Snehdeep croons for the love of music and languages

The over-a-minute video reel of Snehdeep Singh Kalsi, deputy manager at Mahindra Finance, singing Kesariya — in Telegu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, and Hindi — has gone viral, with plaudits coming in from all over the world.

“In addition to the melody, it is a great manifestation of the spirit of ‘ek Bharat, shreshtha Bharat’,” tweets Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“This is what an unbreakable, united India sounds like…,” tweets Anand Mahindra.

Echo caught up with Snehdeep Singh to know more about his musical journey, and this is what he had to say: “Music is the purpose of my life… If there’s no music, I’ll cease to exist.”
For more information, read the edited excerpts of the interview.

Your Kesariya ‘mash-up’ in five languages has gone viral. What’s the feeling like?
I didn’t expect it to receive so much adulation from music lovers all over the world. I certainly did not expect it to go viral on social media after almost of year of having posted it.… am really delighted that the effort put into making something creative is getting appreciated so much.

Did it take you long to complete the reel? A lot of work too?
No, not so much in time. I heard different language versions numerous times to understand the words, took help from Google lyrics and friends. I spent just one evening on the actual recording of the mash-up with a single-minded focus to finish it that day itself. I had to call some of my friends who spoke the above languages to check my diction while singing the song. I would send them bits of what I’ve sung, and they would give me their opinion. I would practise, sing, and record again to get the lyrics and diction right, until they approved it. So, it was crazy, but we also had a lot of fun doing it.

You have become famous! Even PM Modi has heard your song and wished you…
Yes, I did not expect such a warm reception from so many important people. Beyond that I am happy that my work has reached so many people. Music is the purpose of my life… If there’s no music, I’ll cease to exist.

But how do you manage time to pursue your hobby so diligently? Music needs a lot of practise too…
Well, as they say, when you love something, you make time for it. Whatever spare time I get, I invest in music. So, morning or evening (depending on what time I am free), I do riyaaz every day. I listen to music when I travel to work. I cut down on a lot of other things, including socialising with friends and relatives, to pursue music. Work is very important for me because it pays my bills, but music is something that satisfies my soul… If you are working just for materialistic gains and not doing anything to satisfy your soul, whatever you’re doing will not be very fruitful. So you need to find a balance to satisfy both.

At what age did you start singing?
When I was very small, I saw my uncle teaching the dholak to someone. I started my music journey from then on, learning to play the dholak…My mother always sang kirtans at the Gurudwara, and she taught me quite a lot about music from a very young age. When I was in school, I used to sing kirtans at the Gurudwara. I used to always volunteer and stay active in extracurricular activities and would sing on every occasion – be it the daily morning prayers or on red-letter days such as Independence Day or Republic Day. Around that time, I realised I could sing fairly well. My parents then bought me a harmonium from Amritsar, which has been a companion ever since. I started learning Hindustani Classical during my engineering course…Music has been around me since the time I was born.

Are you good with languages?
Not really, I cannot have a conversation in most of the languages I’ve sung the Kesariya mash-up in. I understand Kannada very well, as I’ve lived in Bengaluru for five-six years. In the other South Indian languages, I can simply reproduce a good imitation...Am good in Punjabi, English, Hindi, Urdu, and Gujarati; Gujarati, because I was born in Ahmedabad.

Who are your favourite singers? Any particular genre of music you prefer the most?
Oh, many! It is a long list...From the legends of the Hindi music industry (LataMangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi, and Asha Bhosle) to the present day’s Shreya Ghoshal and Arijit Singh.

Mehdi Hassan, Gulam Ali, and Farida Khanum in ghazals and many stalwarts of the Hindustani Classical music, like Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Amir Khan Sahib, Kishori Amonkar and Pandit Jasraj, among others. I love to listen to Ali Sethi, who is a Pakistani singer – my current favourite. I listen to almost all genres, but ghazals, sufi and qawaali are my go-to music.

How’s social media helping artists such as yourself?
Social media provides us with a platform to showcase our talents. It is a way to connect with like-minded people and music lovers. It has made the world smaller; now it’s very easy to reach out to the audience.

What would you tell people who say: “I don’t get time to do the things I like?”
We all get 24 hours, and that is just the way we prioritise things. But then, we all have different lives and different things going on in our lives. So there cannot be any comparison, and what one person is doing may not necessarily work for the other. Having said that, we can at least try to take out some time for the thing that we really like or love to do. Even if it is just 15-20 minutes...one hour in the gym is just four per cent of the day. 

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