Rooted to soul

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Singer-songwriter Arjun Coomaraswamy says that despite growing up in the UK he has always managed to stay connected to his India

He is a singer, songwriter, producer and a rising star in the music industry. But Arjun Coomaraswamy, fondly known by his stage name Arjun, has always preferred to stay away from mainstream music, preferring instead to create a fusion of soulful R&B with a desi twist. In an exclusive conversation with Hello Bollywood, Arjun reveals how he is always rooted to his country and who has been his biggest inspiration.

1.  You got into music at a very early age. Who has been your biggest inspiration?

My mum has been a big inspiration. She persuaded me to play several instruments from a young age as she is also a musician, and I’m very glad she encouraged me to get into music. I have also been very inspired by several R&B artists, the main ones being Craig David and Donell Jones.

2. What would you say helped you stay connected to your Indian roots despite being brought up in the UK?

I think my friends have made me stay connected. My parents are in fact very westernized but most of my close friends are Indian, and so through them I have connected with my Eastern roots. (I also think cricket has played a big role!)

3. When did you get your first big break?

I would say my first break came when I decided to do a remix of the South Indian song ‘Why This Kolaveri Di’. The remix went very viral on YouTube and now has over 9 million views. After that my life changed and I started touring all over the world.

4. You are a lot into Hindi music and your singles have always been huge online hits. Do you consider yourself lucky?

Yes I do consider myself very lucky! I know there are thousands if not millions of people who aspire to have a career in music, so I feel blessed that I have been able to make it my full time job.

5. Was it difficult for you to make a mark for yourself in the music industry and how long did it take for you to do it?

Yes it was definitely difficult initially. I was making music for around two years before I had any kind of break. I guess I was struggling to find my sound and to establish a fan base. I was very involved in music at school and university, but never really took it seriously until I finished and started working.  I worked for about two years and did music in my spare time, but after ‘Kolaveri’ I quit my job at Unilever and decided to do music full-time.

6. You have a very different line of work as compared to other artists. What made you choose this line?

The sound I have is a fusion of R&B and South Asian music. I developed this sound because it is what comes naturally to me. It is also easier to stand out in an otherwise saturated market by creating a unique sound.

7. You are playing the role of Luke Lewis in new online drama “Steffi”? How about the movies then?

Music is my main focus and to be honest I’m probably not the best actor!  But who knows: I guess if the right role came along, I would consider it!

8. Did you ever think of getting into Bollywood?

Yes I would love to be involved in the Bollywood industry, but ideally as a composer and singer — probably not so much as an actor.

9.  A singer’s life is very difficult. When you start your career, even though your music is recognized by all, people rarely recognize your face. How did you manage to get recognition?

I think YouTube was the key for me. The minute I started to use social media actively, that was when I gained access to an international audience. I was lucky that my music connected with Asian youth around the world who love music that is a fusion of eastern and western sounds.

10.  You will soon be touring to Australia. How excited are you about the concert?

I am very excited! I performed in Sydney and Melbourne in 2012 but I am really looking forward to coming back now that I am more established and have a bigger catalogue of songs to perform.

11.  You have performed at prestigious events in countries all over the world, including the UK, US, Canada, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and New Zealand, what makes performing in Australia different?

Australians are very friendly people and I was received very warmly last time I was there. I come from London where the weather can often be cold and rainy, so I think the amazing weather in Australia also adds to the fun.

12.  What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working on an album with T-series, one of India’s biggest labels. I have just released the first single ‘Kabhi Jo Baadal’ and the follow up singles and album will be out shortly! I am also touring in the US, Europe and Asia over the next couple of months, so look out for me in a city near you soon!

Indian Music Australia, Indian Music, Indian Nights Melbourne

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