In this conversation with Guardian 20, singer Raman Kapoor talks about the challenges he faced while remaking the popular track, “Mere Rakshe Qamar”, originally sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in 1987. The 27-year-old also speaks about his musical influences and his early days as a musician when he was trying to make a mark in the industry.
Q. When did you realise that you wanted to become a singer? And was there ever a plan-B?
A. I started singing at the age of five. Music happened to me gradually. I have sung at jagratas through most of my childhood, and even today it’s a big thing for me. That’s how I started my journey. I also worked as a music teacher at a school for three years, and I can’t forget how fulfilling that was for me. So, there was no particular moment when I realised that I wanted to be a singer. I feel it has been my destiny since long. If not a singer, I would’ve been a cricketer probably as I am very passionate about the game. I grew up watching Sachin Tendulkar on TV.
Q. You also have a clear inclination towards Sufi music. Was it difficult for you to find an urban audience for Sufi music?
A. I personally like the genre, but have never thought of restricting myself to it only. I haven’t faced any challenges so far when it comes to performing at clubs in urban cities due to that. I guess it’s because of my versatility that I have overcome this challenge, if it exists. The organisers have always been supportive and encouraging, even when I am performing Sufi songs. And it’s a big myth that young people in urban cities are only inclined towards Bollywood and Western music. In fact, they prefer listening to Sufi music.
Q. What apart from the Sufi genre of music do you like and why?
A. Apart from Sufi music, I really enjoy Punjabi and pop music. The reason for this is the energy and the joy these styles convey to the people, which is amazing to watch.
Q. Your song “Mere Rashke Qamar”, which was originally sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, has gained immense popularity. How has your life changed after this song?
A. This song by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has a special place in people’s heart. There was a lot of pressure when I came across the idea of singing it in my own voice. There has certainly been an overwhelming change in my life after this song. People have started recognising me more in the industry and I am getting a lot of work and offers from organisers to perform across the country. Also, my participation in the reality shows Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and Rising Stars played a key role in my journey up till here.
Q. You have grown up listening to Punjabi music legends like Daler Mehndi and Malkit Singh among others. Do you think today’s Punjabi music is different from what it was in the ’90s?
A. Singers like Daler Mehndi Sir and Malkit Singh Sir are legends. The songs they made became cult hits, and people still feel connected to those songs. The only difference which I find is that the music artistes have now begun to collaborate more rather than going solo, which wasn’t the case earlier. Also, I feel the lyrics were richer back then, whereas now they have more to do with daily life observations, fun and relationship issues.
Q. You started singing professionally seven years ago. What challenges have you faced so far in this journey?
A. The journey has been full of ups and downs but I am glad I have made it so far. When I started out, there weren’t enough platforms to showcase your talent, which is why it took a long time for artistes like us to get recognised in the industry. Also, digital platforms weren’t there to share the songs. Live music entertainment has also picked up, so it is good for budding musicians.
Q. You have had a long working association with Mika Singh. How you did it happen and what do you like about his music?
A. I met him at a party where I was performing. He really liked my music and approached me to join his band. I joined him and soon became one of the lead vocalists in his band. I have toured with him and have performed at many shows. The opportunity to work with him has refined my art. He has supported and encouraged me endlessly, for which I am very grateful. The best part about Mika Sir’s music is his confidence to pull off any song fabulously in his own trademark style.
Q. From where do you draw inspiration for your music? And what were your early influences?
A. I have grown up watching those chartbuster Punjabi music videos. The culture and environment around me has been a strong influence, apart from the artistes I have been following. My early musical influences were Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi, Asha Bhosle, Daler Mehndi, Babbu Maan and Malkit Singh among others.
Q. You have recently come out with a peppy number in collaboration with Millind Gaba. What was it like working with Gaba?
A. It was fun working with Milind Gaba on our song “Neat Daaru”. I really enjoyed it. His energy is unbeatable which not only makes him stand out of the crowd, but also helps uplift the mood of the fans. Milind paaji had been planning to do this song since a long time. He had the mukhdaa and the beats in his mind but wasn’t sure how to go with the flow. Then I come into the picture. We sat and discussed it together, worked on it. That’s how we came out with this song. We wanted to do something the youth could connect and relate with.
Q.Tell us about your future projects
A. I will be releasing a romantic song towards the end of the month and soon after that, I will be coming up with a peppy party number in collaboration with Mika Sir.