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'Music is an endless art form'

Best known for his debut single 'Baaki Baatein Peene Baad', Arjun Kanungo – singer, composer and producer, talks about his journey in whole, discusses his passion for pop music and talks of the story behind his latest single, 'Ek Dafaa' in a detailed interview. Excerpts:

When did you decide to pursue a career in music?

It was about ten years ago, I did not know what I was going to do in my future, I was 17 at that time. In New York, I came across some kids who were studying at Juilliard school of music, they inspired me to with their passion for music. I wanted to have that passion in my life at that age so I decided to pursue music, I came back and started my own recording studio and that's how I got involved with music and through the recording studio I learnt music and it sort of led me to where I am right now.

Tell us about your journey...

After I started my recording studio I met some amazing singers, composers and producers from the music industry since I had a jam room next to my studio. Pritam and Arijit Singh used to come with their bands to rehearse there. I met them and found out how they worked.

Then I started composing music for TV and for ads. Eventually I started performing live, and someone told me that Asha Bhonsle ji was looking for a guitar player for her band so I went and met her and she liked my voice and said that I must sing more and do more Hindi music, so she mentored me while I toured with her for almost 2 years. Basically, my experience of Bollywood music started with her. After that I started to sing for a few Bollywood films, my most famous one was from Go Goa Gone called 'Khoon choos le'.

Then in about 2014 I took a break from music and studied acting for a while spending a whole year in New York city. I was suggested to go to YouTube where I'd get a face along with my voice and people would recognise me. On doing so, I found out that my videos were doing well. Sony music India asked me if I wanted to sign with them.

The organisation was very transparent I really like them and I agreed happily to join them. And that's how I am with them now since they launched me properly with 'Baaki Baatein Peene Baad' and I've been on a roll since then. After that, came out 'Fursat' and now there's 'Ek Dafaa'.

How did Promethean Audio happen?

Promethean Audio was my baby actually... Most of my contemporaries have been associated with music when they were 10-12 years old. Whereas I didn't even know that I could sing till I was 17! I just wanted to do something passionately and that happened to be music. And then my love for music grew over the years and now it has become the core purpose of my life. I had done other things in business earlier, like, I had started my first business, a web designing company at 15, my partner and I understood business through this company. I knew that my basic in business was strong and that I could do something with business and with music. It seemed to be the most logical thing to do because through a recording studio you also meet different people and musicians. It was the only thing I knew how to do at that time.

You are inspired by musicians from different genres. What do you have to say about that?

I'm still inspired by a lot of people. Whenever I see someone doing something different in music, irrespective of their age and genre, I'm inspired by them. You can learn something new from everybody, as everybody has some unique experience which they can share with you. That is the most beautiful thing about music, it is so endless and vast that you can do so much more with it...it never ends. Music is truly one of those art forms which really has no end.

Is there any particular genre that you connect to the most as a singer?

As a singer, I definitely prefer pop music because it is a mixture of everything. You can have backstep classical, RMD, rock in pop. It is the centre point, you can use a little bit of everything in it. That's why I like pop.

You have won the Jagjit Singh Award for Best Music Debut – Non Film for 'Baaki Baatein Peene Baad' in 2015. How has that motivated you further?

I was actually surprised to receive an award for the song because you know, you never expect an award for your first song. My motivations come from a different place, I'm more motivated to make music than to win awards. I'm thrilled to win it but I was motivated when I heard that 'Baaki Baatein' had become a hit, the award was just like a cherry on the icing.

What is the story behind your latest single 'Ek Dafaa'?

I wrote the song on the plane on my way back from Sri Lanka! I heard the sample 'Chinnama' and somebody said that we should use the sample and I said, 'sure we should use it.' I made this song back in 2015 when on the plane there was an uncle sitting next to me, sleeping, when I started singing into the microphone of my laptop to remember the melody.

Waking up he said, "Beta kya kar rahe ho, hum so rahe hai yahan." (Laughs) I apologised and explained to him that I'm recording it or I'd forget the melody otherwise. I came back and asked Mayur Puri to help me write the mukhra of the song. His lyrics really connected with me.

I spent a lot of time producing it since I wanted to make it perfect especially when we were using a Rahman sample. People are very critical these days when you use something from someone as great as Rahman. It is definitely not a remake of his song, but with just the reference of 'Chinnamma chilakkamma' people become critical. But surprisingly I have not heard any negative review about the song.

After I wrote the melody and Mayur did the lyrics I sent it to Sweden, my producers made it there and sent it back to me. The mix was done by mixing engineer and Grammy award winner PA Deepak. Then, of course, the video turned out to be quite well and can be found in 'Dekkho app' initially after which it will also be available on YouTube and other platforms.

Who do you idolise among the presently active musicians?

I definitely look up to a lot of musicians especially AR Rahman, who is like our era's defining artist. We have a lot of talent in the industry like Pritam, Mithoon (I did a song with him recently called 'Sanam Mere Sanam', a beautiful song) and Amit Tiwari. There are very few people in the music industry today, who I'd say are doing a bad work, there's always something to learn from everybody.

Blessed with good looks and a degree in method acting, do you plan to venture into Bollywood as an actor?

My time is so chock-a-blocked because of music, I don't know whether I can do acting full-time but I'd definitely like to explore that option. I'll be doing a web series in the middle of this year, we have a 20-day schedule in March and it might release in May-June.

Would you like to share any crazy incidents during the beginning of your career?

I'll tell you something crazy that happened during the shoot of 'Ek Dafaa'. The video was directed by the famous duo Uma and Gaiti (dance choreographers). For the video, we shot 24 hours non-stop, I didn't sleep that night. We started shooting on 10 o' clock in the morning and finished shooting the next day at 10 in the morning! For the last thing in the video, we had to do a scene in which I had to be drenched in water completely. We were supposed to do only one shot, but due to some technical errors, we had to keep shooting for one
and a half hours(laughs). Throughout this time, I was submerged in water and developed a cold from that (laughs).
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