Inside-Man talks to us about Manak remakes, live instrumentation and more…
My name is Nikka Sev and my musical name is Inside-Man. I am born and bred in Derby and aside from making music I have a huge passion for Punjabi music. A good introduction for where I am today would be to say that I am trying to further my music career by releasing my first official bhangra/folk cover song. The single, which has just been released this week, is called “Sahibaa Bani Bharawan Di” and features vocals from Pargat & Jagdev Khan. Earlier this year I also released a religious album called Chanan Munare.
How did you come up with the name Inside-Man?
I used to produce music for some people many years ago (mentioning no names!) and at that point having a name for myself in the industry was not a priority and I was happy to be the person who was just behind the scenes. The artists who I was creating music for just wanted basic production and were not interested in having anything that was musically complex. As a producer I always wanted and felt the need to do something that was challenging for me and not the usual formulaic stuff. So eventually I decided to stop making music for other people and just create projects that were personally satisfying and also a challenge to me— as a result the music you hear from me now is what I ‘feel’ and therefore the name Inside-Man reflects who I am musically.
You’ve just released your first official single, Sahibaa Bani Bharawan Di, but you were originally going to release another debut single with Ashok Gill some time back; tell us why the change in plans?
The song you are referring to is called “Samaneh” which is sung by Ashok Gill and this song will still feature on my forthcoming album. The original planned release of that track was going to be my debut bhangra single because the record label I was signed to at the time wanted a “commercial song” to be released first; however due to complications with the label, I stopped the project from going ahead until all matters were resolved which led me to leave the record label. I then decided that “Sahibaa Bani Bharawan Di” was the perfect choice to release first as it shows more of what I want to create musically both now and in the future.
The single is of course a remake of the track made famous by Kuldip Manak and originally from the album Folk Songs of Punjab; why did you choose to specifically cover this song?
I am a big fan of the original version and I have always wanted to recreate this song but I knew it had to be created with the right musicians and the right vocalists. This particular song has been covered by various artists before but, in my opinion, most of them haven’t really done it justice and hopefully this new rendition featuring Pargat & Jagdev Khan who, as many people know, are Kuldip Manak’s nephews brings back the essence of the original, but with a new approach.
For those who are interested, the original Manak version was produced by Ved Sethi (not Charanjit Ahuja as some mistakenly think) and featured on the classic 1978 album you mention. The song itself was written by Dev Tharikewala. The artwork for my single draws inspiration from that original album cover.
Pargat & Jagdev Khan have also recently featured on a number of tracks for other producers; how did your collaboration with them come about?
I first heard their vocals on Notorious Jatt’s Livin’ It Up album some years ago; there were two tracks that I was very impressed with which– namely “Folk Love” and “Marrey Dil Vaaliyan De” and when I heard their singing, I knew straight away that I wanted to work with them in the future. I got in touch with a friend of mine and he introduced me to Pargat & Jagdev when I was visiting Punjab.
They first sang the song in a different way which wasn’t showing justice to the original and I knew at that point that some additional work needed to be done in order to show respect to the original. When I felt they were finally ready, we went and recorded the song together. Hopefully music fans will like and appreciate their vocals as well as the music and the effort that went into creating the track.
You’ve taken a lot time and effort to use live musicians on the new single too; tell us a bit about that…
Live instruments were an integral part of the original version. It’s widely known that the original was recorded totally live and I wanted to keep the same element running in my version too, so having renowned musicians such as Bhupinder Tubsy, who is of a master percussionist, was important as he played an absolutely essential role in this track, as do the other musicians involved. I also recorded a guitarist who goes by the name of David Amar, again another professional live musician. When I record with these musicians it isn’t just because they play well but because they play with passion and therefore infuse the song itself with that critical passionate element I want. It’s fair to say that both David and Bhupinder have both played a major role in my forthcoming album.
You’ve been involved with some dharmik releases in the past; is this something you’ll continue to be involved in as a parallel music stream?
Yes, for sure! I will never stop making Sikh devotional songs and in all honesty these songs are actually the best to work on as you can really put all your efforts and full creativity, and of course because it’s a personal subject to me as well. On my forthcoming album I have made a track called “Machhiwara”; Sat Guru Mera and I would say it’s probably the best song that I have made in my music career so far.
Your recent self-released socio-political Chanan Munare album featured vocalists Jagowale Jatha; how did your originally decide to use them and do they make an appearance on your forthcoming folk/bhangra Mind Over Matter album?
Jagowale Jatha and I have similar tastes in Punjabi music and we already knew which direction we wanted to take the album but they won’t be featuring on Mind Over Matter as I would like to keep the bhangra/folk and dharmik releases separate.
The soundscape you created for Chanan Munare is so elaborate and unique when it comes to dhadi music. It consists of traditional productions (“Pappi Poohle Da Sodha”), Hip Hop influenced beats (“Sikhi De Kuharre,” which features a killer sample of John Barry’s score for the film Game of Death), Sant Bhindranwale speeches and even tracks inspired by folk classics like “Das Main Ki Pyar Vichon” (“Insaaf”) and “Jeona Morh Ghodi Te Faraar Ho Gaya” (“Beadbi”). Could you provide some insight into your very diverse production choices on that album?
Over the last decade Jagowale have had several music producers create their songs and when this project came to light I already knew that I wanted to give them a something that was completely new, fresh but still very traditional. As I am a big fan of music from all genres, and the influences and samples you mention above demonstrate this; I believe it’s absolutely key to remain open to all types of music as just one inspiring sound can trigger a creation in your mind.
Lyrics are also an essential component of Chanan Munare’s impact on the listener and it doesn’t shy away from dealing with difficult topics; do you think music has a part to play in educating people?
I think music can indeed have a major influence on a listener; for example there could be a song that has great lyrics but the music may not be up to scratch and straight away it will put you off from listening to the song again and the lyrics have not been shown justice. They key is to create music that suits the lyrics and the rest will fall into place. The music on Chanan Munare was created to suit those important lyrics, no matter how serious the subject matter.
What’s your view on the current state of the Bhangra industry?
It’s a shame to say but, in my opinion, many Punjabi music artists, musicians and also labels have a lack of vision in music. There seems to be no more soul or even love in it any more with people just chasing the money. Most record labels only see a business proposition whereas the artist may see a passionate route; sadly they both end up only wanting to follow what’s happening in the industry right now. I think all artists should create music of their own tastes and try and highlight their skills as musicians and producers and educate music fans properly, instead of just making music that happens to be in “fashion”.
What are your favourite 2 tracks of the last year?
I’d say Tru-Skool’s “Puth Jattan De” would be my definite favourite from the UK, and from India I would pick Kulwinder Billa’s “Punjab”– both these songs have great music, melodies and lyrics. In my opinion both these tracks are incredible, yet so different from each other but share one thing in common and that is love and respect for the music and passion of a Punjabi.
Finally, what can we expect from album Mind Over Matter when it’s released?
There will be a couple of more covers on the album. All I’ll say at this point is one is a cover of a track that was originally sung by Mohd. Siddiq & Ranjit Kaur and the other will be another Kuldip Manak song. I will also be introducing some new singers, as well as bringing a song featuring the legend Surinder Shinda. As with my current single, I hope people will appreciate and enjoy the album as much as I enjoyed creating it.
The single “Sahibaa Bani Bharawan Di” is out now. Buy it here