I'm stupidly self-critical: Arjun Kanungo

For somebody who was, in his own words, quite ‘fickle minded’ when it came to his career at one time, Arjun Kanungo has come a long way. The singer and composer’s rendition of Khoon Choos Le from Go Goa Gone, found an empathetic listener in many an officegoer. “My mum is a sportsperson, so I always thought I would do something in sports,” says Kanungo, “Then I wanted to be an architect. Then a graphic designer. So I was pretty unfocussed until I started doing music.” Ever since he got into it, Kanungo has been giving it all he’s got. “I have a solo project where I play my Bollywood/Hindi stuff. I also have a band called Far Travel Music, in which we play alternaty-electro-ish experimental stuff,” says the 25-year-old. And now, apart from music, it’s the acting world that has caught the imagination of the good-looking guy. “I have done a few auditions but my love for the big screen would be ideal if it was related to music. I can see myself fitting perfectly in a film like Rock on or Aashiqui 2, so hope I can make it,” he says. Excerpts from the interview:

Along with singing melodies for Bollywood, Arjun Kanungo is also producing music for some artistes from Europe. Pic/Satyajit Desai

When did music happen?
When I was around 17, I wanted to do something in business. While I was in New York for college, I met a bunch of musicians. They were studying music, and I had never met kids who were so passionate about what they were doing. It was epiphanous. I dropped everything (including business), came back home, dived head first into everything to do with music. My family supported me 100 per cent right from the start. It must have been hard for them considering I was a fickle 17-year-old, but they’re awesome like that.

It’s not easy being a musician in this country. Tell us a bit about the journey.
At first, I was pretty lost. It is hard to find work, and that’s especially true for someone like me who had no formal training until then. I think luck has a lot to do with my initial progress. I was lucky to meet Nithin Shankar. He gave me direction. He also introduced me to Asha Bhosleji who decided to give me an opportunity to sing with her. And things just took off from there.

You’re a singer as well as composer. What do you find more challenging?
Both have their own challenges. It’s hard to say one is harder than the other. I love doing both.

Khoon Choos Le got you into the limelight — how did that happen and how much has life changed for you post that song?
Sachin of Sachin-Jigar duo called me randomly one day. He asked me to meet him and give the song a try. They were super happy with it. I remember coming out of the studio being happy with my effort, which is rare for me because I’m stupidly self-critical. Life just got a lot faster after. I’m getting more (and better) projects. I’m producing music for a couple of artistes from Europe. I have fans, which is new. And I’m singing a lot, which makes me so happy.

What else have you done in Bollywood, post that song?
I’m currently working on the sequel of a film. I’ve written a song and sung it as well. I can’t reveal the name yet. I’ve also given my voice to a bunch of well-known music directors and I’m just waiting for those songs to come out. Fingers crossed.

You’re also working on an album, we hear.
Actually, the motivation behind the album came after Khoon Choos Le. A lot of people were calling me to sing rock songs and while I love the genre, I was already starting to get labelled as ‘the rock ‘n’ roll guy’. The songs on the album are more on the romantic/epic ballad side. I’ve written the music. I want to show people the kind of music I love. We just have to finalise things with a label, so I think it should be out by end of this month or
early November.

As a musician, how do you hope to stand out amid a sea of talented people?
Well I’m taller than most people (laughs). I went to dub a song at a studio once and their microphone stand wasn’t tall enough! The engineer there was so annoyed. I’m sure he’ll never forget me. On a serious note though, I don’t think my priority is to stand out. I believe in doing good work. Do good work and if people notice, then that’s a unexpected reward and be super grateful for it.

Who are the music idols you grew up listening to and who’re your idols now? Anyone in particular who you’d like to work with?
I grew up listening to everything from old school metal to Indian Classical — so everyone from Iron Maiden to Kishori Amonkar. I really admire the work that Amit Trivedi and Clinton Cerejo are doing at the moment. I would love to work with them. And of course, AR Rahman. 

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