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Saturday, October 31, 2020

People say I’m still relevant today: Baba Sehgal

Baba Sehgal on staying relevant for three decades, dependency of artistes on social media and what needs to change in India's music scene.

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi | Updated: October 18, 2020 8:41:07 am
baba sehgal songs newsBaba Sehgal's "Thanda Thanda Pani" (1992) is credited as India's first successful rap album. (Photo: Baba Sehgal/Instagram)

Baba Sehgal believes staying relevant for almost three decades requires conviction. “It’s very difficult for an independent artiste to sustain for long. The conviction really matters,” says Sehgal.

During the lockdown, the singer-composer-lyricist made headlines with tracks like “Kela Khao”, “Dil Ko Na Peeto”, “Adrak Wali Chai”, “Biryani” and “Corona Go”.

In an exclusive interaction with indianexpress.com, on the sidelines of promoting his new rap for fantasy sports brand Faboom, Baba Sehgal spoke about his working process, dependency of artistes on social media and what needs to change in India’s music scene.

Here are excerpts from the conversation:

When you create a rap song, is there a process you follow?

Actually, there is no process. I observe an object or a human being. Sometimes the writing happens in one minute; sometimes it takes an hour. Mostly it happens during the morning time and in five to ten minutes. So I think I’m quite quick at it.

You took up rap music when barely anyone knew about it in India. What gave you the strength to take the leap of faith?

My strength actually has been my conviction and gut feeling. I always believe that what I do has to be successful. That has helped me to sustain for three decades, and people say that I’m still relevant today.

Don’t you think if you’d come into the scene, say 10 years later, things would’ve been different?

I think I came at the right time. Early 90s, there was no scene, no social media for promotion. We only had one channel – DD Metro. I think that was also a good time.

Over the years, several singers and actors, like Abhishek Bachchan and Ranveer Singh, have tried rapping. We even had a movie – Gully Boy. How do you see the rapping scene today?

I just believe in this guy called Emiway Bantai. He’s excellent, original and his rapping skills are amazing. I think he’s a real rapper, and a hard-working guy. He’s struggled to reach this point and he’s got a million followers and views, and they’re organic. I would like to collaborate with him. On the international front, I’d like to collaborate with DJ Khaled.

You’ve managed to keep your rap relevant even all these years, like the Money Heist one or the lockdown raps. What keeps you going?

I really love “Bella Ciao” from Money Heist so the song “Kela Khao” just happened. I was doing a lot of songs during the lockdown like “Namaste”, “Corona Go” and all of them were received well. Even I love “Kela Khao”. It is also an inspirational song.

Is it difficult to be an independent artiste in India?

There are ups and downs because there’s no help, no producers, no music companies to promote an independent artiste these days. You have to survive on your own. You have to keep coming up with content on social media, irrespective whether you get 10 views or 10,000 views. You just need to put out your content every week or 10 days for people to see that you have it in you. So that’s what I have been doing for last so many years. That has really helped me build my brand.

One thing about the Indian music scene which you’d like to change?

We need to have a genuine independent music label which promotes independent artistes.

Read: Baba Sehgal’s spin on Backstreet Boys’ I Want it That Way will leave you in splits

How do you see the audience reaction and acceptance change over the years?

I think today, the audience reaction and acceptance is based on social media. People follow whatever is trending in hashtags, be it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. I think they all are after these hashtags. So audience reactions actually depend on hashtags.

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