Armaan Malik: Mic in hand, I can also sing
In conversation with Harshdeep Kaur, Armaan Malik says unlike many users, social media frenzy doesn't distract him from honing his craft
Harshdeep Kaur and Armaan Malik bond over a generous dose of bad jokes. Malik refers to his mother, who inadvertently comes into our video frame, as 'momnipresent', while Kaur reacts to his make-up man's interruption to fix his 'shiny face' with: "Star hai, shine to karegaa." You may thank us later for editing the rest of the lame jokes from this excerpt.
Armaan: Like me, you started working young. Does the child in you feel cheated?
Harshdeep: Not at all. If I was in a profession that I wasn't enjoying, I'd possibly feel [that way]. But, [as a kid] I loved going for music classes, competing and performing. My parents would ask me if I was having fun, and that I should tell them if I felt tired. I never missed my studies, though. I'd carry books in the car, and study. In fact, I always felt special. My friends would say, "Oh, we saw you on TV."
Armaan: [When I was young], I wanted to do all [the things that kids do]. My mother says I'd always [sulk] before going for a recording, because I wanted to go for [birthday] parties instead. At that age, a child [can't comprehend it] when he is told to make music a priority so that he can become [capable] in the future. A child just wants to hang out with friends. Since my career took off early, I never had time to make friends. I wasn't around [children] enough at the age when [bonds are forged]. So, now, my friends are those who belong to the industry. But, [everyone] wants his/her group of friends; that never happened for me. Yet, I am glad I prioritised singing; it made me the person I am.
Harshdeep: What according to you is the role that parents play in an artiste's life?
Armaan: Sometimes, parents may not believe that a certain career is apt for the child. People feel [music] is not a viable career. I belong to a music family, so, they understood that this is a line that can be pursued. My mother was initially against it, because she saw my dad struggle, and did not want that life for her children. We were told we had to be educated, and that we would attend [music] classes, but [we shouldn't] treat it as a career option. It so happened that opportunities came my way, and my mother realised that if we let them go, I wouldn't grow into [a fine] artiste later. When I wanted to audition for the [singing reality show] Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li'l Champs, my dad was hesitant because no one from the family had done that. But, mom wanted me to understand what it was to compete. I would know where I stand [as a singer]. Even though I made it to the eighth position in the show, my confidence [got a boost]. I realised that if I've reached here, [I am able]. Of course, she also had to make me study, so she'd carry my books to the set. She'd wake up early and prepare breakfast and lunch, and take it to the shoot. So, I know that if parents truly support their kids, it goes a long way in helping them.
Harshdeep: But, nowadays, parents push it too far.
Armaan: Yeah, because now, the motive is different. Over the years, social media has got an impetus. When people see that [others have] followers, they want their children to also be famous on Instagram. So, they're like, 'You do it too'. They push kids into doing things that they may not want to. I started singing for the love of it; not to get followers.
Harshdeep: Do you think things would be different if you were practising at a time when social media wasn't as big as it is now?
Armaan: I know a lot of people who are my inspiration, and who have lesser followers than I do. That doesn't make them [lesser artistes]. Social media has helped us reach a bigger audience. For instance, I wouldn't know I had fans in Turkey if it wasn't for social media, where they reach out to me. But, if you rely on the platform, and not on your craft, that's a down-point. A lot of people tell me, "Oh, you're so popular on social media." And I'm like, yeah, but if you give me a mic, I can also sing.
Armaan: I do riyaaz by listening to artistes, and then singing [the way they do]. Have you heard a song again and again, only to replicate its intricacies?
Harshdeep: Often, you wish you could pause a song and see its notations. There was Sukhi ji's [Sukhwinder Singh] Thayya thayya from Dil Se. He did something [interesting] with the alaap. [I began to] sing it slowly, then [matched] the actual tempo.
Harshdeep: As someone who is the younger sibling, I understand how the older sibling can sometimes act like, well... the 'older sibling'. What happens when there's a difference of opinion between you and Amaal [Malik, brother-composer]?
Armaan: Amaal and I have a lot of fights in the studio. He throws books and headphones at me. Recently, we were recording Chale aana, and Amaal was hammering me, telling me I was singing badly. It led to a point where I was ready to storm out. Then, I decided to let it go, because he had a delivery to make. I went in, and sang the song with a lot of anger. That apparently brought out the energy Amaal wanted, and we finished it in one take. So, I'm usually the one who solves [issues].
Harshdeep: How important is it for a good singer to also be a good performer?
Armaan: Audiences don't want to hear songs in the way that they already have, in the recorded versions. They have few options to see you live, and what you present to them at that point is important. So, I may arrange songs in a different way [for live shows].
Harshdeep: In the early part of my career, I would sing a song, then introduce the next one, sing it, and then introduce the next again. When I'd see the recordings, I realised that something was missing. So, I began watching other artistes to notice what they were doing on stage. I realised that when someone pays money for a concert, they want to have a good time. So a singer must think about what the audience wants, and how to involve and interact with them by talking to them, and making them sing along.
Harshdeep: I've heard you sing a lot of English [songs]. Do you plan to release material in it?
Armaan: I've been singing English [songs] since childhood. There was a time when my father had to sit me down and tell me that I had to sing Bollywood [songs] because I live in India. But, I've grown up listening to [international] artistes. Alongside Indian classical [music], I've also learnt Western music. I plan to release English songs [next year].
Harshdeep: I too am trained in Indian and Western classical music; so, I learnt opera singing and the piano. When I was [on] tour with [AR] Rahman sir, he called me and said, 'Why do I feel you can also sing Western music?' He played the piano, and I sang in English. And then, he said, 'Okay, good.' A few months later, he was assigning singers for Slumdog Millionaire, and for [the English track] Dreams on fire, he remembered me. When you don't go about flaunting a certain skill, but are recognised for it, it feels good.
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