On a musical ride

On the occasion of Teacher’s Day, CE speaks to the veteran singer Sonu Nigam about the importance of mentorship,guru-shishya parampara and more
Playback Singer Sonu Nigam
Playback Singer Sonu Nigam

HYDERABAD: Sonu Nigam’s formidable repertoire of multi-genre songs has been a result of over three decades of effortless, melodious singing for not only the Hindi film music industry but also other regional languages like Telugu, Marathi, Bengali and others. His deep love for the stage and passion for music, is what makes him a class apart and when he decided to be the chief patron of online music education platform Artium Academy, we got in touch for a tete-a-tete.

Tell us about your collaboration with Artium Academy.

It’s the kind of collaboration that makes me complete a circle in life that I could never start. Sounds strange, right? But it’s the fact. I never got to train under anyone as a child. I trained at the age of 18, for a few months under Ustad Mohd Tahir in 1991 right before I left Delhi, just for basic theoretical knowledge. And then for a year under the great Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan Saheb in 1997 at age 24. I always had the regret of not having access to Indian Classical at the right and ripe age. Thus, my being the chief patron of Artium, is like a catharsis for me.

How did you create the curriculum?

We have some experts in the academy who have curated the curriculum according to the subject and art form. Like Anant Vaidyanath for voice, Raju Singh for guitar, Chithra for south popular & films music, Aruna Sairam for carnatic, Shubha Mudgal for hindustani classical, Louiz Banks for keyboard, Aneesh Pradhan for tabla and Gino Banks for drum.

What are the challenges you faced?

Every new beginning has its challenges. To first make up your mind to devote yourself to a venture with a cause and intent like this, to gather the right team, to create funds, create the curriculum, to market the idea, and then the biggest responsibility is to keep it going and evolve eventually. I haven’t done much honestly in comparison to what the founding team and all the key members of my Artium team have done in their capacity.

How important is guru-shishya dynamic to progress in music?

The idea of guru-shishya, according to my humble understanding during this small journey on this planet, is not just constrained to music, but it’s the core purpose of life. To see everyone, as a teacher, teaching us what the Universe wants to convey to you, and humbly surrender to that learning. I’m sure when we die, we’ll realise that everyone who visited us during our lifetime, every lover, every antagonist of our life, every boss, every employee, wife, husband children, friend; people who gave us happiness, and people who left us distraught; were our disguised teachers and need to be thanked.

You have been a part of many singing reality shows too, what is your main takeaway as a mentor from them?

They are great platforms for singers to showcase their talent and skills thereby enhancing their confidence.

You have been in the music industry for decades. What would you say is your greatest learning?

Staying grounded, loving and appreciating everyone around us, learning from your juniors especially, staying strong in times of hostility and contrariety and most importantly, going with the flow and never trying too hard to get specific results. What has to happen, will eventually happen, whether you want it or not.

Going back to your initial days, is there anything you would like to change regarding music?

I would have definitely wanted myself to get some proper Indian classical training in music especially when I was more clay like as a child.

Is it true that anybody can become a singer now?

With the help of softwares you can definitely sound decent.

Is there any song that you wish to sing differently?

Many... Perhaps all.

What are the tracks coming up?

Recent release was from the movie Laal Singh Chaddha starring Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan. Besides independent music like Rangrezwa and Yaad. I have some beautiful songs coming up. Like for the movie based on Sam Manekshaw by Meghna Gulzar, then Ishq Vishq Pyaar Vyaar 2. Also, on devotional front a Hanuman Chalisa, Ave Maria and Mahamrityunjay Mantra. Lots of folk traditional music in our series called Sounds of Roots is coming up... and tens of Kannada, Bengali, Marathi songs amongst many.

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