I was born in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh and grew up in Kota, Rajasthan. They say dreams do come true - my aspirations, my career took shape in Mumbai, the city I call my home since 2002.
Everyone in my family, except me, are expert academicians. I am the one who chose to take up the music and entertainment industry as my full-time career.
I learnt Hindustani Classical Music since I was 3 years old. My training continued for 14 years. Later I went on to complete M.A. in Music from Khairagarh University and Sangeet Visharad from Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. Learning, I believe, is a never-ending process. I still learn classical music.
Earliest memories with the music
My earliest memories with the music were when I was three years old. Of course, my parents tell me this, I do not remember much. I used to listen to the radio and used to copy singing Meerabai’s Bhajans as it is. Being in the field of education, my parents could easily spot talent in his students. He quickly noticed my inborn talent in music and decided to give me formal training in music. My parents took me to my first teacher -Pandit Mahesh Chandra Sharmaji of Kota.
Sir was reluctant to teach me as I was just 3 years old. Thinking that it was difficult for a young boy to sit at one place and concentrate, forget even learning; initially, he refused to teach me. But, when he heard me sing, he agreed to take me as his student. One hour, twice a week, I started learning Hindustani Classical Music from Sir and practice at home for the rest of the days.
My first album ‘Sant Gajanan Var De’ featuring devotional compositions was released when I was 14 years. The album was launched with a big fanfare at the hands of Shri Mukesh Garg, Mahasachiv, Sangeet Sankalp & Reader, Department of Hindi, Delhi University at a grand launch function. The album was highly acclaimed. It did very well in and around Rajasthan. At that function, Shri Garg did not believe that a 12-year boy had done the entire work for that album. On the stage, he told me that we’re launching the album but let’s go home and talk! Frankly, I did not understand why Mukeshji would say that. When we reached home, he asked me a zillion questions about my compositions. He was keen on knowing the minutest details, my thoughts while composing, the reason I chose a particular piece. It was difficult for him to believe that a 14-year-old boy could conceptualise and make an entire album. For about an hour, he kept asking me different questions about music about my compositions. He was finally convinced with my work on the album. Recognition from people who know music is significant.
My Sir helped me to stay grounded every time I received any recognition. It was always exciting for me to win the first prize at the National level music competition, and come to show my trophy to my teacher. He used to say, “There are thousands of more people who don’t even care for this competition. Do not think you’ve won at the National level. You have won out of those limited number of people who participated in that competition.” If I did not win the first prize, Sir used to ask me why did I not win - that I should have practised more and win it. He always emphasised on discipline and regular practice. He always appreciated me and also kept me grounded.
Kota is a small town, and in the late ’80s, people were quite conservative. Many people from our neighbourhood and some of my relatives criticised my parents when they first decided to give me formal training in music. People used to teasingly say that my parents want to make me ‘Kishore Kumar of Kota’. My parents never let these things bother them and have always been firm on their decisions. They always believed in my abilities and supported me in everything.
I started learning music at an early age and didn’t even realise what discipline was. But my parents were my biggest influencers. I remember my mother taking me to Maheshji’s house for learning music twice every week on her Luna moped two-wheeler. She used to take me there, wait for an hour and bring me back. Be it any situation at home, or extreme weather conditions, my mom always ensured that I never missed my music class.
My father didn’t just tell me to compose when I was growing up when my voice was changing. He ensured that he supported me by giving me the right equipment I would need for creating music. He got me a big keyboard. Whether it is fulfilling such needs or support during my training with Maheshji, my parents always ensured that I get everything when it comes to music.
My role models in music as well as in life are my parents and my teachers.
I consider myself very lucky to have Pandit Mahesh Sharmaji as my first guru, who ensured that my foundation was solid. I used to do Riyaz every day for two hours in the afternoon after coming back from school before going to play. Sir tells me that I was very disciplined. Everything that he used to teach me, I used to go home, practice and be ready with that when I’m meeting him the next. I never went to attend my music class, unprepared.
When I started learning, Sir had told my parents that he would teach me only Hindustani Classical Music. They should not expect him to teach me any film songs, nor any of the other forms like ghazals, thumri or any different types of music. Sir was against giving a public performance without enough training. Sir wanted me to maintain my focus and never lose my purpose to quick fame.
Maheshji was stringent in his approach and ensured that there were no deviations in my learning. He was very impressed with my singing preparations. Within one year of training with him, he presented me with the opportunity to present classical music in front of the live audience. I was just five years old!
It is the most crucial thing in any profession that your base is strong and stable. I had a natural affiliation towards music. The long hours of practice never deterred my enthusiasm, nor I ever felt any need to skip my learning or miss my music classes with my teacher.
I learnt many things from Maheshji beyond Music. I remember one such incidence that is etched on my mind. Sir has vision impairment. He had once gone to Chennai for some music conference and fractured his leg there. He was in tremendous pain throughout the return journey back to Kota. But, the way he told us this agonising incidence as if nothing happened. He took it very lightly. He was lying on the stretcher, but he was smiling all the time. I must be around 11-12 years at that time and was wonderstruck to see him happy, even in that painful situation. ‘No matter what, just enjoy life’ - this has been one of the most important lessons of my life that I’ve learnt from my teacher.
Pt. BhavdeepJaipurwale Sir, who represents Kunwar Shyam Goswami Gharana, was arranging and conducting the music for the project ‘Naman’ for which I was assisting Rattanji. I used to be a keen observer when he worked, the way he conducted the musicians, how he sang and enhanced the beauty of a composition. I was awestruck by his knowledge, especially Bandishes he used to sing. Bhavdeep Sir carries a great legacy of Indian Classical Music. His father, Pandit Govind Prasad Jaipurwale and grandfather, Pandit Lakshman Prasad Jaipurwale were stalwarts of Indian Classical Music and very renowned in their time. Once, Bhavdeep Sir asked me to sing, and I sang one Bandish for him, which he appreciated very much. I also started learning classical Music from Bhavdeepji. I consider myself very lucky to have him as my teacher, my mentor. For hours together, I used to sing and learn from him. He has been one of my most significant supports not just today but also when I was new to this city of Mumbai. I got immense learning from Bhavdeep Sir. I still go to him and learn.
The artists who try to make it big in the entertainment industry at Mumbai often speak about the phase in their life, a struggle they term it. However, I never considered these early years in Mumbai as my struggle. My personality is such that I would do whatever needs to be done for music. So moving from Kota to Mumbai or learning here was a part of that process. I had a firm conviction about Music that I never felt myself alone here. Music was my only focus, and I am such a person that apart from music, other things do not affect me. Music has given me a lot, I always consider myself lucky to be gifted with music.
I remember sitting in studios for long, 10-14 hours and just observe how musicians are performing. It was a massive transition for me when I came from Kota to Mumbai. I got to see, work with acclaimed artists who were presenting at the International level. It was great learning. Watching Bhandeep sir conduct the musicians, experiencing the dubbing of the instruments like sitar, flute during the recordings, dubbing of the strings, chorus - everything was new to me. That was wonderful learning.
The solution to all my problems has always been - Music. If I’m feeling low, I will do Riyaz. If I’m happy, I will practice. Whatever be my mood, I’ll practice or start creating something. Even though I experience the worst thing, I come to my studio and begin composing.
The First Break in Bollywood - ‘Tose Naina Lage’ from the film ‘Anwar’ It was around 2004, and I was visiting my parents in Kota. We went to attend a Ghazal concert. The famous lyricist, Mr Sayeed Quadriji, had come there as a Chief Guest. He heard my compositions and asked me why don’t I come to Mumbai and meet him. That time I was already living in Mumbai. Sayeedji was living in Jodhpur and used to frequently visit Mumbai. I started meeting him whenever he visited in Mumbai. He introduced me to other composers, producers in Bollywood.
On one such occasion, I met Mithoon, the famous composer, singer. In that initial phase of our careers, we started recording scratch. One day around 11 pm, Mithoon called me and asked me to join him at the studio for a dubbing session. That night, I recorded my first song as a playback singer! We finished recording the entire song in two hours. Later that night, producer and the director of the film came to the studio. They heard the song and instantly approved it.