The singer and songwriter released ‘Kasoor’ with a heart-touching video on 30 June, which has gone viral, adding over more than a lakh views and counting on Instagram.
His songs bring together notes in a distinctive riff, as if they were on cue to line up into a gentle composition. Prateek Kuhad’s musicology is as soulful as it is about love and wistful conversations. It was this repertoire, Kuhad took along on his longest international tour, spanning 30 plus dates in eight countries through October to December. The India tour too happened in tandem. Slipping with ease from English to Hindi, his frank odes of love have won him many accolades. Thus when the pandemic hit, Kuhad was ready for downtime at home.
The boy from India whose 2018 EP cold/mess was on the list of favourites tweeted by former US President Barack Obama is unchanged, “It was nice, a cool thing that happened but that did not change anything overnight,” says Kuhad.
The singer and songwriter released Kasoor with a heart-touching video on 30 June which has gone viral adding 4,375,552 views and counting on insta. It was not a lockdown video, but inadvertently turned into one as fans sent back videos of them emoting on their, “hardest break up” or “the person they could never say I love you to.” And more. The video’s simplicity is as endearing as is the montage of ordinary people with a gamut of emotions as 400 fans took to sprucing up their home video skills.
“We had Jugaad (who also made the cold/mess video), conceptualise Kasoor’s video. It was on the backburner due to the massive tour. In March, we were to (finally) do it, and the pandemic hit. The idea was doable as the fan aspect is what we had envisioned. We sent fans a prompt video secretly. My girlfriend and I did my part at home, with the Jugaad team on zoom call,” says Kuhad.
The video sees Prateek childhood friends apart from actors Zoya Hussain and Jim Sarbh (also in the cold/mess video). “Kunal Kamra, I liked his work, so I requested him, and a bunch of others. Yet, 99 percent are fans from my mailing list,” adds Prateek, for whom love, “is mutual respect for each other more than anything else.”
His creative process is about following his internal leanings. “When it comes to writing and producing, I don’t have to force myself. I naturally do those things, it’s not a chore. I am constantly writing, though this is the first time in years I have written so little,” says Kuhad.
The maths and economics graduate from New York University shot to fame in 2015 with his debut In Tokens and Charms, and has been on-song since. The self-taught piano and guitar player recalls, “Earlier, I was writing song for myself, making demos, performing if I got an opportunity. I would randomly play at little bars, clubs and cafes in New York – small shows, often there would be barely anyone in the audience, it was just for fun.”
When his EP Raat Raazi, garnered attention, Kuhad got a gig in India, and decided to take a year off to explore his musicality.
Kuhad was in a different city every day, in the US, UK, Europe in 2019, with the India tour also simultaneously from October 2019, till February 2020. A gruelling schedule, he says. “Last year, I played 70-odd shows. I must have taken 100 flights, stayed at 70 hotels – that took a toll on my mental health. Tired, not sleeping or eating, constantly stimulated in weird ways – playing for 10,000 people and suddenly in Europe, playing for 80. Even though you are with people, you are alone. It’s harder to follow routine, keep hydrated, eat and sleep well. I failed miserably last year. This is my third year and I am much better, and hopefully next year, I will be even more (disciplined).”
In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell speaks of the Beatles touring to Hamburg for a year and a half as a struggling unknown band, performing 270 nights. This gave the band opportunity, practice and a connection to get set for the forthcoming stardom. Kuhad, is on a similar trajectory, with all the elements coming together.
Using the lockdown to unwind, Prateek says, “I am working on my skills, becoming a better musician and an active listener. I have done courses, planning to improve my French, and learn a new language.” A “textbook” lockdown, Kuhad and his girlfriend are getting healthier, fitter and unwinding.
Musicians are facing their worst challenge during Covid-19. Kuhad advises, “Just keep at it and work hard on your craft. Become better musicians, writers or producers. I think the next year is going to be challenging. Do the best as this is a great opportunity to work on yourself – personally and creatively. Whoever is trying to deal with the pandemic, including you and I, have to buckle up till 2021. I hope by the summer of 2021, we’ll bounce back.”
Whiffs of music emanate from his home in Delhi as he practices other artist’s songs, “It helps me learn, and (that is) how I have become a better piano and guitar player,” he adds.
The pandemic has seen a surge in mental health issues, and Prateek feels grateful to be quarantined with his girlfriend and parents.
“I am a fairly introverted person, maybe not introverted but I don’t mind alone time. I sympathise with those battling mental health issues—as there are many quarantined alone. If I was alone, I think it would have taken a toll on my mental health,” he adds.
Turning the pages of Haruki Murakami has given Kuhad an insight into Japan, “I’ve been wanting to go to Japan. Whatever I have read fascinates me.” The Jaipur-born lad is a vegetarian, and hopes to dig into the plethora of dishes at Kyoto, a vegan food destination. “I’m a huge fan of coffee and whisky, prevalent in Japan. I like Yamakazi, and had a bottle that we just finished during lockdown,” he says.
Kuhad turns to the timeless lyrics of Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan, again and again. “My favourite lines ever written are from that song. There is also a Brooklyn band Big Thief, and the lead Adrianne Lenker, is a phenomenon song writer, such quality craft,” he adds.
The lockdown has turned cooks into gourmets, and Kuhad, who cooked often during NYU days is back to it, and just made a pizza from scratch – a margherita.
Level-headed, focused and organised, Kuhad understands his fans, and his musical direction. “His ability to write songs that transcend age and language is something special,” says his manager Anirudh Voleti.
Of artistes who have not gotten the deserved acclaim, Prateek mentions Nick Drake, “Drake was one of my early influences. I used to listen to the British songwriter who died in the 70s. He never got any recognition until one of his songs took off after he died.”
Drake’s gentle melancholic notes lay silent until artists like the Black Crows spoke of his influence.
Drake’s autumnal songs and Kuhad’s musicality have a similar echo—they speak to you. Quite like Kuhad’s song, Pause… which is on point during the pandemic.