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Sukhwinder Singh: Music-making can’t feel like a contest

Updated on: 27 May,2024 06:32 AM IST  |  Mumbai
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Asserting that India’s Oscar win hasn’t changed conversation around the art of composition, Raayan singer Sukhwinder Singh says veteran composers continue to chase melodic tunes over commercial trinkets

Sukhwinder Singh: Music-making can’t feel like a contest

Sukhwinder Singh

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Sukhwinder Singh: Music-making can’t feel like a contest

Dhanush-starrer Raayan brings Sukhwinder Singh back into AR Rahman’s stable for the song, Koi tod na iska. Heaping praise on the veteran composer’s working methods, Singh discusses why Rahman has become a long-time collaborator, and how he keeps himself relevant amid an evolving music landscape in Indian cinema.

Edited excerpts of the interview.

There’s a lot of anticipation around this collaboration because you’re teaming up with Rahman again. What did you two discuss about this number when you met?
Rahman and I discussed working on a few projects and this is the first among them. I loved the song when I heard him play it, and when he asked me when we could record it, I said, right away. Surprisingly, a day after I recorded it, the team released it. Owing to his ability to [complete a task swiftly], I call him, magic man. We have also recorded another song, which will release soon. Rahman has tremendous knowledge. When we first collaborated around the time that he was working on Rangeela (1995), and other Tamil films, we knew he had introduced a new kind of music in Indian cinema. Back then, he had a different style of working. While composing for a director, he would only play a small bit of a larger composition; perhaps, only the hook line. But, when he would get down to recording the song, he would add so many elements. By the time he was done mixing the number, it would seem like [an entirely different song]. I believe, he was a live composer, because as the vocals would be rendered, he’d add elements to them. 

Now, our music directors work in the same way. The technique is important, but it cannot help you evoke emotions. For that, you need the kind of energy that [only special artistes] can produce. Few composers can deliver that, and I am blessed that I continue to work with them all. 

AR RahmanAR Rahman

Do you think there’s any change in the discussion that south composers are having after India’s Oscar win?
If we keep thinking about creating a song with the hope of winning an award, it will become difficult to focus on the art of composition. We should not feel like we are part of a contest. I believe, humme malang hoke gaana chahiye. We need to devote ourselves, and very few people can do that. When I approach a song, my first task is to understand the poetry behind it, then write it down on paper, and then understand the composition. I take 15 minutes to comprehend the vision of the director, and then deliver the song. Also, I continue to practice singing, so that I am prepared when an opportunity comes my way. 

At this stage in your life, how do you determine if a song is worth your attention?
Around six years ago, I had the desire to sing motivational songs, and also requested that composers consider me for them. That’s when I got the opportunity to sing songs like Kar har maidan fateh, and Zinda hai [Tiger Zinda Hai]. I enjoyed that phase. Now, I have the desire to sing romantic melodies, and dance tracks that have promising lyricism. I find that I am being approached for these numbers now. In the next six months, I will have about 10 [film] releases, and most of the songs belong to these genres. However, among these, I also got the offer to sing a cute song for kids. One of my film songs is in Chhota Bheem. When I saw the [draft] of the film, I was reminded of a Disney offering, which I am fond of. I love [animation]. Not only did the picturisation appear to be larger-than-life, but it also included music and dance. Anupam Kher is brilliant in it. 

I also have a political film in the pipeline called JNU. I was told the content is slightly critical, but they wanted me to sing a [romantic, dance] track. Within every subject, there is space for entertainment. 

What is the biggest difference in the music-making process that has come to your attention over the years?
Music, today, is not like it was 25 years ago. While songs would be six minutes in length then, now they are merely two minutes long. Evoking emotions via a number that’s so short is an art. You have to showcase your potential as a singer, and also move people. This is why I take the effort to e-mail young composers to request that they work with me. I want to learn from this era’s kids. 

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