Pop sensation Arjun Kanungo is best known for his party anthems like “Baaki Baatein Peene Baad” and “Gallan Tipsiyaan”. The 29-year old artiste recently collaborated with singer Neha Kakkar for his song “La La La”, which has crossed 55 million views on YouTube. He talks to Guardian 20 about his journey and passion for music.
Q. Tell us about your new song “La La La”. Did you expect such an overwhelming response?
A. It’s still sinking in. I am overwhelmed by the response and all the love by my fans towards the latest hit. “La La La” is my biggest hit on YouTube till date and it’s only been two months. Honestly, that’s all you want to feel as an artiste: that you’re growing. It makes me happy that the song has touched 45 million hearts and still clocking a million views a day.
Q. You have worked with famous singers like Badshah, Neha Kakkar and others for your songs. How has the experience been
A. I think I’ve been blessed because I’ve worked with the best in the industry. They’re all fantastic people. I have got the opportunity to work with some great musicians and singers along the way. And so far, I’ve got to work with whomever I’ve wanted to. I feel blessed that all the songs I have sung have done extremely well and have been appreciated by all. It still feels strange to gain this kind of appreciation as it’s only been two-and-half years since my hit single “Baaki Baatein Peene Baad” came out in September 2015.
Q. Veteran singer Asha Bhosle has played a significant role in inspiring you to start your career as a singer. How did it happen?
A. Asha ji and Nitin [Shankar], who plays percussion in her band, are the reason that I am a singer and a composer today. I taught myself how to play the guitar since nobody from my family knows music. I remember Asha ji was looking for a guitarist for her band.
She asked me to sing impromptu, and her first reaction was, “You’re not only a guitarist, you are a singer too”. She told me that I have a beautiful voice and that’s where it all started for me. Asha ji tweeted that she liked my work in “Baaki Baatein Peene Baad” and this was one of the defining moments in my career. Since then I have made it a habit to share all my work with her, hoping for an honest feedback.
Q. Was becoming a singer always on the cards
A. Until I was 17, I didn’t even know I wanted to do anything with music. I was busy pursuing a degree in the United States, and doing a student job. My whole family is involved in business, so naturally, I was planning on doing something in business or in architecture. And that’s when I found music. It ignited that passion in me and I realised that this was truly what I wanted to do. So I wrapped everything up and came back home to see where music could take me.
Q. Tell us about your style of composing songs.
A. I go with whatever feels right and what I enjoy first. I strongly depend on honest feedback from my loved ones. My mum has a big influence on my music, hence I always tend to check if she likes it. Then I check if my friends like it. If it checks all the boxes, then I present it to the label.
Q. What was that one turning point in your career that made you what
A. I think there were two. The first was when I chose to sign with a label, something which I had avoided at the beginning. The second was my first single with Badshah in 2015, ”Baaki Baatein Peene Baad”.
Q. What genres, apart from soft romantic and party songs, do you prefer as a singer, and why?
A. I like singing in all kinds of genres. When I first started playing, I was in a rock and metal band. The emotion of angst is something that is not inherently an Indian emotion and isn’t really something we express in our art forms, or at least we avoid expressing. I have been training in Indian classical music for about eight years now and I perform semi-classical stuff at my concerts.
Recently I have been enjoying hip-hop. Maybe I will do a rap song sometime soon.
Q. Do you prefer playing for big crowds at big music festivals, or smaller, intimate club settings?
A. Definitely bigger crowds. The thing is that people are a lot more free in bigger crowds and not selfconscious. In smaller settings, people tend to be aware of who is watching them.
Q. Do you have any pre-show rituals? How do you prepare yourself mentally and physically before a live performance?
A. I prefer 20 minutes of vocal warm-up. Then I sit quietly for an hour before the performance, as one needs to save their voice for the stage. Mentally, I’m always ready.
Q. What are your interests other than singing?
A. I used to be really good at sports in general. I’m a three-time national gold medal winner in pistol shooting and a national level basketball player. I love travelling and languages. I’ve been to Japan six times now in two years, and I’m learning the language. I think it’s also important to be aware of how we are treating the environment. I don’t drive anymore; my home is solar powered completely and I try to plant trees whenever I can. So far, my mum and I have planted 2,000 trees.
Q. What advice would you give to budding singers who look up to you?
A. Don’t think about making it. You never truly “make it”. There is always a bigger goal, another achievement to unlock. Think about the music. Think about doing your best. Focus on developing your talent and skills, because those are the things no one can take away from you.
Q. What is the best part of being a famous singer that you are today?
A. Firstly, I would love to thank all my fans who have given me so much love and appreciation. This gives me an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, in whatever small way I can. It’s always an amazing feeling when someone tells you that you made their day or helped them through a tough time. It makes all my work worth it.
Q. You have trained as actor as well. Any plans for your big silver screen
A. Yes, I would love to try my hand at acting someday. Currently, I am acting and working for a short film, which is pretty exciting. Along with this, I am working on a few upcoming releases.
Q.Tell us about your future projects.
A. I have two singles coming out soon. The first one is with Desi Music Factory while the second is with Universal Music. I am super excited to be a part of these projects.