Musical innings

Sarah Harris, Bengaluru, Apr 14, 2016, DHNS: Apr 13 2016, 19:13 IST
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Ajay Chanam


Ajay Chanam, co-founder of rock star school 'Half Step Rock’, has released 2 popular songs. The singer, writer and composer wants to help more musicians get their original songs out there and profit from it themselves. Ajay Chanam talks to Sarah Harris about the industry.

What challenges does the Indian music industry face?

We need to reinvigorate the independent music industry. We’re one of the most culturally rich countries, we have some very unique musical styles across the country. Despite our extremely rich cultural heritage and large numbers we don’t have a single international star. Not because we don’t have the talent, but because the industry isn’t there to support them.

What made you decide to go into music?

I was nearing that phase in my life where winning and losing are both as real. As you grow older, you understand winning and losing are both a possibility. I realised if you can fail doing something you don’t want to do, you may as well fail doing something that you want to do.

What are your key successes?

My first single 'Yeh Pal’ climbed into the top 14 most popular music videos on MTV Indies and stayed in the top 50 for close to 2 years. That was my calling, so when that happened I left my job and said I should do this. Then I wrote my second song 'Choona Hai Mana’ which was against rape. That song has also been in the top 60 for the last year. I’m also the only independent artiste in India who’s on Vevo.

What did you do before pursuing music?

The thing I most love doing is singing, I have sang for as long as I remember. My parents tell me when I was little if I didn’t sing I would cry. They would put me up on a table and I would sing. But there was no music industry so I became a civil engineer and worked in the corporate world. Then I moved onto marketing and software sales. The last 80% of my career I’ve been doing sales, marketing and public relations for software companies.

What makes a rock star?

There are amazing bands and amazing musicians out there, but they are not good rock stars because they are trying too hard to be a lot of other people. The thing about musicians is you are always influenced. The danger for an artiste is how to be influenced but still not be a mould of people. It’s a very thin line. A rock star finds that sweet spot where despite having a lot of influences they are bullish about what they stand for.

What was your upbringing like?

My father was in the army so I stayed 2 years in every city and town he was posted in. I have that typical army officer son’s background. I am a true Indian although I am from Manipur. And music has been a big part of my life. In the North East music is a religion.