OnRecord: The Arjun Kanungo Interview

We sat down with the thoughtful and articulate Arjun Kanungo to discuss inspiration, creativity, and his latest release: “Aaya Na Tu,” with Momina Mustehsan.

Where does your inspiration come from?

My inspiration comes from life, people I meet, things I’ve experienced. In fact, I believe that any art form is a manifestation of the artist, and his or her experiences.

That’s why the most honest music is always the most successful music — because you can’t actually separate the art from the artist. That’s why people come to particular artists to listen to particular to songs – because the artist brings a part of him or herself to that song.

One thing I love about your music is that you can play various personas, from an emotional, romantic tune like “Sanam Mere Sanam” to the pumping “Gallan Tipsiyaan.” Which space do you see yourself in more?

Over the years, I’ve realized that people want to put you in one of these two pockets – aarey – yeh toh party wala hai. Yeh toh ballad wali hai. People like putting you in boxes, but I’ve consciously stopped myself from going into a box.

The thing about music as a career, is that it has a long shelf life. It’s not like modeling – as soon as you’re 35, you can’t model anymore (well, at least most people can’t!) But with music, you can go on for 20, 30 years. I don’t want be in a box where, 10 years down the line, I say: “hey, maybe I could have been the ballad guy, also.”

I want people to see me as a musician, I don’t want them to see me as the guy who makes party songs, or ballads. I try to make anything I make with the entirety of my being.

So whether it’s a ballad or a party track, I don’t have a preference. I think it’s a song, I think it’s a part of me. The same guys that get their hearts broken – they go to party that night, because they want to drink their woes away! Everybody has both those sides to them – or maybe even more sides than just the ‘love/party’ divide. I want to do both sides, and more.


Apart from A.R Rahman, whom you’ve spoken about at length before, which artist inspires you the most for their unique artistic abilities ?

I think that in the spectrum of everything we listen to, there are so many great artists, because as you know now, non-film music is becoming so big. And even within film music, there’s A.R. Rahman, and then at the opposite end, you have people like Badshah and Yo Yo Honey Singh, doing stuff that is hugely successful. Between Badshah and A.R. Rahman, there’s so much in the middle, and too many great artists to mention.

One artist who’s had an incredible amount of impact on pop culture is Pritam. People are always trying to replicate a Pritam song. He’s defined that sound of Bollywood, in a very big way. So I definitely think he’s one of my favorite composers. Other than that, Amit Trivedi is one of my favorites as well. He’s got a different sound altogether – but when you hear one of his songs, you know that it’s one of his. That happens with all these guys – Pritam, A.R. Rahman, Amit Trivedi.

Tell us about the emotions behind your latest song, “Aaya Na Tu.”

Heartbreak has been around since humanity has been around. When two people are in love, sometimes they reach a point where one thinks: I don’t think this is a good deal for me anymore. Then they try to move away, and the other person gets hurt. And it’s been that way for thousands of years.

Every kid has faced heartbreak. I don’t think there’s anybody out there who’s been safe from it. I take everything from personal experience, and I’ve been through heartbreak before. Rejection is something that we all face, at some part of our lives. The song is about being truly in love with somebody who’s rejected you. That can be one of the most difficult things in life. It’s such an intense emotion that I feel like it deserved a song.

What was it like working with Momina Mustehsan?

She’s a lovely person. Very stress-free, easy-going.

From the point of inception to completion, the project took us about two months, so it wasn’t a very long, drawn-out process. It just kind of happened. We did everything over Skype, it was quick, then we went to Bangkok to shoot the video, and whichever parts of the song that had to be re-recorded, we recorded them in Bangkok, during that week.

It was really easy, and she’s a lovely person. We’ve become very good friends now, and I think she’s a very talented artist as well.

Were there any funny memories or experiences from this project?

Momina has an obsession with the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. She’s never seen it before, obviously, but if you ask her what she knows about India, she says: “Bandra-Worli Sea Link.” And she has no idea why, she just thinks that Bombay looks like the Sea Link!

Actually, she doesn’t even call it by its proper name. She calls it the “Bombay-Worli Sea Link!” Firstly, she gets the name wrong, and secondly, she thinks that’s all of Mumbai. I’ve tried to explain to her that the Sea Link is basically just a bridge connecting two parts of the city, but she seems to think that it’s the whole city! I thought that was pretty funny.

Whenever I put up pictures of the Sea Link on Instagram, she’ll be the first one to comment, saying: “Bombay-Worli Sea Link!”

Arjun Kanungo and Momina Mustehsan’s “Aaya Na Tu” is out now on Saavn! 

Tags : #Arjun Kanungo #Momina Mustehsan

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