I AM FINALLY INTO THE PROFESSION OF MY DREAMS AND IT IS WHAT I AM MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT – MUSIC, I CAN’T BE HAPPIER! says Reenie Mansatato Priyanka Singhal
You have been to different cities like Kolkata, Indore, and Mumbai and then New York, how has your experience of different cities shaped your music?
My living in different cities and countries along with all the musical influences and styles that I have experienced has perhaps resulted in the creation of my own individual style as a singer and musician. It has further broadened my outlook in the way I appreciate and understand different genres of music and has increased my openness to all kinds of music without any reservations or boundaries.
I was born in Kolkata, a place known to harbor immense creativity and art of all forms. Indore, is where I grew up learning Indian classical and semi-classical singing at home, it is another culturally rich hub and the home of some of the most well known Indian classical musical Gharanas, along with many of today’s famous musicians, writers, poets and actors. Mumbai, the home of ‘Bollywood’, was where I studied further, the urban face of India and the center of the film and entertainment industry. I went on to live in New York for another 10 years, which was a completely different and liberating experience. It is a city of dreams, opportunity, professionalism and freedom! I got exposed and familiarized with different kinds of western music genres like hip-hop, RnB, electronic, jazz etc.
I was inspired and recorded my first album with a Pakistan based producer called Mahmood Khan and released a CD titled ‘Rahey Tu Rahey’ in India through Nupur Audio in 2004. After that album, I decided to approach and work with a main stream New-York based producer, David Anthony. That resulted in the making of my second album titled ‘Reenie’. It was a Hindi-pop album with a fresh and international sound due to my collaboration with an American producer. All this was possible only due to being and living in different places…
You seem to tread your own path. Instead of going for Punjabi rapping, you went for Hindi rap and since then the trend has been set up in Bollywood for it. How was the decision made to do something so innovative and radical?
Well, for starters, I am not Punjabi and do not know or speak the language. Rapping in Hindi seemed like a cool option to me as it worked well and many a times, we get used to thinking and acting in set ways until we move out and see things in a more objective and holistic way. I did use a Punjabi rap in one of my songs from the album ‘Reenie’ called ‘Hey DJ’ too, and it sounded great!
From the times of Bob Marley, Reggae has undergone a sea of changes. How has your experience been of working with Maxi Priest?
Maxi is a legend in his own right. With multiple #1 hits on the Billboard charts like- ‘I just wanna be close to you’ and ‘Wild World’ to name a couple, it was an honor for me to sing with Maxi Priest. The collaboration was very fruitful. Both of us combined our strengths and brought value to the table. Fortunately, our voices blended really well giving the song a very cool vibe. I was clearly very excited about the collaboration and opportunity to work with Maxi and he was open too as he had never worked with an Indian singer before and enjoyed the interesting mix we made.
I am happy to now see this trend kick in Bollywood of collaborating with western artists such as Snoop doggy dog with Akshay, Kylie Minogue and Sunidhi Chauhan with Enrique. It’s the future, and I have felt this way all along.
What kind of music do you generally listen to?
I enjoy listening to all kinds of music especially Pop. The good thing is that due to the entire fusion-taking place, popular music, commonly referred to as pop have changed and progressed a lot and become a lot broader in its range. I also love listening to Reggae, electronic and hip-hop.
Any upcoming albums or any Bollywood offers in the pipeline?
Well, I recorded a rock song for a Bengali movie that released late last year. I haven’t worked in Bollywood yet and have been busy creating, recording and performing my own music so far. But yes, I am open to Bollywood offers as I think that it is churning out some great music lately and it has progressed a lot over the last decade.
How has the journey from being an aspiring fashion designer to being a celebrated musician been?
He He… Well yes, I did want to be a fashion designer when I finished school, but that changed in a matter of time. Life is very unpredictable…Its like, one step leads to another and I’ve realized that the only thing that is constant is change!
Until the day you die, you can keep doing different things and that’s the beauty of life. I did study fashion designing in Mumbai and then did a diploma from F.I.T, New York in Fashion styling, and even worked as a stylist with MTV. After all of that, I discovered that I was very intrigued by professional make-up and so went for it and did a professional course in the same. I then went to N.Y.U and studied broadcast production and went on to be a Television host in New York at an ethnic channel there called ITV for over 5 yrs. Now that I am finally into the profession of my dreams and what I am the most passionate about, Music, I can’t be happier.
Every thing that I studied and have practiced in the past comes in handy for me now in my current profession as a singer and performer. I have the ability and edge to style myself and do my own make-up for my own concerts, interviews, shows or even parties. It sure is an advantage to say the least. Of course, I have professional people to assist me on shoots, videos or bigger concerts, but I can be self sufficient when required.
How was the experience with Mr. Mahmood Khan on your 1st album ‘Rahey Tu Rahey’?
It was fantastic! He is a very talented producer and a great songwriter. He has a distinct style to his music and that’s why you can note that my album ‘Rahey Tu Rahey’ has a totally different sound as compared to my second album “Reenie”. I met Mahmood in Amsterdam for the first time where we recorded the songs of the album “Rahey tu Rahey”. It was a very different and unconventional experience as we recorded the songs in my hotel room with his sophisticated mike that he brought with him and the whole project was put together without even visiting the studio except during its final mastering. The songs from that album sound good till date and seem evergreen.
Are there more cross border collaborations in the pipeline?
Hmm…Well yes, tie-ups with David Anthony, Mushtaq, Livingston Brown and Maxi Priest were some of the collaborations in the US and UK that I have worked on. Next month I am flying to New York to collaborate and work with some more artists from the West. Keeping my fingers crossed for some substantial work that I hope to do…
You gave your first live stage performance at the Seventh Indian Telly Awards 2007, how different is it compared to UK based live stage shows?
Well, that was basically a very grand and fancy award show versus a concert which is different in the way that a live music stage show or concert is more about the music and performing to the crowds unlike an award show, where you are performing live, but keeping the television broadcasting of your performance in mind.
The experience at the Indian telly awards was terrific and the audience was quite good and responsive. It was a very professionally conducted show of very high production value. I was very glad to be a part of it and think that it was a rather grand way to enter the Indian market as a new artist giving my first live performance on a platform that big.
How has the journey from NY to Mumbai changed the human being “Reenie”?
Well, living in New York was a life changing experience for me. It’s a different world out there. New York is by far my favorite city! It is a true melting pot where people from all countries, walks, cultures etc of life live and exist together in an amazing fashion. It has the best of all worlds. America in general, I believe is a friendly and meritorious country that welcomes and rewards talent, efficiency, expertise and professionalism and New York further takes that to another level. New-York still feels like home to me as much as India does. I studied, worked, socialized and actually took the plunge into my career in music on a professional basis while I lived there. Fortunately, I continue to travel a lot and manage to keep visiting NY amongst other places, which is a blessing. The most important change that I have come to realize about my self after living there and encountering and dealing with various situations, experiences and lessons is that I have become a more tolerant, understanding and mature person. I am blessed that overall today I feel stronger, more grounded and at peace with myself and feel that ‘I am loving and yet more detached’. I expect less and try to love from strength and not need. It’s a very empowering feeling! Lol…
How yoga and meditation help you in keeping you alive and singing?
Yoga is a great form of exercise and also a good way to internalize. Its gives me a proper work out and cover breathing and meditation as well, which are most essential in life. Meditation is basically reaching the state of no mind. Meditation doesn’t only mean that you sit straight with crossed legs and just breathe, the way we tend to think of it generally. To me anything you do with a 100% concentration where you have no other thoughts is meditation.
A state of bliss where you become the one with whatever that you are doing, be it cooking, dancing or singing. I sing when I meditate. It’s a great tool of expression and a way to experience the beauty and existence of higher dimensions. It illuminates you to then further spread your light in the universe.
Please walk us through, how the ‘Jayagena’ happened?
‘Jayagena’ is the team anthem song that I composed for one of Sri Lanka’s provincial cricket team, ‘Wayamba Elevens’, now called ‘Wayamba Wolves’. It is the team that won and represented Sri Lanka at the Champions League tournament last October held in South Africa. After the success and positive response to that song, I was approached to compose and produce the team anthem songs for another 4 teams and the tournament song for the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) that is to start now in August of 2012 due to an undue postponement from this August. I collaborated with David Anthony on that song and with German producer ‘Miza’ on a few of the team songs to bring out a very fresh, international and different sound. I worked with top Sri Lankan artists including celebrity duo Bathiya and Santhush on the songs for the Sinhalese parts. It was a very exciting exercise despite of all the chall
enges due to language and cultural differences and carrying out the task of successfully producing commercially viable music for a foreign country with a passionate and musically sensitive and inclined audience. To get this going, I flew to Sri Lanka several times and joined forces with Bathiya & Santhush (BNS) who are from Colombo. I joined hands with them because I wanted someone from that country to add originality in voice and delivery. I sang some of the English parts in the songs.
Initially, before I made my way to Sri Lanka to record vocals, I had to dub the first song in Mumbai itself due to limited timelines and
inorder to make that happen, the greatest challenge I faced was of translating my lyrics and composition into Sinhalese. It was difficult for me to even objectively judge the translation due to not understanding the language. I just didn’t know any better. It was a strange and almost funny problem, but as they say in show-biz, ‘the show must go on’ I had to do what I had to do and get the job done… and I did!
Is there any specific reason for your return from New York to Mumbai?
After having worked extensively abroad, I wanted to move back home and continue my journey ahead here in the motherland. Also, I have realized that after recording and releasing 2 albums in India, the local presence of an artist is imperative. It’s the only way to spread and promote your music. It also helps in remaining active in the music industry and be available for live shows, performances and interactions with the media. An artist has to be situated in his or her primary market, and India is surely mine!