“I would have been a singer of another level if I had had the chance to learn music at the right time”: Sonu Nigam

Sonu Nigam does not need to be introduced as his work continues to speak for him. During his nearly three-decade singing career, the singer-songwriter ace has made a special place in everyone’s hearts with his moving music. His talent and his songs remain unmatched because he has, time and time again, proven his versatility like no other. However, he believes he would have been “a singer of another level” had he had access to formal musical training. Nevertheless, the singer has no regrets.

In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, the singer spoke about his musical journey, changing musical trends, virtual music concerts, musical reality shows and much more.


How did your journey with music begin?

I was born to singing parents. I saw them sing from my childhood and realized that was also what I wanted to do. It came so naturally to me. Even when I was studying or playing sports, music has always been a part of my life. It was always brewing in my mind, heart and soul.

Which of your songs mean the most to you?

Although it is difficult to choose, I would choose Sandese Aate Hai, Yeh Dil Diwaana, Suraj Hua Maddham, Abhi Mujhme Kahin, Kal Ho Na Ho, Satrangi Rey, Is Pyaar Ko Mai Kya Naam Du, Mera Rang De Basanti Chola and Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna among others.

What do you think of the evolution of the musical trend in the country?

The music will always change. Music is a culture and the culture keeps changing. You can’t always stick to traditional music. A new generation has arrived and they value music and art, in general, differently. We are different from our parents and our children are different from us. We must continue to adapt to new trends to understand the generation and its pulse. Music has changed and so has the music business. And we go with the flow!

Do you think opinion driven music dominates good music?

People don’t rate “good music” by the number of views. They rate “hit music” through it. Good music is always appreciated. There are so many songs sung by me and other singers like Kumar Sanu, Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi etc that don’t have so many points of view. But, people who love these songs, still go back and listen to them. Good music is different and hit music is different.

There are quite a few reputable names in the music industry that have emerged from popular music reality shows. Do you see these shows as an important springboard in your musical career?

These programs give them visibility. This does not mean that they are the only reason for an artist’s success. Shreya Ghoshal is from Sa Re Ga Ma. But, you can’t say that she wouldn’t have succeeded if it hadn’t been for Sa Re Ga Ma. The show propelled her to success and into homes. I believe musical reality shows play an important role.

The pandemic has led to an increase in virtual music concerts. Do you think such shows are here to stay?

Even I did virtual music shows during the pandemic. It was difficult but it was not that much. You have to sing to yourself on these shows and you have to imagine the reactions of the people. It was a different experience. Honestly, I don’t mind, but a live audience is a live audience. The live show experience is second to none at a digital event.

How has the confinement affected you as a singer?

I had almost lost the habit of working hard. I worked so hard earlier. It took me a while to get back into the rhythm. I got lazy like everyone else. Doing riyaz at home is not the same as taking multiple flights and working away from home all the time. But now I finally got my rhythm back. I have worked really hard the last few weeks and I don’t regret it. In fact, I missed it.

What do you think of the rise of music videos in recent years?

The rise of music videos is fantastic. This is good news for the independent music industry. Lots of great music is coming now. I’ve also been singing amazing songs lately. Good work is coming out and these are good days for independent music.

Several music groups and independent artists are finally recognized in the country. What do you have to say?

It’s a good sign. Recently we spotted a guy named Shakeel who was sitting and singing in the street with a guitar in his hands. He said he wanted to raise money for his music education. So the Artium Academy showed up and provided him with a full course, free of charge. I have a label called ‘I Believe Music’, on which I’m going to get very aggressive now. This is the platform where I will showcase new talent like Shakeel. How awesome that would be! Everyone can only give something they have. I have my voice. I can give it to others. If I could collaborate with someone and give them my voice, that would be good karma for me.

What role does formal music training play for a singer?

People always tell me that after I came on the scene and when I started Sa Re Ga Ma, a whole generation of musicians began to understand the value of learning music. Even though I didn’t have the chance to learn music in my childhood, I have always been a passionate learner. If I had had the chance to learn music at the right time and at the right age with the right person, I would have been a singer of a different level. Nowadays, with advancements in technology, you can actually do a lot more. Everything is easily accessible.

How will Artium Academy nurture musical talent in the country?

I am the chief patron of Artium Academy which is the academy for educating people who are interested in music, singing, instrumentation, music production or even music engineering. It is aimed at all those who wish to learn but do not have access to coaching. We have created live lessons and teachers have been trained on the program that will be taught to students. We ultimately aim to create performers out of them. It started just a few months ago and has picked up beautifully. It’s our way of giving back to the music that has given us so much.

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