Music is a universal language that does not adhere to boundaries. It has the unique power to break societal shackles, while encouraging the acceptance of one’s roots. A recent collaboration has proved this concept aptly. The newly released single ‘Kingdom’, talks of the liberation of a young woman by channelling the power within her. It marks the first ever collaboration between Canada based Producer and DJ Khanvict and Australian singer Amritha Shakti – who chose to create a song in her native language of Tamil. They met just once, fleetingly, at a music festival in New York in the fall of 2019, but the COVID-era inspired an online collaboration between the two. A brief conversation turned into a fruitful exchange of ideas on the internet, which finally culminated in ‘Kingdom’, released in December 2020.
Canada based Producer and DJ Asad Khan, better known by his stage name Khanvict, seamlessly blends the eastern influences of Bollywood and Punjabi music, with his signature West Coast bass music punch. An immigrant from Pakistan who arrived in Canada in his early teens, Khanvict found purpose in the ultra-competitive world of South Asian dance parties, quickly becoming one of the most in-demand DJs on the scene. Amritha Shakti is a soul and RnB singer-songwriter, with a passion for fusing her heritage into her music. Dabbling in South Indian classical and semi-classical music since the age of four, she uses her strong vocals to convey empowering messages of self-love, spirituality and social change.
Khanvict and Amritha Shakti spoke exclusively to G20 about their collaboration on Kingdom:
Q. Tell us the story of how you met?
KV. We met at the PopShift Sessions music festival last year. I heard Amritha singing during her sound-check and asked one of the organizers to introduce us afterwards. We instantly connected and I told her that I would love to create a song with her at some point.
AM. I was visiting from Australia originally only for two weeks but after I got to New York and started meeting people in the creative scene, my mind was absolutely blown and I kept putting off my return home. I eventually stayed on in New York for six weeks and the Sessions performance was in the last week. I met Asad at that event, and honestly remember being transfixed while watching him on set – everything from his visuals, audio, the entire experience – I had never seen anything like it! So, it has been an absolute pleasure, even a bit surreal, to be able to collaborate with him a year on.
2. How did this collaboration come about?
KV. A few months after PopShift, I sent Amritha a rough sketch of a beat I had created and asked if she was vibin› with it. She wrote lyrics to accompany it and sent over some vocals. Honestly, it took a while for me to figure out an arrangement I liked, but both of us felt that the hook was catchy and quite strong, so we worked hard on finishing it off.
AM. Asad had sent me this beat and I remember feeling a bit stuck when I initially tried to adlib a melody on it. Finally, it popped into my head as I was napping one day, and I was obsessed with it immediately. I remember us both agreeing that it had a really cool ‘A.R.-Rahman-in-the-90s’ vibe. I felt the beat was so powerful that it really inspired me creatively.
3. What was the inspiration and meaning behind the song and the lyrics?
AM. We rarely see powerful Tamil female voices or tracks with the kind of fierce energy exuded by our biggest icon- Rajnikanth. No women seem to sing about success and strength and power. Most female Tamil tracks are limited to topics like love, where women almost always take on the position of being the “admired” object. I wanted to flip that concept completely on its head. Having grown up in Australia watching Rajni movies, I wanted to channel his energy in this song and write a powerful number for women. Almost like creating a female equivalent of Rajni. Eventually, I love how it turned out – it is energising and empowering. When I heard the beat, I immediately saw visuals of the jungle in my head, so I imagined a scenario consisting of a fiery warrior queen returning after many years away. She soars back into the jungle and roars – “Watch me arrive, I am like a tiger, step aside”. The entire song channels that vibe both lyrically and vocally as well. Also, this is my first song entirely performed in Tamil, and I really wanted to step outside my comfort zone and pay homage to the language. I feel that Tamil is underrepresented in the South Asian and global music scene and I really wanted to celebrate it through this song. I hope Tamil women, and women in general, find this song really powerful!
4. What was the creative and collaborative process like?
KV. I really admired that Amritha didn’t mind doing take after take until we got the song right. Once I felt the song was where we needed it to be, I worked on the details of the music. With all the back and forth, I personally feel this is one of my favourite tracks I have made so far!
AM. I loved the process – I could sense that Asad had a strong vision for the song and I fully trusted that vision. We were both really inspired by the track and wanted the best for it. The collaborative process was especially fun. I think the process of making music is as important as the final track, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Most importantly, I feel it is amazing to think that we achieved this all remotely!
The interviewer is a lifestyle columnist and blogger at www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be found on Instagram @nooranandchawla.