Thursday, December 31, 2015

International Hits of 2015 for your New Year Playlist

It’s the end of the year and everyone’s making plans for the perfect party to bring in the New year. But what’s a good party without some good music ? I picked out some International hits of 2015 along with my  own new party release , that are sure to pack a punch at your party. 
Read on..

1>  Lean On – Major Lazer
This groovy song by Major Lazer with an Indian themed music video had everyone from India to the USA dancing non stop.  You’ve probably heard this song played at least once at every club , every party and karaoke nights you’ve been to. Well..time to hear it one last time before the year ends!

2>  Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars weave their magic in this funky ,upbeat song, that also grabbed the MTV Video Music award for Best Male Video. If this doesn’t get you grooving , nothing will!

3>  Honey I’m Good- Andy Grammar
Every playlist has to have a feel good song and this one fits the bill perfectly. It’s just a really “Happy sounding” song..and “happy” is a good thing to be when you’re partying with your friends  and celebrating the year gone by.

4>  All About that Bass- Meghan Trainor
Megan Trainor’s song about appreciating yourself the way you are struck the right chord with audiences this year. Check it out yourself !

5>  Maroon 5 – Sugar
Maroon 5 won peoples hearts with their surprise performances at weddings this year (that was until we found out it was all staged for the music video:P). Nevetheless..good song by the band.

 6> I Let Go (Party Mix) - Pragnya Wakhlu
Dropping a new single today to end the year with a bang! This one's a one of a kind disco-dubstep track. Presenting to you the exclusive lyrics video of "I Let Go ( Party Mix) ". Woo-Hoo!

7> See You Again – Wiz Khalifa. Ft Charlie Pruth
At the end of the party bid your friends adieu with the hit track from the movie 'Fast and Furious 7'.Believe me they will want to see you again in 2016J

So here's raising a toast to you and a wonderfully musical year ahead. Happy new Year!
Whats on your playlist for New years? Let me know comments below.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Don't give up..The best is yet to come

Unless your born into a musicians family, becoming an artist is almost always a conscious choice..a choice a person makes on their own...not dictated by others opinions but fuelled by sheer passion.
If you're an artist, it's great that you made that choice for yourself. But as you live your life you'll realise, it's often hard up to stand up for your own choices.When money is running dry and success seems miles away and people ask you questions like "So what do you actually do?" " Whats your real job?" "What do you do all day?" "What do you really want to do with your life?"
Yes..difficult questions to answer..but don't let them fluster you. There are many people that are simply unaware of what it takes to be an artist and ask out of ignorance, not necessarily to put you down. Many people that ask you , probably secretly envy you for the courageous step you have taken; something that they might not take the risk of doing for fear of stepping out of their comfort zone.
You are brave to have made this choice.
Yes, there will be times when you question whether all the effort and hard work is worth it..whether you should've listened to your parents after all and just taken up that cushy job where at least you're assured a decent salary.There will be times when you'll doubt yourself..there will be times when you will cry .. there will be many times when you will fail.
What should you do in these times?
Beleive..Have faith..unshakeable faith in yourself and your abilities. It is your own faith that will drive you elses. 
Use criticism as fuel to drive you to do better, work harder.
Define your goals..Keep them in front of your eyes each day..and repeat them to yourself.
Close your eyes and imagine you're already where you want to be and feel those feelings of sheer happiness, elation and joy. Work out of happiness..not for happiness.Don't let failures make you a cynic.
I've been working as an artist for 7 years and started tasting success only 2 years ago. I still have a long long way to go to make a mark..lots of more to work to do to improve my skill, reach greater heights. Like any other career , it does take time..Be patient.
Grammy winning artist Ricky Kej said something really valid in my interview with him."Don't let creativity be an excuse for laziness". Many artists think that being an musician means you just play a few gigs and a bit of practice and the rest will come to you. Wrong. You need to practice everyday, meet people, create opportunities, keep your ears open for whats happening on the circuit, record , release, market..Whew!Yes it's a full time job.
If you're not where you are in your career just yet..hold on. Maybe someone denied you a gig, but there are 10 others that won't , you just need to find these people.They may be in other cities..think big, expand your boundaries. This is a country of more than a billion people with varied musical tastes.Someone ,somewhere WILL like your music and will give you a chance to play.
Don't give up just yet..because the best is yet to come!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

5 Points that will help you and your band decide whether or not to do a Free Gig

Everyday independent bands and artists like you and me come across venue programmers and festival organizers that try to get you to do a free gig for them so they can “promote you”. 
What they actually mean by “We will promote you “ is  “We have no cash and we want you to play for free in exchange for a facebook event that we will create (to promote you of course!)”.
I know a lot of bands are eager to showcase their talent on any stage that they can get; but before you accept a free gig here are a five points to consider that will help you evaluate if a free gig’s worth doing. Read on..

1.  Evaluate if the target audience at the offered gig is a match to your bands music

Who is the target audience that will be present at the gig? Are they the kind of audiences that listen to or will be interested in listening to the genre of music your band is creating?
If you are asked to play a free gig slot at a prestigious music festival where the audience has come specifically to listen to and discover new music then maybe it might make sense to do the free gig if you’re a beginner band. However, if it’s the launch of a new Indian family restaurant and your band plays metal ..then maybe the audience and venue would not be a right fit.
Knowing the audience that will want to listen to and buy your music is a crucial pre-requisite.

2.  Clarify what the venue/organizer is offering in return for your performance

Most venues will say that they will “promote you” and bands often make the mistake of not clarifying what this “promotion” will entail. You need to ask the venue/organizer prior to the gig what exactly they will do in terms of promotion and insist on terms that both of you agree to.
Some venues have tie-ups with newspapers and you can get the band some newspaper coverage in lieu of the gig or you could strike a deal with the venue that you would do one free gig but if the patrons enjoy it then the next one needs to be paid for.
Check with the venue how they are promoting the show on radio ,social media and whether they are submitting it to gig listings in the city .

3.  Identify what is the goal of the gig

What do you want to achieve at the end of the performance? Some of the goals could be:
·      Introducing new audiences to our music
·      Getting noticed by the venue/potential venues for future gigs
·      Making money
·      Making a live band video
 For example, if your goal is to make a decent live video for your band’s you-tube channel(which currently has no live videos of the band) then maybe your priority would be to accept to the free gig . If your band is more seasoned , then ask your band if there are any other goals that can be met by doing this free gig (e.g. the possibility of being heard by a festival organizer or other specific promoters that might create more gig opportunities) and whether it’s worth your effort and time.

4.  Check the venues policy for other music acts

There are venues that try to take younger bands for a ride by telling them they don’t pay any bands that play there because they are the hip new place in town and bands are lucky to be given a chance to play there. Before you get blown away by their generosity(!), check with your other friends and contacts on the music circuit about whether they pay other acts and what the venue policy for bands is.If you find a discrepancy you need to talk to the venue about the same. Stand your ground.

5.  Is the gig for a cause you feel passionately about?

Sometimes there are fund-raisers for causes that are close to your heart. For example, when there were floods in Kashmir  last year , the band Parikrama organized a fund-raising concert where they invited me and many artists(Rabbi, Indian Ocean, Advaita etc) that played free of cost to raise money for flood victims and their families. Sometimes you want to just play for the greater good and money comes secondary. Remember though, that the rest of your band might not feel so passionately about causes that resonate with you. Checking with your band members before accepting a free gig of this nature is very important.

Remember to ask the venue to provide the band and the band members F&B post your performance. That’s the least they can do.
I hope this article helped clear a few dilemmas surrounding whether it’s worth your time doing a free gig!:)

What are some of your bands reasons for doing/not doing a free gig? Write them in the comments below.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Free Hugs: The story behind what inspired my song

In mid 2007, my work with an I.T. firm took me to the city of Seattle, USA.This is a city that has been home to some of the greatest music acts the world has ever known. From bands like Nirvana that introduced the world to grunge music to alternative acts like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and more recently Macklemore & Ryan LewisSeattle is a city that has inspired many a musician. Here I was, a fledgling singer, wide-eyed and excited, scouring the city for my next musical inspiration. I had chosen to live in the city and not in the suburbs like most of my other Indian co-workers, because I felt the city was more alive with street performers at every corner, a buzzing nightlife and vibrant markets.

One evening as I was walking home after work, I noticed an old man sitting by himself. Bright balloons and a teddy bear, surrounded him and he held a cardboard sign. I squinted and read the colourful letters aloud  Free Hugs.” ‘Free Hugs? How does that work? Intrigued, I went up to the old man and initiated a conversation.
Hi there! Whats Free Hugs? What are you doing this for?I asked.
Hello young lady! I give free hugs to whoever wants one. Im just an old man who wants to spread a little love and sunshine in this world. The world is a dark place, it needs more people that care I come here everyday at this time.

Thats such a beautiful thing to do! How long have you been doing this?

Oh for many years now! After my children left, Ive led a lonely life. I know there are a lot of other lonely people in the world as well who could use a hug. Sometimes people have had a bad day and theres no one to go to. Its the least I can do to help people break the walls that surround them and reach out to one another.

And you dont get paid for this I guess?

Only in smiles,he said with a toothy grin.

With a smile, I extended my arms out for a hug. It was a nice, warm friendly hug in the middle of a crowded street. I felt pure joy at being a part of this simple act of kindness from a  stranger. In this world where money and time are a priority, here was someone whose only agenda was to spread sunshine.

There was a Starbucks nearby and I hopped over to buy both of us a coffee. The least I could do on that cold day was warm the hands of the man who had spent most of his life warming so many hearts.
I was so inspired by this man and his story, that I wrote a blues song,Free Hugs that made it to my debut album. Heres what it went like

Free Hugs
Alone I stand on the corner street,
Expressionless passing eyes,
I bare my heart and soul to you,
I'm wearing no!
Won't ask you any questions,
Won't offer you no advice,
My heart is open to anyone,
This is real, no device.

Free hugs, nothing in return
You may be brown, black or white
Where it's dark and some hearts burn,
Lets all spread a little light.

Did your old man leave you?
A broken heart to mend?
Do you need a shoulder to cry on ?
Or the comfort of a friend?
I ask not where you come from,
I ask not where you go,
The glimmer of sadness in your eyes,
Speaks all there is to know

Free hugs, nothing in return
You may be brown, black or white
Where it's dark and some hearts burn,
Lets all spread a little light.

The frowns turn upside down,
The teardrops disappear,
As your hand reaches out for mine,
The dark skies start to clear.
Our hearts heal together,
Shadows creep away,
Heaven's arms are open,
The dark lord starts to fray...

Free hugs, nothing in return
You may be brown, black or white
Where it's dark and some hearts burn,
Lets all spread a little light.

The story didnt end there. On returning to India a year later, some friends and I organised a Free Hugs campaign in Pune, the city I lived in at that point. This was post the Mumbai terror attacks and it was our way of passing forward the message of love and hope.

Its been over 5 years since I met the old man from Seattle and yet, every time I sing my song  Free Hugson stage, I see his face with that toothy grin, holding the old cardboard sign endearingly asking,A free hug for you today sir?

**Note: Article first written for and published by Happy Tripping ( I am a guest writer with them). Read the article on the Happy tripping website here 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Visiting Kurt Cobains house in Seattle

When I lived in Seattle in 2007, one of the things I always wanted to do was visit the home of Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain. I never managed to do it and it was something that has always remained on my bucket list. Earlier this year I got an opportunity to return to Seattle to perform; I knew the time had finally come to scratch this item off the list!
Kurt Cobain and his family
Kurt, Courtney & Frances-Bean Cobain
Kurt Cobain's last home is in Lake Washington Boulevard in Seattle. A pretty posh area, that also houses the likes of Bill Gates and other I.T. biggies. The beautiful home has now been sold to another Seattle family that has built really high gates to ward off prying eyes (understandably so as the house always has swarms of Nirvana fans coming to pay homage).
My sister and me took the bus from Downtown Seattle to Lake Washington boulevard to pay our respects. There is a little park next to his house, Viretta park with a bench dedicated to Kurt. Words from his songs and messages scrawled in lipstick & coloured pens ran all over the bench . Flowers, now withered, left behind by a heartbroken fan stared at me poetically.
I parked myself on the bench for a while..imagining him sitting there writing songs that would go on to be remembered long after he was gone. I felt a mix of inspiration, sadness and gratefulness wash over me. It's sad how he died..too young..The pressures of fame and your inner demons can make you do crazy things you're no longer alive to regret.
I wondered as I sat there..if someday maybe my songs would be remembered by people I didn't know. If I could write songs that could move people..that would become legendary..the way Nirvana and their music was..Just imagining that , sitting there felt good.

We shot a little video (below) to give you a little tour of his house and the park next door. Hope you enjoy it. Ending with words that are now synonymous with his name..
                 "It's better to burn out than to fade away"- Kurt Cobain

                                         R.I.P Kurt. Thank you for the music.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

How a House Concert Works & my U.S. House Concert Experiences

Hanging out the the gang post the SFO house concert

One of the coolest and largely untapped options for bands (and singer-songwriters in particular) are house concerts. This is mainly a concept from the West and barring a few sporadic concerts in the country, the concept still hasn't quite gained as much popularity in India. What I like best about house concerts is it's D-I-Y approach. As an artist if you want your music to reach out to people in new cities, you don't need to rely on venues for getting a gig..set it up yourself and just go play!   Read on to learn more house concerts and how to set up your own..

What's a house concert?

A house concert - (the name is quite self explanatory really) is a concert in someone's house. The "someone" could be a friend/an acquaintance or just a fan that loves your music.
At these concerts the people that attend, come exclusively to listen to you. It provides a more intimate setting for your music. I would highly recommend this setting for singer-songwriters that like a conversational format to their performance and whose sound setup is simple.

How does it work?

Matthew and Sam buying CD's at the SFO house concert
Depending on your host's level of comfort, house concerts could be by invitation only to a closed group of select friends( yours and the host's) or open to anyone that would like to attend.
Sound and gear is generally brought by the artist or friends (or hired if you don't have a choice). Light snacks and refreshments are provided by the host/artist or you could have a potluck format where everyone can bring food to share after the concert and have your own after-party. Entry to these concerts is mostly free and concerts are promoted on social media groups and by e-mail. At these concerts, the artist typically makes money from the sale of CD’s and merchandise and donations from the audiences. 

My U.S. house concert experiences in pictures 

At the house concert at aunt Meera's(in green jacket) 
On my US. Tour this summer I experienced both types of house concerts . The first one was a concert cum pool party at my aunt Meera Kaul's beautiful home in Menlo Park, California .We invited a closed guest list of 70 people, her friends, family & my fans and friends in California.

We had a stage by the pool, a minimal sound setup and drinks and snacks for the guests. A CD corner and guest book was setup on the side. We even had a little stall with a few kids selling lemonade and energy bars to raise funds for Nepal. Thanks Meera and everyone that came!

Performing my set at the stage near the pool
Me with Sonia Rao, an L.A. based artist  

Casper the doggie welcoming guests
Old friends and new
Arjun and Mythili
Abhishek and his beautiful family

Meera and me with Casper

My next house concert was in Portland, Oregon. This was an example of a house concert where I didn't know my host earlier but reached out to them via the internet.
Group hug- Deva, Bruce and Mary-Ann

I was introduced to my host Deva Gordon (leftmost in the picture) by another lovely generous Portlandier I reached out to online, Bruce Bartlett(center). I hosted a workshop at Bruce's earlier in May and he suggested we do the concert at his friend Deva's home. He asked Deva and she warmly agreed to be host for the evening. So here we were, doing my first house concert in Portland, U.S.A!

Deva's lavender home
The minute I set my eyes on Deva's home, I fell in love with it. I mean seriously..a lavender home with pretty lights and flowers outside..How much cuter can it get really! If a house reflects the people who live in it then I would say that Deva's home described her perfectly. She was incredibly warm and nice.

Setting up the CD display and guest book
 Bruce got an amplifier, microphone stand, mics and mixer from his home.We set up quickly and finished soundcheck. 

Soundchecking - Processor run through
Setting up the stage

Lets get this show started
 Pretty soon the crowd trickled in,  and made themselves comfortable at the little parlour in the back.

We had asked the guests to get some food to share with the others.  My sister got olives, some cheese and orange juice and Deva made some chia and coconut pudding .

I introduced myself and started playing

We took a break after the first set to interact with the guests and get some food into our hungry bellies!

Free hugs!

After eating Deva's yummy chia pudding
Playing my second set
Albert and his friend
After the quick break, I played my second set and taught the audience the words of a few songs so they could sing along. I love getting people to sing along with me:)
Thanking everyone that came and posing for group pictures post the gig
Some of the guests bought CD's and others made donations. It was really encouraging to see music from across the shores being appreciated in America as well.

My sister and me
I also happen to have the best sister in the world who took all these pictures & drove me to the concert. Thank you sis!

I'll be back next year USA.
Thank you for having me. It's been an honour.

Thanks for coming folks 

All in all house concerts are definitely something you should try as an independent artist. Get started today! Good luck and let me know how your concert's went in the comments section below.