Singer and composer Manj Musik launches single, music label in Dubai
He tells City Times why the emirate is the perfect venue for both.
It’s the futuristic look of Dubai that attracted British-Indian musician Manjeet Singh Ral, better known by his stage name Manj Musik, to choose the emirate as the backdrop for his latest music video titled Kangna. The single, which has already racked up nearly 2 million views, was unveiled by the newly launched international record label Muzik One Global in Dubai recently.
“Dubai never ceases to charm, I just love the vibes here. This place thinks ahead of its time and is always creating headlines. As the world is converging in Dubai with the greatest convention (Expo 2020) happening in the emirate, we give the city one more reason to celebrate with the launch of our new label and the single,” said Manj Musik, who collaborated with Dubai-based businessman Ashwin Sancheti, to launch their music label Muzik One Global.
The former vocalist and founding member of the British band RDB (Rhythm, Dhol, Bass) teamed up with Canadian-Pakistani actress Ushna Shah for the romantic Punjabi hip-hop song. The music video’s story begins with a wedding scene in Lahore, with flashbacks to Dubai, where two young people from different countries meet and fall in love. An inevitable twist in the story leads to a heartbreak that leaves the couple in a sticky situation.
Manj Musik is famous for his numerous Bollywood collaborations. He has teamed up with actor Akshay Kumar for foot-tapping numbers such as Go Pagal, Lal Ghagra and Swag Mera Desi. He composed and produced songs for Bollywood films, such as Namastey London, Singh Is Kinng, Kambakkht Ishq, Tanu Weds Manu, Yamla Pagla Deewana and Bullet Raja.
He has worked alongside big names in music like Snoop Lion, Ludacris, LMFAO, T-Pain, Sean Kingston, Fat Joe, Raftaar, Badshah and Public Enemy to name a few.
We speak to the multi-talented artiste about why he chose Dubai to launch Muzik One Global and as a backdrop for his new song.
Why did you decide to shoot your latest music video in Dubai? How was the experience?
First of all, we found the weather in Dubai excellent. Some of the marvellous locations you get here are very different from what you get in other countries. We also shot in Lahore, so it was easier for us (crew) to come down to Dubai and fly Ushna here for the shoot. It was very convenient for us to film the video in the emirate. We shot in locations like La Mer, Laguna, and other beaches in Dubai. It was fun!
Why did you club the launch of the label with the unveiling of your song?
It was my own song; therefore, I would be emotionally connected to the record label. Having my song launched with the label would surely push it to a higher level. Being an artist, this made perfect sense to me.
How do you rate Dubai as a preferred destination for filming music videos?
Dubai has some iconic locations, no doubt. It’s unique, unlike other destinations in the world. In fact, my son, who is here with me, remarked, ‘Dubai just looks so futuristic’ and I believe it does. As far as filming is concerned, there’s so much you can get here — from deserts to modern landscapes. Dubai has any kind of look that you are seeking to produce a music video.
Tell us more about Kangna. How did you go about making the track?
I had a vision for the song that I wanted to show visually in the video. When you work with other directors, you seldom get a chance to execute or implement your ideas. That is why I thought, this time, I would get my own DOP (director of production) — Kamal in Dubai and Asif in Lahore. I also planned to direct the music video myself.
I knew exactly what I wanted — which shots I wanted and what angles I wanted to portray. Filming is a hobby for me; I love buying cameras and shooting. That’s why I decided to shoot the video and direct it myself.
Why did you choose Canadian-Pakistani actor Ushna Shah for the video?
It’s just my connection with Pakistan, really. I wanted an actor from that country to show that there is a connection through love and music that we can carry on.
You’ve done songs for Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Tiger Shroff and many other stars. How do you tune your music to suit Bollywood tastes?
Every actor I’ve worked with always wants something different; they have a good idea of what they’re seeking. For instance, Akshay wants upbeat numbers, while Tiger wants something a bit catchier. We adapt the style of music based on the actor’s requirements. It’s been a pleasure working with these actors because they give you so much information to base your music on. Both actors and directors seek something specific for their movies. So that’s how it works in Bollywood.
Talking about Covid-19, how did the pandemic impact the music industry, according to you?
Covid-19 had a significant impact on the industry, especially where live shows are concerned. As for digital music, it has been the exact opposite. Covid has kind of helped it grow, as more and more people are consuming music digitally (online). Artistes concentrated more on releasing digital music rather than just saying, “Oh! I will release it next month.”
Artists including myself were extremely busy doing shows and we forgot about releasing good content. Now, as things are slowly opening up, artists are returning to the studios and creating new music.
How long do you think it will take for the music industry to bounce back post the pandemic?
I think it’s going to bounce back huge. I already have shows coming up next year, it’s an absolutely packed schedule. So I think it will bounce back in a big way because everyone’s just waiting to party, and music will carry on. However, Covid set a sound foundation for the digital (music) world. Everything now has gone digital! Everything is changing, and it’s all for the better. With all the music launches coming up, it will be a busy Christmas and New Year season for sure!
RDB’s music was famous for cutting across cross cultures because it blended western genres with traditional Punjabi beats and vocals. Tell us something about that.
RDB was just something me and my brothers decided to do as a hobby, and from a hobby, it became a profession as we started producing music and releasing songs. And as online music caught on with music lovers, we became very big internationally. We started in 2001 and produced urban Punjabi until 2005; after that, we slowly shifted to Bollywood.
How do you see RDB’s style of music fitting in today’s scenario?
I think we’ll go full circle. We started with dhol and rhythm and moved onto electronic music and then into the live circuit. I think it’s slowly coming back, perhaps next year.
You worked with many prominent artists; is it difficult working with them?
It’s an open-end (arrangement) where we can do what we want to do, but egos also come into play because we have to deal with other artists and their expectations and demands. We do a fine job balancing what they want from us and what we want from them and move on from there. It’s not always easy for us, but we are usually successful.
Talking about digital presence, how do you prefer to promote your music and connect with fans — online or through a live interaction?
In today’s day and age, everything has to be digital. You have to do everything online, that’s the only way to tap into the audience. Back in the day, it was different, but now, digital is the way forward, and it is always going to be the preference (for artists).
When releasing new music, we will share it with TikTokers and influencers, and that will help the music go viral. However, having said that, realistic and emotional connection with the audience can only happen through live shows. It doesn’t matter how much music you release digitally, your connection with the audience is best in live performances. And I must stress that you need digital distribution and promotion to bag live shows.
How do you see Muzik One Global’s involvement in the future? What plans do you have coming up?
Muzik One Global is a record label that pushes and promotes the work of other artists. I am mostly interested in creating and releasing decent content. I am very picky with my own releases, so I want every content that we invest in to be top (quality) — it should be the best. If we release a song tomorrow by an artist from his platform, then it should be one of the best songs that the artiste has ever released.
That’s how I want to work. Looking ahead, we should have at least 200 to 300 songs that have been distributed, out of which, even if 20 per cent of them are hits, I would be happy. And if that happens, it means that each one of those artists’ own platforms has also grown to a level where they can carry on doing it.
Meet Manj Musik’s co-star in Kangna
Ushna Shah is a Canadian-Pakistani actor famous for playing strong female characters in Urdu movies and TV. She is the daughter of veteran Pakistani actress Ismat Tahira and sister of Irsa Ghazal. Ushna debuted on the big screen with Jawad Bashir’s Teri Meri Love Story and rose to fame with her role in the Pakistani TV drama, Bashar Momin.
She also appeared in the movie Punjab Nahi Jaungi. Sharing her experience and speaking about working in the music video Kangna, Ushna said, “It was an unforgettable experience working with such lovely people in the beautiful city of Dubai. The song has come out very well, and I am very sure it is going to be a big hit worldwide.”
Bollywood movies Manj Musik is working on
I’m working with Akshay Kumar. I was with him in London a few weeks back, and I still have to complete a few more songs with him. I’m also working with Tiger Shroff, primarily for his singles. I have also tied up with several big production houses like Sajid Nadiadwala, Sabeer Khan, and just finished a few songs for Balaji (Motion Pictures) and Jackky Bhagnani. So there’s lots of work in progress.