In Conversation with Kailash Kher: The digital medium is a God-given gift to young singers

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In Conversation with Kailash Kher: The digital medium is a God-given gift to young singers

Longevity and popularity of a singer in the music industry aren’t solely dependent on their vocal quality, but also how unique they fare in comparison to those who’ve made a name for themselves in the industry, the exclusivity they bring and how well do they adapt their voice across various moods and genres. If there’s someone in the industry akin to Sukhwinder Singh who has lent an earthy, unpretentious, indie-spirited vibe to their film numbers, it’s got to be Kailash Kher.

While most singers in the industry are content making a name for themselves and shaping their career trajectory with care, here’s a singer who’s given a firm thought in laying a platform for promising young talent willing to carve a niche the industry as well. Taking his intentions forward, the Allah ke Bandey singer had launched Nayii Udaan, a forum for budding musicians and singers in his bid to present the depth of Indian classical and folk music into the mainstream space. Nayii Udaan, having made its presence felt across the country with several live performances since 2017, has now taken a digital route through Voot Select to host its fourth annual event. Commemorating his 47th birthday, Kailash Kher talks of his brainchild with

Would you have wanted a platform like Nayii Udaan to give a fillip to your singing career in your early years?

I may not have desired for a platform like this in my early years, but my worry was for the many young talents who come from distant lands to the city in the hope for a good career in the music industry. I always wanted to identify such artistes, talk to them, be the audience to their music, help them find a direction. However, it doesn’t always work that way. In the initial days, you think of these things differently, but once you become famous, the priorities change. People tend to become insecure and are obsessed about themselves alone. There’s no institution or individual that’ll guide and give a proper direction to the careers of aspirant singers in their early days. As a result, the newcomers are trapped by people who offer wrong advises, who make you sign agreements against your will and waste your time.

What is the panacea for this problem then?

I always thought of coming up with a solution for this whenever I had a name for myself. Time is crucial when you try to build a career in a creative space. Provided one utilises it well, one can preserve their best in terms of energy, music and even be less frustrated about the process of finding work. Whenever we audition people for Nayii Udaan, we keep hearing cover versions of popular film songs. We tell them there are already thousands who do that. Instead, we ask them to come up with original numbers that’ll give them an exclusive identity and recognition as well. They’ll have a brand for themselves that way.

On what basis do the upcoming singers get auditioned for Nayii Udaan?

We have a group of music experts in our team who make sure the criteria for selection is met. We look for singers who have a strong classical foundation, sing original numbers. Their approach to music must be unique. We never give them false hopes or try to sell dreams and make them stars overnight. We ask them to come on board with us only if they strive to be genuine artistes. We don’t get anything out of it, our only aim is to lay a path for their future in music.

How is Nayii Udaan different from a reality show?

A reality show is a completely different ballgame. Any contestant in a reality show will never get a chance to present his own work. The format is such that they’re made to feel small in front of others. They are restricted to a particular repertoire and need to limit their singing according to the show creator’s specifications. However, our focus is predominantly on original work. We get promising talent to create numbers by their name and release it with due credits given to them.

Why aren’t the impressive talents emerging out of reality shows having a longstanding career in music?

I feel young singers should take difficulties and struggles in their stride, be it their journey towards becoming a playback singer or attaining stardom. When God wrote their fate, he had thought of them as artists, musicians who would create something of their own, that resides within them. However, they always keep singing numbers that someone has already created, do cover versions and try to gain fame. The opportunities for such artistes are also limited, there may be a couple of singers who’ll fill such slots and get their two cents of fame. When there are hundreds of others waiting for an opportunity to make it big, they better create original content of their own. The digital medium is such a boon for those people, it is a God-given gift that has evolved over the years, it’s high time they make use of it.

Is it unfortunate that Hindi films are gradually eliminating the song routine out of the picture?

The number of songs in films hasn’t come down, but people are merely trying to recreate something that was successful in the past. It’s a ridiculous idea that has permeated in the industry, but everyone is responsible for that trend to an extent – both the singers and the people who’re getting them to sing such numbers. This trend has given fame to a few and validation for their work. Unfortunately, the popularity of remixes has already spread like cancer, it can’t be reversed so easily.

People should have realised that mediocrity that would creep in because of this and cut it short at an earlier stage. Quality music should have been the focus. The listeners deserve an equal share of the blame. They should have rejected these numbers outright and got the creators to know that they deserve music that has a larger meaning. When such frivolous work was out in the market, listeners embraced it and now they say, such music is toxic to their senses. It’s too late. It’s time to restart the cycle again, Nayii Udaan has chosen 30 such singers who create their own music, their quality is something else!

While it’s great that you’ve made a name for yourself through your independent music before venturing into films, why do you think indie-music in India is not part of pop-culture yet?

I’m part of Kailasa, a band that is exclusively known for its independent music across the world. We earned a global identity through Teri Deewani, people used to refer us through the independent numbers we came up with and called for shows. Independent music has its own place, but sadly the market is in the hands of people who aren’t artists and don’t have a taste. Be it radio, digital medium, these businessmen own it all. The platform isn’t the same for all kinds of music. The mainstream media like radio, television, listeners, artists are all part of this vicious cycle. Everyone must take responsibility for the poor quality of music that is being churned.

As opposed to the disadvantages of hosting a music show on an OTT platform, what do you think works in your favour?

The basic advantage is rather obvious – you reach out to your audience virtually. It’s definitely better than having no audience at all. You are having a platform to put your music out. The spirit of music lies in reaching out to crowds, enjoying the music as a performer and giving them joy too. Such magic may not be possible in the digital space, but the medium is gradually evolving and the listeners are getting habituated to it.

What is your take on singers chasing live shows for a living ahead of their playback singing careers?

Singing for live shows is good as long as you have a considerable body of work. It’s better to have a repertoire of your own before you go for live shows. Else, you’ll be merely singing other’s songs everywhere, you won’t have an identity. Particularly if you’re singing film numbers, you also need to take due permissions.


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