the transgender communities, the mentally challenged or to children with autism, dyslexia. To stop calling them pagal/mad. God has put in them an operating system that is different from ours. Transgenders are not the underworld who you should look down upon. They are just aligned in a particular way. I have used a very good thought from the Guru Granth Sahib: ‘‘Ek noor te sab jag upajeyaa/Kaun bhale kaun mande/Sab rab de bande/Sab rab de bande”. We are all equal children of God.
You had appeared on KBC with Amitabh Bachchan in the Children’s Day Special along with the 6 Pack Band 2.0 as a tribute to the legend. It had 6 children with special needs participate. You are the curator and composer of it. I watched the link of the 6 singing, ‘Ek noor te sab jag upajeya…’ and a medley of Amitabh Bachchan songs. As amateurs they really sang well. Amitabh Bachchan seemed to be genuinely moved and appreciative. It is commendable to make music socially interventionist to causes.
I have to wholeheartedly thank Bachchan Saheb that five years back on Children’s Day he invited us, gave us respect, listened to the children with autism and bipolar syndrome, encouraged them spiritedly.
The Transgender Band with which you appeared on the Kapil Sharma Show is another novel music-initiative. Making transgenders group-together in music with such good intent can surely go a long way in giving them due respect and empowering them.
We were given immense respect. Kapil Sharma till today says to me that ‘very big celebrity-actors like Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar come for my show. But this episode touched my heart.’
You have composed more than 150 advertising jingles for popular brands such as Ambuja Cement, Idea, Big Bazaar, ICICI, Pepsi, Samsonite, SBI, LIC, Airtel and more.
Yes, I have composed for the last 20 years for all the brands you mentioned. We musicians have to creatively make all kinds of music. Be it a social cause, a commercial film, a brand, a devotional song. It also generates revenue.
You had composed the anthem for the 2007 Cricket World Cup wherein 11 leading singers sang together in one song.
Mr, Amitabh Bachchan read the sher of Bashir Badr in this song: ‘Hum toh dariya hain, humein apna hunar maloom hai, jis taraf se guzreinge, raasta wahin bann jayega’. He recited it for the encouragement of the team and the country. Singers like Roop Kumar Rathod, Kailash Kher, Shaan, Zubin, all sang. I had made such compositions at a time when the social media was not so actively used. Else these songs would have spread much wider.
Your non-film album for the top four winners of Indian Idol 6, comprised five original tracks and four special renditions of the song ‘Pal’ for each of the winners.
Yes. Even for Sa Re Ga Ma winners from time to time. Back then it was a big thing to bring out single-albums of these top-five winners and for a big music company launch them. For the launch they needed original songs. That they would take from us. Keeping each one’s gaayaki in mind I would compose.
In international collaborations, you have also collaborated with the Boy Band Blue for the song ‘One Love’, which featured Abhishek Bachchan and Bipasha Basu. You brought together Enrique Iglesias and Sunidhi Chauhan for the track ‘Heartbeat’, which was featured in Enrique’s album. You worked with European artists for the film Bluffmaster and have also worked with Jay Sean.
Yes. As far as collaborations go, I think I am a pioneer of international collaborations of legitimate international collaborations. Wherein we give them equal credit rather than plagiarize. Earlier people would do that.
Apart from music you are also a consultant for many brands, production houses and agencies. Currently, you are consulting for Universal Music Group for their A&R and digital music space. You were also responsible for artist repertoire and music consultancy for Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s album, Back to Love, which won Mirchi and GIMA awards.
Yes. I also call myself a curator. I am not just a composer. Labels and brands have asked me to do curation. I have excellent relations with all artistes of the country ranging from the legends to rappers, DJs, to underground artists to independent artists. Which is why when the satellite or digital platforms, or OTT or brands want to do some work in the music space they touch base with me. We are a one-stop shop that do turn-key solutions.
Finally, what would you tell the critics and the listeners who genuinely lament the downfall in the standard of our Indian film and non-film music. Especially in Hindi films.
Actually, I also blame the consumers for the downfall. I think listeners should reject what is not good. Once the listener starts rejecting what is not good then the makers will become careful and start rethinking. And, then there will be a paradigm shift wherein the makers will have to make good music. Now if a label or film production house is dishing out bad music, the consumer is taking it, and it is making money, then why should they not dish out bad music? The consumer is buying it, streaming it or consuming it. Agar aap khatta dahi khareendengi toh wo dahi manufacturing company khatta hi bechegi. If people buy drugs, then the drug peddlers will sell drugs. Since the last few years anything being made, the consumer is listening to it. So, I don’t blame the maker. I blame the receiver.
Today while spending one crore on making such a bad, dirty song, the maker is getting a return of two crores on it! A producer or a music label-head is just a businessman. Let a bunch of consumers from a 130-crore population in the country start saying, 'Give me again what I used to hear in the golden years of music!’ Then the makers will be pressurized to deliver good melody and poetry.