Nindy Kaur: Musician and muse
The singer dishes on the growing strength of the Bhangra movement, her role in fusion band RDB (Rhythm, Dhol, Bass), making it in Bollywood and turning designer on her latest trip to the country. by Meher bajwa
So, what have you been uo to since RDB started making music for Bollywood?
I’ve been helping Manj [Manjeet Ral a.k.a. Manj Musik, Kaur’s husband and former lead singer of RDB] with lyrics and ideas on styling and video conceptualisation. I’ve learned to balance my professional and personal responsibilities very well and always maintain that equilibrium even while I travel 48 hours straight to do shows in India about four-five times a month. It’s exhausting but worth it.
Have you also started producing your own music?
Not yet! But while Manj produces my music, I’m always in the studio to give my creative inputs. I definitely have a vision when it comes to the Nindy Kaur sound.
What was working with RDB—and your husband—like? Are you planning some more collaborations even though he’s left the group?
My husband is my biggest motivation. I used to do administrative work in an office when we got married. I was always a big fan of music and I would sing a lot at home. Once I was singing along to a song in the car and Manj slowly turned the volume down so he could hear my voice. That evening he said “Right, you need to get into the vocal booth and sing some female vocals for an RDB track.” My life just changed then, and now it’s come to singing for big banner Bollywood films! RDB was Kuly paaji’s [Kulpreet Ral, co-founder of RDB] dream and Manj and me are taking that legacy ahead with Manj Musik. We have some associations in the pipeline with the guys from LMFAO, 50 Cent, Snoop Lion and TPain.
And when did you first start singing?
My introduction really happened with Aloo Chaat—my first Bollywood movie. The song came out great and then more opportunities opened up with a “Boliyan” from the same movie, and “Om Mangalam” for Kambakht Ishq where I featured in the video with Akshay [Kumar] and Kareena [Kapoor]. I had to skip on shooting the video for “Tamanche Pe Disco” because I took the backseat to be with my son.
Did you ever have any formal training in music or vocals?
The only kind of training I have ever done is in the gym! Vocal training is mostly in the shower. I was a complete bathroom singer. But Manj and I practise a lot in the studio in New Delhi and Canada and now that our son Anoop has taken to singing we do a lot of family sessions together. Music came naturally to me and I never found it important to take formal classes.
Whose music has inspired you since your own journey started?
My biggest inspiration has to be Pakistani singer Shazia Mansoor. I absolutely love
her voice! On a larger scale, I draw encouragement from the experiences of co-stars, friends and family. I learn from the mistakes of others. I can’t possibly give you one specific person who is my muse as muses don’t remain permanent fixtures with the passage of time.
How would you describe your personal style?
My mantra has always been: Don’t be a follower, be a leader! Of course I love designer pieces, I won’t lie about that. I fancy Gucci, Chanel, and Chopard watches...the list of names is endless. But I’ve learned over time that everyone is fashionable. Even though it might not be something that I would wear, if I see something that’s fab and amazing on another person, I will walk up to them and compliment them. I believe that every individual has their own creative style and fashion sense.
That’s pretty cool of you. Tell us more about your fashion collaboration, DesiWear.
It’s all about being a proud Indian and giving desi clothes a standing ovation. Even though I was born and raised in Britain, I’ve always been a lot more desi. I grew up in Birmingham which is “Punjab Central”. We listened to nothing but Bhangra music. Soho wasn’t too far from where I lived so suit shopping wasn’t a problem. I think desi attire is gorgeous because Indian colours and embroidery is out of this world and makes a statement.
The Bhangra music scene seems to be stronger in the UK and Canada than in India. Why is that so?
It’s a mix really. Things have changed a lot and there is so much new music coming out in the UK. More singers and more producers, but I feel the quality has taken a beating. Either it’s the homegrown Diljit Dosanj kind of stuff which I’m a great fan of or London rapping or mixed underground music. With the growth of the Internet, it’s amazing to see that our music is heard in some parts of the world we had never dreamed Punjabi music would reach. I want to change the game for female Punjabi artistes.
What sets Bhangra music apart from the rest?
Bollywood is very open to Punjabi music. These days every Bollywood film needs to have a Punjabi promotional title track. RDB as a group was the first to revolutionise the scene in Bollywood—we opened up doors for the rest. Bhangra has a lot more energy. It’s like a vitamin booster. Being brought up around the music industry at home, I have always enjoyed listening to Bhangra and Indian rhythms from a young age. Further to that, Manj is in the music industry and so he has heavily influenced my love for Bhangra as I got
EDM [Electronic Dance Music] is such a huge movement right now. Do you think you could ever incorporate elements of that in your music?
I think RDB laid down the red carpet for a whole new gamut of music. We brought in the whole concept of desi-global collaborations, thanks to Akshay [Kumar]. These days artistes are just not getting innovative and there’s a whole bunch of artistes claiming to be originals but their compositions are just rip-offs. Songs shouldn’t sound similar after a point of time and there shouldn’t be too much of replication from the West. While hip-hop and EDM are good and it’s always advisable to incorporate an element that is trendy, it’s also important to stick to an indigenous sound. The music industry is always changing and especially in this day and age, there’s so much more variety. EDM will blend perfectly with Punjabi music and cater to a whole new audience. Maybe one day SHM or Hardwell or Tiesto will consider collaborations with Punjabi artistes as both
the sounds are very new-age. It’s like David Guetta brought about a revolution in the pop industry and people took to a brand new pop-electro sound.
Is mainstream Bollywood on the cards? Do you see yourself as an actor next?
I think I’m a lot better at singing. I’m more likely to stick with what I am good at and giving it 100 percent. Also, right now I’m just trying to juggle a multi-faceted lifestyle of being a singer, a mother, a wife, a daughter and everything in between—it gets difficult. I’d be open to doing a brief appearance, something like Bend It Like Beckham or Dr. Cabbie is more up my alley.
On a day off, you…
Spend quality time with family and rejuvenate as most of the time I’m travelling and for me living our lives as regular family people is very crucial. Basically, Manj and I want to do whatever it is that Anoop wants—this time off is always about him and his happiness!