IT IS NOT something everyone can say: "I have performed to a sell-out Dubai crowd, on the same stage as Rita Ora, Liam Payne and Little Mix." However, British singer-songwriter Pallab Sarker can boast just that having given the crowd his best at the recent Assembly: A Global Teacher Prize concert.
Inspired by the likes of Jeff Buckley, Elliot Smith and Tracy Chapman, Pallab says he borrows elements from these soulful artists in order to form his individual style. We find out how else he creates his music and how it felt to notch-up a gig in the UAE.
How did it feel to play Dubai? How did the booking come about?
I'm very proud to be involved in the communications work for the Global Teacher Prize, and was asked to play at The Assembly by the Varkey Foundation. Communicating and sharing the ideal of teacher respect with young people is such a noble cause. They are often not appreciated enough, but could not be more vital for shaping the future and helping young people rise to the challenges of the 21st century including climate change, inequality, and the rise of automation as we enter the fourth industrial revolution.
After I opened the show I was able to watch the other artists Little Mix, Liam Payne and Rita Ora. I particularly enjoyed Loren Allred singing Never Enough from The Greatest Showman soundtrack. The fact that all these big names had given their time for the important cause of celebrating teachers speaks volumes.
For those that haven't heard your sounds, how would you describe your music?
As acoustic indie music. I used to be in indie rock bands for years. But when I had a family and children, it became harder to keep a band together, so I ultimately became a solo artist. My musical tastes and the kind of music I write tends to be less heavy than it used to be, it's grown more mellow and soulful, and I also like to experiment. I listen to a wide range of music, and I am particularly and increasingly drawn to international influences. The Internet has some down sides, for sure, but on the plus side it has liberated music and made everything so accessible. As a result, I'm listening to traditional and new music from Lebanon, São Paolo and Italy, as well as traditional iconic indie music scene places like Manchester, London and Seattle.
What are the challenges of being an independent musician today?
It's really hard to start out in the music business today. Previously record labels, managers and other aspects of the industry took more of a chance on indie musicians and new talent. You could put together a demo or mixtape of your songs and if they saw it had some promise an indie record label would take a chance on you.
These days you often need a ready-made audience either from being on TV talent shows like X-Factor, The Voice or Pop Idol, or even being an Instagram model. If you have enough of a social media following people will try and turn you into a musician with marketing. These talent shows and the more cautious record labels averse to taking any risk, just investing in sure fire hit performers and bands, makes for an often sterile and seemingly safe or restricted mainstream musical landscape.
There's less money to be made for labels too, with industry changes like Internet streaming and so on, which have contributed to the new buttoned down and super-safe musical environment. So it is a huge challenge to make it as a newcomer.
What, for you, means one has 'made it' as a musician?
For me it is all about having a following. I don't even need to have a huge hit record. Simply being able to create your art and put it out there and have a sustainable following that's with you for the long term and appreciates what you do is enough. Even that following doesn't have to be massive, just sufficient. Also having the ability to play live is very important to me. Again, it's not the size of the crowd or the venue - small or big is fine - it's really just about that ability to connect with an audience in a live setting. That's where the enjoyment and the meaning of it is for me.
Too many people go into the music business for the wrong reason - it's not about being famous for its own sake. The old adage that show business is 90 per cent business and 10 per cent show is worth bearing in mind, particularly for young artists or bands. A lot of people going in with certain expectations may be naïve about the fact that a lot of it is about marketing. If you are aware with that and deal with that on your own terms it is fine. But for the unwary and the very young, the business can certainly take over what was initial innocent enthusiasm and can market you and turn you into something that isn't even your sound or what you represent.
My ultimate ambition is to just keep playing music full time and connect with audiences around the world. I want to keep on releasing music of different types, as I explore different types of sound and learn from different people.
Where is the best place for people to find and listen to your work?
You can find my music on Spotify, iTunes or at https://pallabsarker.com/