Indian Popular Music – my journey untold

(Featured image: courtesy T-Series, is just for inspiration from life of a legend in context of of this blog, but has no bearing of  having any kind of personal association with its content, but wishing “Mogul” the very best for its release)

It was early 1990s when returning from Mumbai to catch the Delhi bound flight I had just reached the counter to get my boarding pass when a short, sweaty, but a very good looking man in white kurta and a large red ‘tilak’ on forehead came running ahead of me in the Q. With a boyish grin he was apologetically imploring to the lady that he got late and must get on the flight ahead of the one that I was to board much later.

The man needed no introduction but he was saying “I am Gulshan Kumar” and there was such humility in the request that all waiting in the queue smiled for Ashiqi-1 had been released and was to be the highest grosser in history of Indian cinema and Music. T-Series was to outlive many upturns and downturns, but I will never forget a man who sold juice in my neighborhood of Daryaganj, Delhi during my youth and I did not know him then! But I sense a chord, pride and always infinite motivation in that temple of music called Golden Chariot Studios in Andheri, Mumbai and the gateman is still courteous even in his refusals when I just chance it on Mumbai trips to meet them.

It was exactly 10 years ago that I found myself sitting a good 4-5 hours in the plush all-white office of Mr. Bhushan Kumar at T-Series where Mr. Ajay Kapoor had courteously left me while we discussed my first attempt at a music album when I had just started making my own songs but knew very little about recorded music. An old overused cassette player amidst splendor and large posters of Bollywood stardom was a gaping oddity. Later on, seeing a similar gadget outside of A. R. Rahman’s studio in Chennai, it was to be one of my most fantastic lessons of music – the best music must sound ‘right’ on normal gadgets where majority of 1.25 billion Indians get to listen and it was that many times I posted a song which sounded good in my studio and horrible to the listener…so sorry folks – it takes time, okay!

Well, it would have been okay if I started in my teens when my charm was winning school and college audiences, but no sweat absolutely even now if some unlikely experts of what sells would link me to Sonu Nigam’s dad while you know what I would have liked, right? The great guru Ghulam Mustafa Khan sahab, kind enough to inaugurate my little studio set up and many associated with Bollywood music explained about ‘universality of music’ where in these times one must know about technology, markets, stories of musicians past and present and making best use of available resources in a ‘digital world’ that makes life easy and complex per our own quality of ‘usage’.

Note: This is background of my fresh single “Apni Kahaniyan” which says every musician/songwriter given his freedom will do it like his heart says (please listen to demo attached) not what goes (“chalta hai”) – my principles and advise to young musicians.

I am at a stage where I feel certain that mastery of every musical nuance may be a personal objective, but it is what we want to say with our music that counts and we will learn through this treacherous path  if ‘stardom’ be not the reason for a song to be born. My era of ‘concert for Bangladesh’ and “we are the world” is proof of the “power of reason” to do music.

Never satisfied with just one division in my core profession(s), I was completely confused with questions “are you coming as a singer, or a composer”. A lifetime stretching from Indian classical music of mom, writing my feelings into music even as a kid on harmonium and then winning 1st prizes for my own compositions sung at college fests; such questions had never even crossed my mind, so I said “I am all of them”. Of course people laugh, people question the very basics of my tonal qualities and ‘sound’ with even greater gusto and admonish. Yes, even my immediate family would do that and is my first test always!

I am twisting words of a fellow writer, but ‘it take years of a lifetime (in my mode of execution) to find that ONE song we have really done well’ and let’s add LoL, for its modernity in context of “Baby ko Bass pasand hai” so man, give her Bass. Munde ko “chaar botal vodka” and to me that great shabad and bhajan from AR, so fine man let’s just do what we must, else we are not even on the path and as long as we are restless it’s ON; we peep into some other’s exam paper and we are gone!

But if Mr. Gulshan Kumar is to be a symbol, then age, genre and just endless knowledge of music be damned. We often misread our gurus who emphasize the necessity of ‘perfection’; but more than anything what it needs is immense passion, a desire to appreciate other singers, music around the world, musicians of all kinds and ethos of an ever-changing society and it goes for parentage to know that a Badshah will sell ahead of a Pritam or Rahman and neither have any qualms about that!

So 10 years into making my music, I have entered a critical phase of creating a philosophy of balance of life from lessons of a lifetime; the basic essence of what’s music that created the great songwriters of the world from Bob Dylan, Beatles, Kenny Rogers, Cat Stevens and so many of western lyrical musicians of my own youth and admiration to how Indian popular music is presently unfolding and wishing ourselves well on WORLD MUSIC DAY that was day before yesterday 21/3.

The critical aspect is that it is Indian music where divisions were created to accommodate a infant Bollywood industry known for the legends when there used to have just ‘top 3 or 4’ male and female singers. Mr. Gulshan Kumar and T-Series were going to put all theories of ‘what is perceived as music’ into the can. Meeting ‘music- makers’ from music industry anywhere in the world I learnt most did not know all about music, but had the gut feel on what will be liked and sell but never 100% sure until it actually does! So, I personally just live on gut feel of what I think I want to make for the moment and each song I make convinces me it will be a hit – Kick A** man, I’ll do my own Bass n Kick as I know the technology after all my closed door madness of a decade even along with my fighting entrepreneurship.

 And I just believe that’s how the great world musicians whose LP covers are now decorated in my son’s room would have thought. Oh yes, sonny is learning the twine that connects past to present and we no longer argue over what’s music of today that will sell. This essentially is my victory that matters today as I write this blog.

And so I plead these great impact specialists who make the people who make music today, to go beyond the Bass and sexy video that sells phase, cuz I am kicking A** to tell the world what I think of their questions. Yet I am stringing past and present to start with my day with Indian classical ‘Alaap’ on harmonium, which then breaks into a ghazal or bhajan in a raga of choice and time and it is then that the Bass N Kick and what pleases my ears tells me “yes – that’s the MIX!”

And with these words I am attaching this demo clip of multiple songs from the 100s of songs on my ‘sessions’ (as I write songs faster than I can finish them). This all came, damning the ‘tabalchi’ who won’t come, the guitarist who is now playing for the movies and too busy for a virgin recording artiste of future – digital music where we fill in for them.

Also, now I do not use studio monitors to finish my music…I use the Chandni Chowk purchased desktop speakers or cheap headphones and damn if my pocket does not allow me that expensive microphone and hardware which would reduce my ‘takes’ despite pleading to my ‘investors’.

I am certain Mr. Gulshan Kumar would have thought similarly had he been up with my kind of bottlenecks and we can “Lol” or “;)” once again and hopefully the gut-feel will work this time round as I have made my core ‘engineering’ and ‘project must-do’ skills to make my studio adequate anyhow and thank you Mumbai, Chennai, Pro-Studio, Ableton Live and thank you – the legends of the past whom I have got to listen to and hence learn from.

The video and musical demo will appear through the link below to YouTube and please listen to them all through http://www.talentrack.in/yogeshmusic anytime….it’s the path, not the final MIX like ‘chicken marinaded’ but not “in the tandoor”:

also through

http://www.talentrack.in/yogeshmusic

 

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