Karan Kulkarni and Kamakshi Rai: From making ad jingles to Bollywood songs!

Musicians Karan Kulkarni and Kamakshi Rai talk to SoundboxIndia about indie music and musicians shaping the future of the Bollywood music industry. Watch these frequent collaborators speak about their experience making music for the movies

*What did learning music in a different country teach you and how did it inspire you in Bollywood?
I think the way they teach over there is not spoon feeding. It’s like, this is how you do it and now you go figure it out. They encourage this sense of discovery or experimentation from the beginning and they are very constructive with their feedback to anything you make. So you automatically start to experiment and do your own thing. That is the main thing I am trying to incorporate in my work here. It’s also a lot of the techniques and things like that I have learned there, which are different - I would say - because they have a different sensibility and mindset. They have a different culture and I am trying to use it here and come up with something wacky.
Kamakshi: In fact, all of the stuff that I’ve worked on – and I have worked with Karan for a while now - every single song I have sung for him has been very different, apart from Bollywood, the jingles and the other stuff. Different genres, languages, styles, beats - you don’t feel you are working with the same style of music all the time.

*Do songs like Dream time stand a chance in Bollywood?
KR: Yes, absolutely. In fact, it’s funny that I have sung a Hindi song, Tere liye on the album and Dream time is the one that’s climbing up the charts. It’s on Apple Music’s Bollywood A list. You'd think that India haiHindi gaane chalenge. But the mindset is totally changing because we have people who want to consume English music and music with world influences, with different kinds of styles. I think it’s a great thing, because it also opens up doors for indie musicians in Bollywood. Bollywood is a platform where you get your music heard by a lot of people in one shot. It’s a great thing for the industry to be doing that.
KK: Initially I thought that it wouldn’t stand a chance, but fortunately the director, producer and everyone put it on the album and not just in the film. So I think that in my heart somewhere I am an indie musician and that’s what I always wanted to be.
KR: This song wasn’t even supposed to be on the album. The first time I was singing Tere liye in the studio and Vasan sir (director) was there and said, “Listen, you have a nice voice, so there’s this little part like a background score, less than a minute or so. There’s are no lyrics, only some la la laand some scatting. It’s in the background. So why don’t you come and have a shot at it!” I said okay. At the start, he said, “Humne abhi lyrics dal diya hai, but it will be in the background.” By the time I reached the studio, it was a fully-fledged 3-minute song with visuals. There were no dialogues. Then they said, it is going to be on the album - and I was very happy.

Video Url

*What’s the secret to singing in multiple languages - understanding the lyrics or the music?
KR: I think it’s a little bit of everything. I get asked this a lot. Recently I was on a radio show and they made me sing a Bengali song. Later they started speaking to me in Bengali and I said, 'I am not Roy, I am Rai'. Anyway, the key is sort of mimicking and listening to it. Any language is a combination of vowels and consonants and a different kind of an accent or a twang you speak it with. If you are good listener, all you have to do is listen to it and repeat what exactly you hear. So it becomes really easy. Usually for ads, we have a language supervisor. If you are going wrong somewhere, they will let you know. Also, I have a very cross cultural background. My mom is Punjabi and my dad is South Indian and I was born in Bombay and brought up in Pune. So I guess I have grown up listening to a lot of people speaking in lot of different ways.