MUSICIAN ANKUR TEWARI ON MAKING A POSITIVE CHANGE
by ASJAD NAZIR
IT WAS always going to be inevitable that Ankur Tewari would pursue a career in music. Having grown up in a family of music lovers, the Belgium-born artist was exposed to songs in diverse languages from a very early age, and this developed into a life-long passion that led him to the heart of Bollywood.
His recent high-profile projects include being music supervisor on India’s official Oscar entry Gully Boy and hit web serial Made In Heaven.
The multi-talented musician and singer is currently working on the two Netflix films, Yeh Ballet and Guilty. He has also done a song for a project about discrimination based on skin colour (India’s Got Colour) and is writing new material, including the single Aainda, which he is super excited about.
Eastern Eye caught up with Ankur Tewari to talk about all things music
Which of your diverse projects has given you the greatest joy?
Many projects have been great. But, I worked on a children’s album, which was a lot of fun. Growing up in India, I realised there needed to be more Hindi songs for kids. We usually end up singing English ones and the few Hindi ones from the 1970s, 80s and even before that. So, we ended up making a kid’s album called Baccha Party with Sony Music and that project was full of joy!
What has been your most challenging project?
It was Gully Boy where the process took nearly two years, working with young musicians, rappers and beat-makers, from relatively unknown to known producers. The challenge was that here we were a bunch of indie musicians trying to work out a soundtrack for a mainstream Indian movie. There was a lot at stake and many songs, given the protagonist of the movie is a musician. By the end of it, we had an 18-track album. So, there was lots of work, very little time and a lot on the line. So, Gully Boy probably has been my most challenging project.
Is any one of your songs closest to your heart?
Sabse Peeche Hum Khade is really close to my heart because it was the first song I ever released! I had written it for a movie that I was co-directing with a friend. I got to hear it on the Dolby Atmos in a theatre whilst we were mixing the film and that gave me a memory I will always hold close! The song also opened a lot of doors for me and became popular, but that moment of hearing it on the Dolby Atmos Stereo sound blew my mind!
Do you have a process for creating music?
I don’t have a process for creating a song or a piece of music because, in all honesty, I’m writing songs all the time. I’m collecting visuals, writing words, phrases and musical parts. Then you sit down with all these notes and put it all together. I sit with my guitar and things just fall into place! Losing sense of time is definitely part of my process. You find yourself in a space and out of it once it’s done, where you see there’s music in your head and lyrics on paper!
From where do you draw your inspirations?
My musical inspirations come from various things. Very few times do they actually come from other pieces of music. Most times, it’s from something I’m reading or conversations I have or hear. That’s where the germ for an idea comes from and somehow it ends up finding a musical path. Mostly, it starts with a thought!
Can you tell if a song will be a hit?
I don’t think so; I just think it’ll arouse an emotion or make you feel something. Being a hit is overrated. So many songs I listen to aren’t hits, but I love them. I can definitely feel a song and say it’ll connect, but being a hit, I don’t know.
What is your opinion on Bollywood remaking old songs?
Some are doing it really well; some are just being lazy. I like the ones who put in an effort and make their own versions. It also matters if you like cover songs – sometimes you love it, sometimes you hate it because you’re so attached to the original.
Who are your own musical heroes?
The Beatles! Although Leonard Cohen is a poet first, I love his songs. Bob Dylan, AR Rahman, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and so many more musical heroes are brave soldiers of love, taking their word and voices out, breaking boundaries and making people meet.
What music dominates your own playlist?
Music with lyrics since words really matter to me! Words can really change the world – especially now! So you’d rarely find music on my playlist that doesn’t have words, but there are a few.
What are your big passions away from music?
Big passions away from music are travelling and seeing art. I truly wish I had all the money and miles in my life to just travel to places, consume art and be consumed by it.
If you could ask any living or dead artist a question, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I don’t have an answer for this because I feel questions come from ego. I actually would let them tell me something I don’t know. It could be any accomplished artist, dead or living.
So, my question would possibly be – is there anything you can tell me that I probably don’t know? If not, then hopefully, they’ll spend a lifetime telling me so many things! But, it could be anybody, – (John) Lennon, (AR) Rahman, Bob Dylan and the respected Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
If you could learn something new in music what would it be?
A new instrument for sure! When you do learn to play a new instrument, it definitely opens some new places in your brain. First, it was the guitar, but then I picked up a ukulele with the arrogance of it being the same thing with two strings lesser, but it opened new places in my brain and was so different! So learning a new instrument is an amazing experience.
What is your musical master plan?
I don’t plan too much and just do what I do. I eventually do want as many people in the world as possible to hear my music and have it make a positive change if it’s blessed enough. There’s no definite plan, but just writing without boundaries.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
I would love to collaborate with anyone who can make me a better human being and teach me something I don’t know. Unfortunately, a lot of artists I’d love to collaborate with are no more, whether it’s David Bowie, George Harrison or John Lennon. Sometimes you learn new, exciting stuff from newcomers.
Why do you love music?
Because music is love and love will keep us alive.