Krishna Kumar Kunnath grew up listening to Pink Floyd, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Deep Purple and Billy Joel. Spring Fest 2009 saw the DU Commerce graduate and a play-back genius, performing to a packed house, in the Tagore Open Air Theatre. The Scholars’ Avenue caught up with KK for a rendezvous, backstage.
TSA: As a singer you had a modest beginning, and you have come a long way. How do look at your journey to stardom?
KK: I never thought of myself as a star. I started out as a singer in school. I gave my first stage performance when I was in second standard. When I was in college I thought I’d get a job. I was never among the top few in academics. I wanted to do an MBA, I did a computer course and got married early. But, somewhere sub-consciously I knew I would like to do that which came to me naturally.
There was no pre-conceived plan. I went to Mumbai, and joined the advertising industry. I did jingles, and slowly got into films and today I am a play-back singer. I never planned. I was not interested in Bollywood at one time. The music in the 90′s didn’t interest me.
TSA: There is a deeper attachment and allegiance to music involved, but ultimately you also have to sell a song. When you bring out an album, you have to think of a strategy. Do you think your stint with the advertising business helped you?
KK: I am not good at marketing and PR. I am not much into TV, news, media, because I don’t believe in it. I think it’s overdone, over baked. If you follow an art form, whatever you do, whether you sing or dance, follow your passion, because that is what gives you satisfaction, other things are immaterial.
I did my first album, Pal and of course, I was totally inexperienced then. It was Sony music’s first Indian artist debut album. Everything finally fell into place. I am not a go-getter. However, I feel, once you are committed to what you want to do, you have to go for it with all your heart and soul. For everybody it is very important to stick to certain self-defined principles.
TSA: You have done a variety of songs. What do you think appeals to the majority of the youth today? Do you think our interests are evolving?
KK: The film industry is like an amoeba. It engulfs into it, whatever string of music is popular. It took pop and now it encompasses rock as well.
TSA: You have done rock ballads.
KK: For me, Shaan, we pretty much started out together, so we have Hindi-pop to our credit, but now it is more diverse. It is good since there are lot more people to work with and lot of new ideas. Rock-on was well received. Rock is still not mainstream, but until three years ago, people could never play to somebody and have them listened to. Personal choices will change over time. Sounds keep changing.
I personally like a classical touch, not purely classical, but songs from the 70′s and 80′s are close to my heart.
TSA: Do you believing in sticking to current trends or do you believe in innovating and experimenting?
KK: I am not a music director, so for me that question doesn’t arise in terms of writing songs, but yes, for my album I did write some songs. Songs like “Aasman ke” had a very modern touch to the sound.
My experience helps me relate to the way a music director thinks. I am not good at classical alap, so they don’t approach me for that. A Shankar or Sonu Nigam or Sukhwinder could do it much better. I can do a wide spectrum in my own genre- pop, rock, light classical, which you require in Hindi films.
As singers you have to keep trying to be innovative, but somewhere down the line I am sure I’ll also find it difficult to keep up with the times.
TSA: You have done songs in as many as 8 different languages. When you don’t know a language, do you need to work on the accent, the pronunciation?
KK: I don’t know all the languages, yes. But being mallu, I have a natural flair for languages like Telugu, Kannada. Other than that I was born and brought up in Delhi, so my Hindi is good.
TSA: What message would you have for students who probably would have wanted to pursue a career in music?
KK: You need to remember that there is no such thing as wanted to and couldn’t, because then you didn’t want it so bad.
Competition is very fierce now and it is not easy. It is hard for established people as well. But if you have a talent, you know which way to go, there are no crossroads. If you are already in IIT and now you think of taking up music as a profession, I think it would probably be a little late. You have already given so much time to something else. You can always continue it as a hobby and see where it takes you rather than running a risk and leaving everything else behind.
TSA: What is your take on the numerous talent shows on TV today?
KK: I don’t watch a lot of TV. But people who really have talent will benefit. The rest who are just there for a ride in the bandwagon, won’t last.
TSA: You have performed in various Institutes. How do you connect with the audience?
KK: Connecting with the audience is very important. I have been to all the IITs and performed for huge crowds. I could switch my mike off and sing with them. Just like that. Interaction comes naturally. I am not singing in a studio, there are people who are listening to me and I respond.
TSA: How would you describe your visit to Kharagpur?
KK: I was in Kharagpur 3 years ago. I enjoyed it here the last time as well. The team put a very nice gig together. It might not be easy for IIT students to arrange all this, since you have so much to do. Altogether, it was a comfortable and enjoyable stay.