Taking inspiration from Kishore Da’s ‘yoodly’ songs, a young lad from a princely state of Sirmur in Himachal Pradesh brought fresh ‘indi-pop’ in minds of Bollywood – conditioned Indian audience. An un-trained young musician now amours love stories from reel to real lives. From past to present, owned creations to stupefying audiences from all age groups, he has only ‘earned’ immense fondness, respect from his fans and listeners. Guitar in hands, signature head gear, a symphony on lips and harmonies down his heart. That is exactly how Aditi got to meet, greet and know euphonious Mohit Chauhan for a cover interview for TMM-ThnkMkt Magazine.
You beautifully knit your own composition with ‘Guncha’ in Main mere patni our wo ; voiced ‘Tumse hi’ for Pritam da, the ‘Rockstar’ album with A.R. Rahman. Your audible odyssey is evident with your husky tone hypnotising listeners. What do you term as your ‘muse’ while you cantillate choral pieces?
A clean screen-like young brain absorbs as much from the environment around. Notorious enactment of songs, ‘yoodling’ and contagious energy of Kishore Kumar sahab still excites me exactly in the same manner like it did while I was a kid. I doted on taking down notes while listening to his tracks just to learn his resounding mannerism. Ghulam Ali sahab, Mehndi Hasan sahab , Jagjit Singh ji along with a long list of international artists and bands added to my bag of favourites.
Having been born and brought up among the serene mounts of pine trees, fragrance of nature, chirping of birds and smoked food from mother’s kitchen created an unadulterated environment to learn plainsong. Whenever I had an urge to sing, I used to rush down to the banks of river Beas flowing near my house in Himachal and sing my heart out. All of this was out of sheer innocent thought that the rushing noise of waves would dilute my vocals and probably envelope my baritone from unwanted attention. Since my adolescence, every natural inflection incensed with music brought to us through radio impregnated the musician within me. All this together conspired to turn me a singer from a geologist (*smiles*). ‘Nature’ has been my constant ‘muse’ for all amour that enrapture my songs.
The 1990’s is often renounced as the Golden Period for Bollywood music. You broke all records with awe-inspiring acoustics in ‘Boondein’. What was the secret behind success of your band ‘Silk Route’ in an era of electric instruments creating a rage?
During 1990’s, the music revolution too took place. Electronic keyboards, electric guitars and percussions ruled the chord-businesses. Our album ‘Boondein’ like its name fondled hearts of then-‘young’ audience. The pure acoustics and percussions together composed melodies which were raw yet shaped with romance of non-electric instruments. This brought a fresh facet of chimes for listeners to get fond of which led to Silk Route making it ‘big’.
Your songs chant ‘Mohit’s own style as a singer. You experimented, found, polished your non-replicable singing fashion. Do you think the new generation is prepared to take a trial of own versions of singing their compositions?
Like clothing everyone carries own style of music too. Every composition that reaches the audience is conditioned with the feel, thought that goes in mind of the singer who furnishes to the requirement of the song. Every singer has to be a little crazy, experi-‘mental’ to own a melody and turn it into an anthem. This is a good time for the younger generation of music producers to create own style, de-stress from all baggage to perform like any other person in the league. Instead, the singers should bring own flair. Originals are more accepted than anything that is a replication. The audience would welcome a new singer with as much warmth provided you really put your soul into it.
Today, concept of ‘albums’ has succumbed to the culture of single-song album. Why has there been such a drop in the number of music albums unlike 90’s ?
From late 90’s to early 2000’s, only a handful of musicians could make it to the hearts of listeners. Music labels used to domineer the melodic markets. In fact, they hand-picked unusual talent, co-created music, burn it into CDs and sold those at ‘music stores’. Like everything else, this was a double-edged sword too. In old times, very few artists got an opportunity to release albums under a music label. The music companies used to take care of pre-production, production and post production activities too. For instance, when we came out with silk route, the music company organised everything including art director, cinematographer, financing our cover, PR machinery, lodging in Mumbai for a couple of months, recording albums in one of the best studios of the city. Had all of this not been here, we might not have made it big ever in terms reaching out to correct people. Similarly, bands like Silk Route, Junoon and individual pop singers like Lucky Ali etc made it pretty big with people watching their videos and people loving them like no other. Music labels were a great support, today it has submerged in midst of a lot of commotion. Thus, that makes it a little low for musicians to release selective compositions and reach to a certain number of people altogether. Safeguarding musicians and the culture of albums, more than the music labels, it now depends on the quality of musicians we have these days in age of internet, social media it is much easy to put your music out and let people listen to your music. Even shooting a video is much easier with different formats that we have. The internet revolutionised the music industry too. While scrolling through free-music sites, we lost excitement of walking up to a music tour, leaf through aisles of stocked CDs. The excitement of walking up to a music store to ‘buy’ music got lost somewhere. On forecasting the un-sure returns through ‘recorded’ business and competing with on-line business, the music labels have hauled their investments in new albums too.
You learnt singing on listening to legends like Kishore Kumar to Mehndi Hasan sahab and various international artists choir on the radio. In paucity of resources to learn music, how did you learn to play the guitar ?
As a graduate in ‘Geology’, I do nothing in the subject to earn a living for myself. A sense of music and rhythm is a god’s gift. While at school, I started composing own songs and guitar became a necessity which pushed me to play songs. Along with completing my education, I just kept the fervour for ‘learning’ alive. Thus, I invested my time and put honest intention to learn playing a ‘guitar’. It felt like my first love when I could not help pulling my hands-off it. But somehow my guitar refused to affirm my proposal (•laughs•). Thus, I began with spending a few minutes, extending to hours, months and years of meditative dedication that I finally learnt it. Trust me, it is very difficult to get music out of the stringed instrument than a ‘noise’. Here, it is essential I thank my friends, fellow mates at hostel who managed to bear with my voracious practice sessions and I made the best out of it. I polished my skills while hanging around my musician friends. Guitar is one instrument that merges really well with all genres of music ranging from rock, metal to even rural folk and give base tune and rhythm together. Today, it is the seasons I bankrolled with my ‘stringed-love’ during the early stage that has brought me a long way. I did all of it because I loved it.
There is a new buzz in town with your ‘CoHears’ . What instigated the commendable thought of introducing ‘LIVE concerts online’ and reaching out to millions of audience at once?
All credit to the brainy concept of ‘CoHear’ goes to my wife. Coming from the mountains, there still reside a little traveller inside my heart. We are bringing the concerts to them. We travel to length and breadth of country, reach exquisite places; generally to the mountains where the sky is clear and there is only nature around. Thereafter, shoot with a single microphone, guitar and other music instruments but without any back-up vocals. It is simply the on-line version of the concerts I do. A combination of about five folk, Bollywood songs along with a few matured verses which do not make it to the list of most heard tracks on-stage are performed here. The idea is to reach out to a lot of people who generally are unable to attend concerts. Now that I have a freedom to play and sing my own songs, I am expanding my reach with my audience. So far, we have successfully conducted seven CoHears on YouTube with more than a million views on four of these. Each concert has been viewed by almost 35 lakh people. All of this is humungous in terms of love and appreciation that I have gained from my audiences.
5 things you cannot live without
Guitar, mouth organ, denims, boots, potatoes
One thing that world doesn’t know about you
World should not know
Your favourite vocalist
Kishor kumar Sahab
Any five instruments you can easily play
Guitar, Harmonica, mandolin, Ukelele, percussion instruments.
Favourite music composition by composers other than you.
‘Call me the breeze’ by JJ Cale and Aapki aankhon Mei kuch by Kishore Da
Image courtesy : TMM India