In this interview with Guardian 20, singer Sukhwinder Singh talks about the many aspects of contemporary music, including how the use of technology may be hampering the creative element in compositions. The Academy and Grammy award winner is also a well-known proponent of the Sufi tradition in music, which, he believes, is largely misunderstood in India.

Q. Please talk about your experience of mashing up the songs “Lovely” and “Marjaani” for the show MixTape Punjabi?

A. The experience was excellent. It’s an honour to be considered for this special edition T-series MixTape Punjabi along with 26 other renowned Punjabi legends, all under one roof. The audience has heard one version of a song when it was a part of the movie. Now the same people will get to enjoy the same song but in a new avatar and form. I am performing along with Kanika Kapoor on the songs “Marjaani” and “Lovely”. The number is very groovy and peppy. Music director Abhijit Vaghani has played with both the songs very well by mixing them together effortlessly and creating a kind of new version, making it just right for the party season.

Q. How convenient do you think digital mediums like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and others are when it comes to enabling budding artists to feature and develop their own work?

A. The digital medium has grown a lot over time. Earlier, there were very limited mediums. But today, the digital platform is becoming so big and accessible to people across the world. Programmes like MixTape, too, provide a boost to youngsters, and their reach does increases. Not only do the songs get familiar but one relates to the artists performing in it, too. All of us have worked very hard on this, and I am sure it will pay off.

Q. Apart from contributing to social causes, you also seem to have a deep connect with sports, especially hockey. When the Indian women’s hockey team won the Asian Championship in 2017, you went ahead to throw a success party and also rewarded the players with cash prize. Tell us about your passion for sports.

A. I adore sportspersons. They work hard day and night, and have only one chance to shine, which is on the ground. They are not working for themselves, but for the whole country. Our hockey team’s achievement at the Asia Cup is really commendable. I have a lot of respect for sports and that was just a small token of my love for the girls who have made us all so proud. Their victory must be celebrated by one and all. Also, as an artist I like to encourage other artists and celebrities that they should come forward and promote certain sports because it’s important to
do so.

Q. How do you view the growing affinity of musicians and artistes towards Bollywood and film music? How does it affect the music industry at large?

A. The bonding of artistes and musicians is good and this rapport has increased over time, which is a good thing. We are all in the same industry, and working together will help us grow

Q. You started your career with Karma in 1986. What according to you has been the turning point of your career?

A. My first lead song was in Dil Se [1998]. The song “Chayya Chayya” started it all. It was actually the beginning point. It was a good experience. Until now, wherever I go, I sing this song. Even young kid requests me to sing this track.

“In our country a lot of people are straining themselves to reach higher notes and sound more like a “Sufi” singer.  Sufi is not a particular kind or a style that requires third-octave notes. It’s a form of music that connects with the heart.”

Q. You’ve won many accolades both on national and international platforms. How important are these for you as an artiste?

A. Awards are gifts. They bring happiness and help strengthen your passion. Awards also increase your popularity and take you to a point where you have to choose between pride and progress. Awards boost your morale and make you feel like you should work harder.

Q. How is technology, and software with auto-tune features for singers, affecting the quality of music and songs these days?

A. I feel that quite a few people are dependent on this particular technique. The auto-tune feature has become like a virus. Almost everyone is going for this feature, because the singers know that it can improve their voice and sync it with the music. I want music directors to use my raw voice, because that’s natural. I prefer working with music directors who don’t rely on auto-tune softwares. Singers should try and stay away from this feature, and work on their voice instead.

Q. Your power-packed live performances are loved by all and your prowess at playback singing is also no secret. Out of the two, which do you enjoy more?

A. Both are equally important. If I don’t do playback singing what will I perform on the stage?

Q. Recently, you said that Sufi musicians these days are “disrespecting Sufi saints”. So, what according to you is essentially wrong with the way Sufi songs are made and sung these days?

A. I have always found Sufi music to be special. It has always been my first love. In our country a lot of people are straining themselves to reach higher notes and sound more like a “Sufi” singer.  Sufi is not a particular kind or a style that requires third-octave notes. It’s a form of music that connects with the heart and there are several ways to reach out. Not merely by singing in high-pitched tones.

Q. What are the major changes the music industry has witnessed since the time you started out?

A. Learning music has always been a great experience for me as there are so many different things. It’s also interesting for me to accept changes. Both good and bad changes are afoot in the industry and I always choose the good ones. And I will always change with the times.


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