To read a classic verse and then impart musicality to it so as to enhance the poem’s innate rhythm is nothing less than an extraordinary feat. Harpreet is no new to this task. The singer, who shuttles between Mumbai and Goa, has, for years, deftly blended melody with timeless literary works crafted by bards—Kabir, Bulleh Shah, Pash, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the likes. “Right from the start, my musical flow was from a lyrical perspective. I was always inclined towards literature, and on days when I could not write my own songs, I decided to invest my music into poetry. I would read poems, choose the ones that felt like a muse to me, and would be like ‘I can sing these’. I saw this as a way to make my music. That is how it commenced, and soon it became a part of my journey,” shares Harpreet, who is all geared up to perform a few such compositions along with a live band at Stein Auditorium in the city’s India Habitat Centre later today.
Reminiscing about his childhood days, Harpreet recalls that his tryst with music began when he was six or seven years old. “I was inspired by listening to my father, who would sing old Bollywood songs. Later, he bought a keyboard for my brother. While my brother did not use it, I started playing it. That’s where it all started; I was certain I wanted to pursue music when I was in school. Later, I did a diploma in Civil Engineering but left it midway and moved to Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Delhi, to study music,” shares the 35-year-old singer who is from Nilokheri, Haryana.
Ask him of the many works by poets that were gratifying for him to give voice to, and Harpreet shares, “I only compose music on poetry I enjoy reading. But yes, when I first composed Nirala aka Suryakant Tripathi’s work, I thoroughly enjoyed it; that is when I started and I realised this is a different journey altogether. Also, Avtar Singh Sandhu’s Ghaas—it was originally written by Carl Sandburg, but Pash has made it his own—which I tried my best to make my own. Unless I resonate with the poems I read, I do not compose it. When the resonance increases, I pick up my guitar and the music flows as if the tune already existed.”
At his first concert of 2023 today, Harpreet will be playing with a live band, “I am grateful to have my friends playing with me—Anirban Ghosh (bass guitar), Sumant Balakrishnan (electric guitar), Siddharth Padiyar (percussions), and Varun Gupta (sound).” Giving us an insight into today’s set, Harpreet tells us that it is a mix of new compositions and his classics, “There’s a poetry book called Khooni Vaisakhi by Punjabi novelist Nanak Singh ji, which is on his experience of surviving the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. The book was published in 1919, but was banned by the Britishers. The author’s grandson Navdeep Singh Suri, has translated the book into English; he is helping me out with the stories around it and I am translating these poems into music. Apart from that I will also be singing Rahim, which is based on storyteller Ankit Chadha’s narrative that I had performed a long time ago on stage. There’s also a few compositions by Kabir, and a rendition of Amir Khusro’s Chhaap Tilak.”
Looking forward to releasing a single or more every month this year, Harpreet ends the conversation by sharing his relationship with music and poetry: “I see these two mediums as one, both are as important to me as is breathing.”
CHECK IT OUT
What : Harpreet Live with full band
When : Tonight; 7:00pm onwards
Where : The Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, Lodi Colony