I am uncomfortable singing crass lyrics – Divya Kumar
Born into a musical family, Divya Kumar is one of the most promising singers in our country today. Having given hits like Jee Karda (Badlapur), Maston Ka Jhund (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag) and Aafaton Key Parindey (Ishaqzaade), he seems to have found a permanent place in every music lover’s heart. His latest song, ‘Binu Baadar’ is from Jai Gangaajal that releases today. We catch up with the talented artist to learn more about his musical journey.
Two generations of your family have devoted themselves to the music industry. Did you know from an early age that you are going to carry the baton?
I wanted to be a musician from the very beginning. I was born to a music family where my father and grandfather have spent over 35-40 years in the music industry. My earlier focus was as a percussionist, which after a while changed to singing. My mother really encouraged me to follow my dream. With my grandfather’s blessings I always thought that I was the chosen one. It was on me to carry the legacy forward. Coming from a music family, there is all the more pressure to perform up to a certain level of expectations. Having said that, a musical family background doesn’t guarantee that a person is talented. The struggle is still there.
Your voice has a very unique texture, something that is so rare in the industry. Did it work to your advantage or disadvantage when you were trying to establish yourself?
There are some music composers who are willing to take risks with new voices, and there are some who like to play it safe. Amit Trivedi has always been the adventurous and risk-taking types. He has always been keen on new voices and gave me my first big break with Ishaqzaade. There was no looking back after that. I then did the World Cup Anthem. At that time, I was also doing backing vocals for Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Shankarji was also very supportive and collaborated with me. I feel that having a unique voice is an advantage. A singer’s voice is his identity. He should not try to imitate anybody else’s voice. Look at Arijit Singh. He has such a unique voice! He has the most versatile voice currently. In the beginning some composers were not sure about using my voice, as it sounded similar to Sukhwinder’s (Singh). But as time passed, I have been able to establish my voice uniquely.
Who has been favourite music composer to work with? And why?
I don’t have any absolute favourite because I share different equations with everybody that I have worked with. They have all been a pleasure to work with. I have assisted Sachin-Jigar for four years now and there is an immense level of comfort with them. Working with them is fun and my relationship with them is fraternal. When I started, my equation was all and only work with Amit Trivedi, but now it has progressed to being more comfortable. We share a camaraderie now. I used to be really intimidated of Shankar Mahadevan of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. But over time I realised that they were really fun and chilled out to work with. Coming back to Sachin-Jigar, I love spending time at their office too. If I had to choose favourites, it would probably have to be them.
Is there any particular criteria on how you select a song or film?
There is no criteria as such. I don’t chase big banners. When Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy asked me to sing for ‘Maston Ka Jhund’, I had no idea that the song was part of such a huge film (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag). I like to pick work which appeals to me. I haven’t become that big yet to act very choosy or be at liberty to reject songs. We all need work. But, sometimes the situation is such that there are some crass lyrics in the song which I am not comfortable in singing. So in these circumstances, I request to get those lyrics tweaked or changed a little bit.
Who are you inspirations in music?
I had a keen interest in the music of 90’s because of my father. I was greatly influenced by Jatin-Lalit, and I can say that they are the reason that I started singing. Another inspiration is Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan ji. Prior to him, there wasn’t much focus on Sufi music in movies. But today, Sufi and folk songs are popular in most movies. Other great singers like Sonu Nigam, Sukhwinder, Udit Narayan and Kumar Sanu are the ones that I admire immensely. From the current batch, Arijit Singh is my absolute favourite. In fact, nowadays I don’t feel like listening to anybody’s but Arijit’s songs.
Recently, the legendary music composer Khayyam pledged his entire wealth to the aid of struggling artists. Has the industry become so brutal that he had to take such a drastic step?
What Khayyam sahab did is unprecedented and selfless. I have the deepest respect for him. Competition has always been a part of the industry. But the youth today has a lot of mediums to get their work across to the world. There are singing platforms, YouTube, band performances and covers. It took me 27 years to be recognised. Artists that have genuine talent should condition it properly and have patience. The industry has a natural recycle mechanism. Gradually, the older voices pave the path for fresher ones.
Any message for the upcoming singers and musicians in the country?
I am not the right person to advise the upcoming talent as I myself am still struggling in the industry. My only advice would be – ‘thairaav’; perseverance and patience are the only things that are going to help you sustain. Don’t waste time chasing fruits or rewards. Be genuine to your talent and the rest will follow.
Which are your upcoming songs that one can look forward to?
There’s ‘Binu Baadar’ from Jai Gangaajal, which is my first song with Salim-Sulaiman. I have admired them since a long time and really looked forward to working with them. I have few other interesting projects coming up, but I am not at the liberty to talk about them at the moment because they are still in production.