We talk to the Nottingham wonderboy about his latest hit single and more
Your 2nd single “Gal Sunja” has just gone straight in at # 1 on the Asian Download Chart; tell us something about this release?
The track was written and composed by my father Deedar Singh about 16 years ago if you can believe it! I finally recorded it with the help of the amazing Shayal on production and I’m really happy with how it’s turned out. There’s also a video directed by the multi-talented Ameet Channa. Of course I’m feeling massive pressure to deliver a second hit, especially since my debut single did so well. Having said that, the pressure keeps me going, I’d like to think I thrive on it.
Did you think the change in musical style from the last single would be a risk?
I believe music is all about taking risks and thinking out of the box and trying to do what the norm isn’t doing– this is how I am as a person and what I love doing. I love reinventing different styles of music; I really want people to see and hear what they’ve never experienced before from any other entertainer, so that’s my goal. Just as people start to get comfortable with “Gal Sunja”, we may have some surprises to come after that too.
“Nayo Lagda” was a huge success for a debut single; now that the dust has settled, tell us about your initial experience straight after the track exploded.
My initial experience after the success of “Nayo Lagda” was very rewarding, most importantly the love I received from all my fans has been priceless, especially from the younger generation who seemed to really connect to it. I’ve been sent so many links to videos of kids performing the track, I was humbled and touched that one song had such an impact. Then of course the classical elements are probably what made it appeal to the older crowd too.
You’ve mentioned in the past that you have very diverse tastes in music– give us some extreme examples?
Michael Jackson – I love how he had mastered the art of entertainment and the ability to connect with the audience on all different levels with his enervating styles of music. Also, Mohammed Rafi; I love the fact that he continued to make every song his own with the ability to adapt and have the angelic voice to sing different types of songs from romantic Bollywood, ghazals, qawwali and classical. I also listen to artists Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and of course Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan plus a lot of unreleased material from new singers, anything I can get my hands on.
Many say the heyday of live Asian music in the UK is long gone but you’ve performed live a number of times in your short career; what’s your opinion?
Yes the live scene has been absent from the performing scene for quite some time , but I think the live element is slowly coming back and I have seen a lot more acts now performing live with bands. A couple of years ago or so I saw Master Saleem perform live in Birmingham and it blew me away. He was incredible and it showed that Indian artists do what they love and aren’t afraid to experiment. I’ve also see the Legends Band, Mangal Singh was and still is amazing. 515 Crew are also ones to watch.
So apart from singing and music; what other talents do you have?
I’m very good at sport; I like martial arts, boxing and table tennis… but not good enough to make a career out of them!
You’re being positioned as a musical artist rather than just another Asian pop act; would you agree with that statement?
I agree in some aspects of that statement as I come from a musical background playing instruments but I would like for people to accept me as a versatile artist performer that can entertain and most important of all help heal and spread the love of unity through music. Whether I’m an Asian pop act is down to how the audience perceive me; I am whatever they see me as.
At what point did you stop and think, “I’m a bit famous now”?
The point I realised I was becoming known was when Bollywood playback singer Shaan mentioned me on during his BBC radio interview here in the UK although I’ve yet to meet him in person. Shortly after Rahat Fateh Ali Khan commented on me and my first single, and especially the sufi elements incorporated into the track. I’ve always been a big Rahat fan, I love his “O Re Piya” from Aaja Nachle.
Is there a masterplan to break into the Indian market?
I don’t believe in any man-made plan except for the one God has set out for us in life; we are supposed to work hard for what we want, follow our hearts and whatever is supposed to happen will happen; I truly believe that.
Your manager and Virtual Recordz label boss, Raj Ghai, is a well-known character on the Asian music scene; tell us something about him people wouldn’t know?
Raj has many talents! He is very funny and can always put a smile on your face and leave you in stitches with his jokes. In fact, I am if he wasn’t doing what he does, he would be a stand up comedian.
Do you think sufi music has been too diluted because of its recurrent and commercial use in Bollywood over the last few years?
Well I think sufi music is doing well in the Bollywood scene right now and we’re definitely hearing more and more acts incorporating it into their music which can only be a good thing.
Ironically it’s not an easy style to perform; yet many are jumping on the bandwagon…
I agree because it’s a pure form of music; the concept of sufi is that you go into a trance-like sate and connect with the Almighty. I think to reach that point, you need to be of a certain character with a special spiritual connection. While it’s easy to try and mimic that style, you can’t cheat the real spiritual connection and obviously not everyone can achieve that. Some are born with it and others may have to practice it for years to even come close to achieving it.
What’s your favourite track of the last 2 years?
I’m going to say my own song “Nayo Lagda” as the song means so much to me and has changed my life; this song has created recognition for me globally. Another track has to be Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” – ok, so it’s a bit older than 2 years but it’s an emotional track with powerful lyrics that has stayed with me since the first time I heard it.
You were born and raised in Nottingham- sell your city to us in 3 lines…
It’s a historical, vibrant & talented city. My favourite place would be Robin Hood Castle because it’s steeped in so much history and probably known worldwide. I love anything with history to it. Nottingham is also quite a musical city with multicultural influences; we have a Caribbean Carnival and also a small mela. There isn’t much of an Asian music scene here but other Asian hubs are not that far away from us.
You’ve sung in English for the BBC’s Tabla Sessions- is that something you might look to develop in the future?
You will most definitely see more of this from me hopefully a whole range of new styles. I may even record in English in the future, if and when the time is right.
Are there plans for an album?
With the market as it is these days, I think the focus will be quality singles although that may change in the future. We do have a surprise coming up soon hopefully, plus some future collaborations on a different tip– so something fresh every time.
You’ve performing at a number of melas this summer– what can people expect to see?
You can hear me perform my own tracks plus other songs in different styles and expect a lot of improvisation. You can see me next at Nottingham Mela on 31st August 2014; I will be performing with a full live band and I’d love anyone who can make it to come down and see us perform.
How do you unwind in your free time?
Chilling out, meeting up with friends, spending time in my own studio playing around with music… music is my life so there’s no need to escape from it, it’s what I enjoy.
The single “Gal Sunja” is out now on Virtual Recordz. Find out where to buy it here