In a multi-composer setup, everyone brings their own style: Arko
From exploring the art form and aiming at being an independent singer – songwriter, to stepping up in the industry through one hit after the other, singer and musician Arko Mukherjee has a lot on his platter.
With Rustom and Baar Baar Dekho releasing one after the other, both critical acclaim and loyal fans seem to greet him. He talks to Pandolin about his musical journey, his latest song ‘Dariya’ and his career switch from the ever-respected field of medicine.
You left a career in medicine to take up music. What inspired you to make such a drastic career shift?
Honestly, my love for music has always been there, right from my childhood. But it takes a lot of courage to take that leap and decide that this is what you want to do for a living. I come from an academic family and no one around me was from this (music) background. So it took me all those years to be able to take this step.
How did Dariya from Baar Baar Dekho come into being. Was there a brief you were following?
So my background is more of a singer – songwriter, as opposed to a music director. I have been playing the guitar and writing songs from a very young age, and I would like to think that I know something about that. So that is how Dariya also came about. I wrote it in a studio, on a monsoon afternoon, without any brief. For the longest time I had been thinking about how would it sound if I wrote a love song addressed to a Dariya. And that is how it happens with me mostly.
I have barely composed songs on a brief. It has always been that the songs come into being first, and then I share it with people and that’s how they find their way in films. Of course, there are changes once we have the brief and the situations in the songs, but in case of this song, there were no changes at all. There were no changes in the lyrics, the composition, in poise; everything has been retained as it was. And that is very rare in Bollywood.
Your other song Tere sang yaara from Rustom has gone to become one of the major hits of the year. How did the song first germinate in your head?
That again happened around sixteen months ago. I signed the song with Zee Music. Anurag (Bedi, Business Head, Zee Music) and I, thought that Atif (Aslam) would be the best person to sing it. We were just waiting for the right film. So when Akshay sir approached us for Rustom, we thought that it was the best opportunity. And then Manoj (Muntashir) came on board to write the lyrics for it. In both cases, I must say that there was very little creative interference. Because there are so many people involved in decision making, but none of them really interfered with the song and music.
Currently, the trend is such that multiple composers and singers work on one film. How comfortable are you with a set up like this?
I am very comfortable with a set up like this. In fact, I think it is very beneficial for the film. I mean, see, I am not the kind of music composer who can do all sorts of songs or all kinds of music. So it is much better for me if I get to do only my kind of music. And what happens in a multi-composer set up is that everyone brings their own sort of style. Me, Amaal, Badshah etc. Or if it is me, Ankit Tiwari, and so on. What happens is that there are different kinds of songs in a single album. This gives me the freedom to make the songs that I want to and it also brings variety to the album. So I am very happy with this set-up.
I am not the kind of music composer who can do all sorts of songs or all kinds of music
You work upon almost all aspects of creating a song – the lyrics, the music and the vocals. What is your course of action?
Honestly there is no method. I mean, I have made songs inside a party. Last year, I did a song called Meherbani for Akshay Kumar. It was inside a birthday party. Sometimes the lyrics and the tune come together. Sometimes you are humming a tune for a month, and then there are times when I have the poetry, some lines that I have been scribbling, without a tune. So it can happen both ways.
What do enjoy the most amongst the above? And what is a challenge?
So far, I have worked only on films. This is the first time that I am getting an independent album released. I mean it is independent in the true sense of the word, because we are doing and planning everything ourselves. Without any brief or without anybody’s creative inputs. So I suppose this is what gives me the most satisfaction. I want to see what happens when we do that. That is my primary aim. That is why I left medicine and came to music. I want to see whether I can make a mark as an independent singer – songwriter. Of course it is fun to create music for films as well. Most of the people I work with there have become my friends. But if you ask me what is my favorite thing, it is to go independent. Almost like Dariya. Dariya is that rare situation where such an independent, organic, minimally produced song is in such a commercial film. And I would like to thank Dharma (Productions) and Excel (Entertainment) for it.
As for a challenge, I find writing in Hindi extremely hard. Especially because it is not a natural language for me. I learnt it when I was around twenty-four. I mean that is when I learnt how to write, to focus, and went bullish about me writing my own songs. Before that I was trying to work with lyricists but that didn’t work out. So then I got a bunch of books, started listening to songs and making notes; in Urdu and Hindi; studied rhyming and meter and shayari. I read Ghalib, and Faiz and Anand Bakshi and almost everybody. But I still feel I can do better and that is something I want to achieve.
If you ask me what is my favorite thing, it is to go independent
You have been associated with all kinds of songs. What kind of roots do you draw from the most?
Whenever I am at home, I love listening to singer – songwriters like John Mayer or H.P. Baxxter, or a few among the commercial ones or old country music. And if I am out with my friends, and I am partying, I love Hip Hop. I love to enjoy and unwind with Hip-Hop because I don’t make Hip Hop. But if you want me to listen-listen, it has to be country or rock; I am a little old school that way.
Romance is something we continually find in your songs. Is that something you enjoy more?
I would just say that I am a hopeless romantic. So that is something that organically comes to me. And that is how I am. I wear my heart on my sleeve and a lot of stories happen to me. And it is easy for me to write about stuff that is real, than to make something up.
What has been the most important learning that you have had in your career so far? Something you feel that other singers can draw from?
I think the most important thing that I have learnt is that if an art form is one’s profession, then one has to be really honest to it. You have to be honest to the art and you have to be honest to yourself; you have to have an identity. There is so much each of us has. We have our own upbringing, or personality, our culture, our language; each of us unique in a way. And the only way I see of expressing this uniqueness through music, is by honesty.