Kanwarjit Singh Sawhney (KJ Singh) fondly called Pahji in Bollywood circles, is an award-winning, internationally acclaimed music composer, producer, sound engineer and designer, and audio consultant has formed a strong feet in the Indian music and film industry.
He is also the proprietor of Fast Forward Productions, an audio production firm that he founded in Delhi in 1987 but later in 1997 he moved to Mumbai with its mixing and mastering facility called A6TG. His latest venture is ‘Asli Music’, an independent ‘incubator’ music label which aspires to discover, develop and promote new talent. He is launching the label with the production of a spiritual album ‘ik On’kãr’ featuring the complete ‘Japji Sahib’ in the voice of upcoming Sufi singing sensation, Harshdeep Kaur.
Here’s a little tête-à-tête with the star..
What is the actual difference between sound engineering and Music composing?
Clarifying the difference between sound engineering and Music composing, K J Singh laughed and answered in simple words, “It is just like being a train conductor and Train driver. See for an instance if there is a song, why is it a song because music is involved in it, else it would be just a written text. So the reason it is a song is because it has an audio and music is involved with it.” Making his statement more clear, “Just like the book editor compiles a book the same way there has to be a sound person who has to take all the elements whether it is the music, the artist, the musicians, he has to put it all together to make it sound nice and cohesive plus it concentrates on the same emotions that the artists and the composer has tried depicting from his song.”
“The engineer is the person who collects all the elements together technically and delivers the end product.” Sound engineer helps in enhancing the music and giving it a more refiner sound, he confirmed.
Has the changing technology influenced the music composing?
“It hasn’t influenced the music composing but has definitely influenced the implementation of the song,” he stated.
Did you have an inclination towards music since childhood?
“I had an inclination towards music but not to that extend, my mother was into music so she encouraged and supported to follow this line,” he asserted. “I also had a band in college and school. And that is when I got into sound engineering, I was curious to find out, how I can improve the quality of my band and music,” he added.
How did you get the opportunity to work AR Rahman?
Recalling the moment he said, “I was introduced to AR Rahman through his sound engineer H Sridhar, sadly he passed away few years back. Sridhar had worked with AR since his first film and last worked with him on the film ‘Ghajini’. Sridhar and I were good friends and he introduced me to AR Rahman for his live shows.” “I joined AR Rahmans’ troop in 2004, for his first ever concert initiated in India and abroad ‘The Unity Of Light’. We worked together on stage for one or two years after which AR Rahman invited me to the studio to mix for his Bollywood numbers.” He added, “The first film I did with him was ‘Rang De Basanti’.”
What is AR Rahman’s method of working?
Being very precise, “For AR the song is the King, whether it’s him or me or any other musician we all are subservient to the song. The tune, the emotional content and the message the song carries and the content of the song it the priority.” He continued, “He deems we are not the one who are important we are just a catalyst to make the song reach the heights it is suppose to reach.”
“He gives ample time to his creations and for which he also get accused of delaying the music because of which the films also get delayed. “Whereas, I believe that AR respects his work so much that he won’t let anything half made go out.” He claimed, “He holds his work towards his chest and would give it to the public only once he is fully satisfied and happy with his work! Only then give it to the public is something commendable.”
Coming to accusations AR has also been accused of producing peculiar type of monotonous music lacking creativity and innovation. How much do you think is it true?
“If you talk about monotony then you can pick up any composer everyone has monotony. But with him it’s not like that in fact he is very conscious about his music.” Confirming, “He checks it with people if they feel that the music has been heard before or not and if anyone points out that there is even little bit of similarity then he (Rahman) is the first one to change the tune. So, I believe he is very sensitive on this context.”
“In this frame be it any composer Vishal, Bhardwaj, Shankar Ehsaan Loy, they all are very creative,” he affirmed.
You have worked with quite a few popular artists in the film industry so is there any difference working with them?
“Of course, everyone has their different ways of working, different mindset, different pace, so I need to adapt to their methods. Like for instance Rahman is famous for working at night but I believe he works both at day and night, it’s just that in the night he gets his space and quality time for your work.” clarifying.
You received a National Award in the year 2006 so what was the feeling when you received the award?
“I was really happy and had a humbling experience. As the people sitting next to you have already received the award number of times whereas, it was the first time for me!” He exclaimed, “You look up to all the experienced people and aspire to become like them one day.”
What is the response you are getting for the latest album ‘ik On’kãr’ for his label Asli Music?
He elatedly replied, “The response as expected is very good. When we were preparing the album the response we got from people who so ever heard it was great, ‘It is very soothing and very pleasant to hear’. The voice, the production quality, everything was appreciated.” He concluded by saying, “We knew we had something really great in our hand we wanted to share it with public.”
It’s been almost to three decades you are in the industry so how do you feel when you look back?
“One has to grow; one has to learn from his mistakes, one has to progress forward! We cannot stretch out and think that I have done enough! What we have done and what we are doing are two different things, so we should continue what we are doing as that is the way life moves further.”
In the end how do you define your work?
He reckons, “I am a facilitator. In today’s time I am a facilitator who helps the artist meet the listener. My work is to find the artist and help them to reach out to the public. I am neutral and not being judgmental about the music. I just try and help out the artists who wish to say something; I help them convey their message. It is not a compulsion that the work produced by Asli Music is supposed to be mine. If we get a good work of art we are more than pleased to promote it.”