The Asian Today Interviews The Man Behind Impressive New Hit ‘Bhula Na Sakey’
A new rising star has emerged to take his place in the music industry. We at DesiXpress had the pleasure of speaking to up and coming singer, Kesh K. What makes Kesh stand out from the crowd is his passion for classical genres of music. This resulted in the release of his new single ‘Bhula Na Sakey’, a beautiful song with a blend of classical genres such as Sufi and Bollywood Gayaki. A multi-talented performer who is passionate about his work, Kesh sat down to talk about his influences, musical journey and latest song.
Congratulations on the new single! Could you tell us a little bit about the song?
The song initially started off as just a composition with no lyrics, I had been in touch with a Canadian producer called Gagan Singh and we decided to do a Sufi track together. So I had sat down one weekend and composed this song which was the base of Tabla and Harmonium instruments and because I can do both, I had given him the full structure of what I wanted. Then over the course of two years we had been sending each other material back and forth over Skype and we had produced this track.
It was a two year process! You must have cared about the quality of the track…
It did take a long time but the great thing about that is you can listen to the song again and again to improve it. Plus it’s a live song so I think the reason it sounds the way it does is now is because we were able to improve it every time.
You’re a very well rounded performer, could you tell us more about the instruments you use?
I’ll start with the Tabla which I played from the age of ten, which is the pure foundation of Indian music. If you want to become a singer Tabla is the root, so I’m glad I went into that because it created the foundation for me. From a younger age of three or four I was singing away all the time, my dad is also a singer so it started from there. I was also listening to Nustrat Fateh Ali Khan or Ghulam Ali, I couldn’t escape it and that is where my inspiration came from. Classical music was also always around me, I mean I am Punjabi but I didn’t get into Punjabi music until much later, so it’s purely been classical music for me.
What drew you to genres of Sufi and Gayaki?
It simply reaches to my soul. Some people might say Jazz hits their soul or funk but my ‘ruh’ (Urdu word for soul) reaches out to that music. I listen to that music for enjoyment, for happiness, when I’m sad or when I’m down, that music is there for me. Because I’ve grown up around it I can’t escape that, no matter what genre I listen to I will always come back to classical.
I guess classical is your niche really?
I mean I’m not a classical singer, classical is a niche and it’s something I wouldn’t even touch because it’s so powerful and so intricate. You need decades to practise for that. Semi classical such as Ghazal Gayaki or Sufi, that’s my genre, I wouldn’t dare say I’m classical. I’d be doing the real artists an injustice.
Could you explain the background of Sufi music?
Sufi is basically reaching out to the power above through your music and your lyrics, Sufi poets for example reached out to their lord through their poetry. Metaphorically it was about love but it was the love of God, not the love of a woman for instance. So the power of this concept is very deep, but this song is not strictly Sufi and to say it is would be doing the real artists an injustice. You can hear a bit of Bollywood in the song, a bit of Ghazal and a bit of Sufi so it’s got a rounded vibe.
Are these spiritual aspects a part of your life?
I was born into a Hindu family and culturally I am Indian Punjabi, but out of choice my religion is music.
Before University were you studying music?
I never studied Western music, I was learning Indian music as a kid so I was always going to classes. I was travelling to Rochdale on six hour journeys and learning on weekends with my Guruji. So it was a constant learning process and still is, but I dedicated a lot of my time, daily, to Indian music.
Do you think taking the educational route was key to your success now?
Oh without a doubt! As much as you can learn from the ear by just listening to a song, when you have someone in front of you playing, reciting and explaining something to you, that’s priceless. It’s because they’ve learnt material from their Ustaads (highly skilled musician) and its just passing down that nourishment. It’s like taking real Cod Liver Oil as opposed to taking the tablet, the real thing will be the most beneficial to you. That’s the best comparison I can make!
Your father was also a singer, did he support your career?
Although my father supported my singing he still wanted me to have a more stable career in something else. I did study engineering at Nottingham University but it was a six year course, I dropped out purely because I couldn’t handle it! I wanted to do something creative and sing. I thought you live once so you have to give it a chance, your 20s are all about doing what you want. I’m just going to give it a shot and if I fail at least I tried, I don’t want any regrets in my life.
You have shared Indian-Italian heritage, has your Italian background influenced your music?
I am half Italian, my mother is Italian and from Naples and my dad is Indian from Punjab. However there was no Italian culture in the household, only Indian. I grew up speaking Punjabi first and I couldn’t speak English at the time. I was having extra classes and crying because I couldn’t understand what the teacher was saying! My mother learnt the language, culture and Punjabi way of life after she married my father. So the Italian side of my background was blocked to me.
Is it important to you to bring this type of music to the public?
The only way I can answer that question is by saying that there are a lot of singers out there who I have met that are fantastic. However they are not releasing any music, if they did release music then this country’s industry would blossom. The only reason they are not is because they are scared and worry the public are not going to receive it well. I think if all the really talented singers in this country released this style of music they would flourish, and other singers would think they can’t compete. So because there is nothing happening on our side, current artists can run ahead, so my basic purpose is to tell other singers that you can release something. Even if it doesn’t become number one that’s not the main goal, these songs are slow burners meaning they will be around for a long time and will not burn out. So if you listen to it next year or in ten years time it will not be outdated, but with the urban hip hop scene there are new sounds all the time that you cannot keep up with. A track released five years ago sounds outdated but this kind of music is timeless. So I’m reaching out to all the talented singers out there, if you can do it, do it!
Do you hope to inspire those hidden gems to come out?
Oh no not inspire! Though I want to give them the courage because I have met a lot of talented singers in this country and a lot of people don’t know about them and they are not releasing music purely because they are worried people won’t receive it well.
Following on from that, what does success mean to you?
Success for me means going to sleep at night knowing that I have done what I have done to the best of my ability. Focussing on the roots is important, I mean if you flower a plant and you just water the petals it’s not going to grow, but if you water the roots then the flower will grow to its best ability. So it’s the same for an artist, you need to nourish the right parts
That was a beautiful way to put it and I think that’s a great note to end on. So thank you for being with us today and we wish you the best of luck.
Thank you very much for having me!