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YouTube music sensations Sanam marked their Dubai debut with a spectacular concert at Za’abeel Park last week. Prior to the concert, we caught up with the band, talking about finding fame through YouTube, bringing band culture in a country dominated by Bollywood music and their upcoming collaborations.

What elements do you blend into your music while creating reprise versions?

Sanam Puri – We focus on highlighting the melody in each song and re-arrange the track keeping that in mind. The style of music that we use totally depends on how we feel regarding the emotional connect with the song. We do render the song exactly like the original. We tend to find riffs, hook lines, grooves and patterns that complement the original composition and take it from there.

  

Which band(s) had an influence on your music?

Venky S – We’re 90’s kids. So any rock/pop rock music from that era was what we listened to – bands like U2, Queen, Guns N Roses, AC/DC, Metallica, Radiohead, RHCP, Bon Jovi, Linkin Park, Coldplay, Green Day, Muse, Kings of Leon, etc. We each have individual influences. Since pop music is our common ground, we also dig boybands like Westlife, Boyzone, Boyz II Men and artists like Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake and Usher. Since we’ve been performing as a band, we’ve dug into older compositions by S.D. Burman, Madan Mohan, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Naushad and other such stalwart composers as well as singers like Lata, Mukesh, Manna Dey, Kishore Kumar, Mohd. Rafi, Hemant Kumar. It’s also been a mixed bag of influences, right from the African-American musical greats in jazz, blues, funk and soul, to reggae, to classical music, arabic pop, oriental music, etc. We love the live performances of acts like Bruno Mars, the production on artists like The Weekend, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Pharell, etc.

In a country dominated by mainstream Bollywood music, how challenging was it to bring band culture and independent music to India?

Keshav Dhanraj – It’s challenging to identify contemporary pop songs with bands as the sound of pop music is veering towards genres like trap and electronica. So new bands need to evolve in order to be relevant with the times – especially in pop music. Bass heavy music is what a lot of producers focus on these days. We work/perform as a band. We try to do independent original music releases along with our renditions of old Hindi film songs, regional songs, international songs as well as new Bollywood songs. And we do perform hits in Bollywood in our live performances as they are relevant to our audiences. It’s a long road ahead. We also intend to popularise the concept of bands in smaller towns; there are audiences who don’t understand what each band member does – what each of the instruments are, how they sound, why should they appreciate them, etc., but I guess we’re on the right path. One of the reasons for success is our fifth member, manager Ben Thomas. His experience and intuition has helped us in many ways. We understand how important it is to be consistent at putting out work, amongst other things.

Do you all enjoy comparisons to other bands? Very often, you’re regarded as the ‘One Direction’ of India.

Venky S – Well, in the band SANAM we have four band members who distinctly play instruments – bass, guitar, drums and keyboard, apart from singing. So in that respect, we are different from One Direction. But we appreciate the flattery in terms of success and imaging of four guys in a band/boyband. We love pop rock and that’s what we play.

Is YouTube the only pathway for an aspiring artist to gain mass appeal or do you recommend any other means?

Samar Puri – YouTube as a platform has worked tremendously well for us. As someone rightly said, there are no gatekeepers on YouTube. We have been fortunate enough to get success through this medium. I think audio streaming services are fantastic because of the subscription model which in turn generates revenue for the artist. Other social media platforms like Instagram are great to showcase musical talent.

Ben Thomas: There is not one but a number of ways to consider for an aspiring artist to reach out to their audience. You Tube sure should be included in the strategy as it hosts 46 percent of global music streaming (excluding China) and accounts for more listening than every other audio streaming platform put together, according to the IFPI. The strategy chosen depends on multiple factors though – firstly category of talent, if music then its genre and secondly funding available for promotion. IFPI reports have estimated that YouTube represents an annual revenue of less than $1 (76p) per user, compared to $20 (£15) on Spotify. So Youtube is not a major channel of revenue but it is good medium for outreach for all kinds of quality content being free and consumer driven. Also important is the fact that it is user friendly and free after all you need to consider that more than one-third of global music listeners are still pirating music.

Tell us about the challenges of performing evergreen classics to a millennial audience. What does it take to remain relevant?

Sanam Puri – Intent and honesty is key while making music. This goes a long way and helps making a song relevant to any audience (even a millennial one). This also applies when we make a rendition of a song. I think we’ve managed to present classic film compositions in a way that easy for younger audiences to enjoy and connect with. However it’s also important to create music that is colloquial if you are trying to connect with hip younger audiences. We’re working on that and hopefully our new originals will do just that.

What’s the journey ahead for Sanam? Will there be more originals and A-lister collaborations?

Samar Puri – A lot of new music. We’ve got originals that we’ve written – some are in Punjabi. A bunch of retro renditions. We’ve been talking to some cool musicians and singers so definitely some collaborations are in the pipeline.

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